Lincoln and Bush in the Same Lump?!

The weapons of bigotry, ignorance, envy, fall before an honest heart.
– Mary Baker Eddy

This will maybe tell you something about me. When President Obama got elected the first time and my friends and I were all excited and celebrating, someone – or probably a bunch of someones – said how awesome it was that we had finally elected an African-American to be our president. And – honest to goodness – up until that moment this hadn’t even occurred to me. When I voted for Barack Obama I was just voting for the person I thought was going to make the best POTUS. His race had never entered into any of my political conversations or been any kind of factor for me in deciding that I would like him sitting in the Oval Office.

Just as I don’t believe people should be denied equal rights because of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, non-religion, or sexual orientation – I don’t believe we should vote someone into the presidency just BECAUSE of her or his race, ethnicity, gender, religion, non-religion, or sexual orientation. There is too much at stake to focus on a person’s color or gender as a deciding factor in a presidential election.

So when I came across this while internet surfing, I was… well, “dismayed” might be the right word…

old bald white guys

emoji art by Laura Olin

To lump all “white guys” into one big monolithic group doesn’t feel right to me. To put Abraham Lincoln in the same lump as, say, George W. Bush, is… well, it’s a little appalling, isn’t it? To paint FDR with the same brush as Herbert Hoover just because they both happened to be males is, I believe, a kind of bigotry.

If we’re going to vote for a woman for President, it would be awfully nice if we did it for the right reasons rather than just because she happens to have two x chromosomes. To vote for a woman just because she happens to be a female seems… well, in a roundabout way it’s disrespectful to the female candidate.

Okay. That’s all I have to say about this, I guess.

Carry on then…

Racism in America

Christian Scientists must live under the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out from the material world and be separate. They must renounce aggression, oppression and the pride of power. Christianity, with the crown of Love upon her brow, must be their queen of life. – Mary Baker Eddy

I just watched yet another video of an innocent African-American man being questioned by police because he “resembled” someone else – a someone else wanted for committing a crime. And I’m wondering – how many times now has this happened in the last few months?

There was the incident in Hollywood not long ago: “A Los Angeles film and television producer said he was on the ‘brink of tears’ during a six-hour ordeal locked in a Beverly Hills jail cell in a case of mistaken identity. Charles Belk was held after police said he matched the description of a man — tall, bald, and black — who was an accomplice to the ‘Purse Packing Bandit’ bank robber who had just struck on Wilshire Boulevard.”

And there was the incident just this last week: “On Wednesday, at 7:07 p.m., Andre Stockett, 34, of Huron, was a passenger in a car that was stopped by Sandusky police at Remington Avenue and Cleveland Road.The driver was Kathryn Said, 30, of Taylor, Mich., with the couple’s two-week-old infant tucked in the backseat… According to Denny’s police report, he’d watched Said pick up Stockett outside an apartment building and suspected he was Jeremy Newell, a man wanted on felony warrants.”

Sooo… like, do all African-American men look alike to some people? And is just being tall, black, and bald enough to hold a man for six hours in a jail cell? The unfairness and injustice of it is making me really angry. Also, a little nervous. I mean, if today a man can be held in a jail cell for six hours just because he happens to be tall, black, and bald, what’s to stop police officers from locking me up in a jail cell for six hours for being stubby, white, and sporting a “paige boy” ‘do should another stubby, white, paige-boyed woman be running loose committing criminal shenanigans? Surely police officers should need more than height, skin color, and hair-dos to arrest someone. I mean, right?…Right?!

It has got to stop. The racism – because you and I both know that’s what’s really happening here – has got to stop.

We need to stand up for each other. In the words of Martin Niemoller, speaking of the Nazi regime in Europe:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

“Come back again!”

If you have not yet seen John Stewart’s monologue about the doings in Ferguson – I would highly recommend doing so. This – this – is right on!

Stewart ends his monologue with these words, “You’re tired of hearing about it (racism)? Imagine how hard it is to live it.”

Years ago, when I was a teenager maybe, I remember seeing a Star Trek episode that showed a man who was half-black and half-white in a struggle with another man who was half-black and half-white – they were enemies because of their color – and I remember looking at them, thinking, “But… they’re BOTH half-black and half-white… what’s the issue here?” And at the end of the episode we finally see that the reason they’re enemies is because one of them is white on the right side of his body, and the other is white on the left side of his body, and… yeah… I remember thinking how absolutely ridiculous it all was for them to hate each other just because they were colored differently on different sides. But it’s absolutely no more ridiculous than hating someone just because they’re all ONE color, and that color is different than mine.

The summer after I graduated from high school – which was about ten years after the Watts Riots –  I traveled with my dad to California. Dad had grown up in Los Angeles, and he wanted to revisit his old neighborhood and see his childhood home once again. As we drove the streets to his old home, I noticed that we were the only white faces in a several-mile radius.

Dad pulled up in front of a little house, and his face lit up – “This was my home!” he said, getting out of the car. I followed him to the front door, where an African-American woman wearing a house-dress and a really surprised look on her face, appeared. Dad explained that he’d grown up in this house and asked if he could come in and take a look around and go out into the backyard where he’d played as a child. The woman smiled graciously and opened her door for us and allowed us into her home. I followed Dad through the house and out into the backyard where there was still the avocado tree he remembered from his childhood. He looked around, said it seemed smaller than he’d remembered it, and started talking about the happy years he’d spent in this yard as a child. He went back through the house, shook the woman’s hand and thanked her for letting him re-visit his old home. Still looking kind of surprised to find these friendly white people traipsing through her house, she smiled back at dad, and told him he was welcome and it was no problem at all.

A block or so later Dad pulled into a gas station to fill the tank up, and a black attendant came out to help us (this was in the days before people filled up their own cars with gas). He had that same surprised look on his face as the woman in Dad’s old house. He smiled, and filled up our tank for us, and, as we were ready to leave, said in a friendly way, a big smile on his face, “Come back again!”

Every time I think of this trip through that neighborhood in Los Angeles I start grinning. I’m pretty sure we were the only white people in years who’d come nonchalantly driving through that section of Los Angeles. I remember the surprised hospitality of the gas station attendant and the woman living in Dad’s old house, and it fills me up with a kind of joy. I remember my dad – totally oblivious to the fact that he was in a part of Los Angeles that most white people might find threatening – happily traveling down “Memory Lane”, shaking hands with the woman in his old house, greeting the gas station attendant with an open, natural smile – and it makes me really proud to be his daughter.

I’m really grateful to have been raised by parents for whom  the color of peoples’ skin was a  non-issue, and kindness towards everyone was considered natural and normal.