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Sep-25-2009 09:11printcomments

Prejudice in Transition

Racial slurs have been carefully avoided, but are replaced with gestures of hate implying that “its all your fault,” using vicious placards, loud epithets and every known sort of propaganda slur imaginable.

Republican protester
Courtesy: The Man Eater Student Newspaper

(PASO ROBLES, Calif.) - When President Carter spoke of a considerable number of persons who are arguably and rudely against the Healthcare Reform being pushed by Obama as being racist, I think he may be right.

Former Pres. Jimmy Carter

There is no doubt that the base of the Republican Party - its red states - are mostly in the South, but Jimmy Carter did not exclude those of the north which are as firm in their traditional convictions as they are below the Mason Dixon Line. Yet, many of the swing states including New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Indiana, as well as Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New England went blue, an anomaly worthy of some discussion.

WWII contributed to the changes that led to the shrinking of the racial divide, but the service of black men during the war went unnoticed when they returned to their southern homes where, instead of being greeted as victors, they were expected by the local gentry passively to resume living the lifestyle of their past where whites reigned supreme, or else.

I was twelve years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed and living in Oakland, Ca. Then it was a city predominately white, but other nationalities were not uncommon. I lived in the Piedmont Avenue District of a city of many districts, each very much like an extended village. In 1941 there were several immigrant families from Japan who were close neighbors to us. We used to marvel at how their children, after attending our school, attended classes at another, but in Japanese. I’m convinced that the American dream to these people was not a gift, but something they were determined to earn.

Then, after December 7th, they were gone.

There was a Chinatown in Oakland, and still is, from which children attended Westlake Jr. High where I was enrolled. As in many Jr. High’s, Westlake had its element of hoods one of which was not reluctant to take on our shop teacher. I was never bothered by them, perhaps because I hung with others who were more interested in sports, and Chinese kids did too.

Gym involved us in more than the usual sports; dancing was a requirement, and on occasion boxing with gloves was allowed. A Chinese student had been schooled in the manly art, and systematically chose each of the toughs to a fight. The more he fought, the less eager were his opponents. Eventually, the largest, of the hoods got his turn, but what was supposed to be a boxing match was anything but; in fact “butt” would be a better description. Our friend took some lumps, but his service sufficed to improve the lives of all of us.

As an encore, while we were playing basketball, one of the so-called toughs, who apparently was encouraged by his gang, stepped onto the court and chose one of our people. It was a spectacle to behold; up went the fists, but instead of backing away our guy moved in an landed a blow to the stomach of the other who went down on his seat where he sat and cried till drained of his meanness. And that was that!

Blacks also were part of our pre-war community and were not segregated. They were the Northern blacks who under the skin were as white as the rest of us, and we were friends. In the locker room a black friend commented to me how disappointed his family was with the black exodus from the South; blacks who swarmed to Oakland to work in the shipyards and make big bucks. I was perplexed until I realized how real was the fear they felt.

Southern blacks were a different breed from those of the north, but put them all together and a black is a black. My friend and his family were bound to suffer from the prejudices against their race whether deserved or not. For it was the new found attitudes of Southern blacks that created prejudice.

A single instance will suffice to define why and how prejudice occurred: I took my young daughter to a swimming pool as usual, but discovered it had been invaded by a multitude of young blacks who, as soon as my daughter entered the pool surrounded her while some began to feel her up. I told the life guard but, being out-numbered he was unable to correct the situation.

Understandably, we left and never went back.

But whites were just as guilty of hurting their own interests which they blamed on blacks. The relatively few Northern blacks sought shelter by buying homes in white communities where, as my friend surmised, they were perceived as a threat. Instead of holding tight, FOR SALE signs went up, and people sold-out themselves as well as the northern blacks who were swallowed up by the tide that overwhelmed them and were forced to endure the prejudice they anticipated, could not escape, and did not deserve. It was heart breaking to see how mutually devastating racial prejudice could be.

The transition that moved all peoples beyond the foolishness of the past has taken nearly sixty years; prejudice has declined but the means by which tolerance was achieved surely is not without its psychic scars, especially in the red states below the Mason Dixon Line. It will likely take another sixty years to iron out the remaining wrinkles that exist as subliminal tendencies, particularly in traditional localities where Religion and Republicanism are synonymous wherever they exist within these United States.

During its eight year reign, the Party of God, did more to damage the reputation of the United States and its economy perversely and erroneously by presuming to act in the name of God. It is a credit to those states in which Evangelists hold sway that the people are tending to listen to reason and to think for themselves; not all to be sure, but even they who haven’t show some inclination to move in the direction of logic. Until the time when logic can overcome emotion, there will continue to be persons willing to believe what they are told is true, and do what they are told to do.

So, did President Carter misspeak when he attributed to a considerable number of people the possibility of a latent prejudice? Admittedly many of those who demonstrated against the proposed Healthcare Reform could be counted on to perform because there will always be anarchists among us who get their jollies by objecting to anything. But, when one listens to the Republicans exhorting the crowds to disrupt by any means available those who would explain the benefits of Universal Healthcare, it ought to be obvious to discerning people that the vitriolic demonstrations are more the result of Right wing cheerleaders stimulating submerged psychic responses.

Racial slurs have been carefully avoided, but are replaced with gestures of hate implying that “its all your fault,” using vicious placards, loud epithets and every known sort of propaganda slur imaginable; Socialist, Communist. Nazi, Hitler, etc., not to mention the lies of Russ Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and Fox News, all for the purpose of denying the needy what they rightly deserve. Technically, President Carter may be presumed to be wrong, but all things considered one must admit that he might also be right.

Kenneth G. Ramey was a 79-year old "writer without a Website" who is generating excellent, provocative articles on the subject of religion and world affairs. We are pleased that Ken's "lone wolf" presence as a writer in the world has been replaced by a spot on our team of writers at Raised in Minnesota and California during the dark years of the Great American Depression, Ken is well suited to talk about the powerful forces in the world that give all of us hope and tragedy and everything in between. You can write to Ken at:

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Riley September 28, 2009 11:17 am (Pacific time)

"There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president." That comment comes from former President Jimmy Carter, which is fascinating considering Carter once ran for governor of Georgia proclaiming himself to be a "Lester Maddox Democrat." (Maddox, a former Georgia governor, was an avowed segregationist who opposed integration under the Civil Rights Act.) In fairness to President Carter, I do believe in redemption, and that people can change. But more and more people are inclined to say anyone who disagrees with Barack Obama must be racist. It hurts me when the left and the right use race for political gain, and it depresses me further that it's so awkward for us to talk about honestly and objectively about race. However, the implication that disagreeing with the president is racist also saddens and perplexes me. Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000 and now a CNN analyst, nailed it when she said, "No one wins in touching race in such a shallow way. It raises defenses and creates backlash."

qui vivi September 27, 2009 10:24 pm (Pacific time)

Dear Phil: reduce comments by half and eliminate ref: to racism and silent majority [which needs to be explained]and you may come closer to the truth. Try it.

Phil September 27, 2009 6:14 pm (Pacific time)

Editor the way the voter electorate is shaping up it is clear that a majority is not behind Obama's policies dealing with at least three main issues: National Healthcare with the public option; Cap and Trade; any type of amnesty for illegals. The recent protests were about national healthcare and I saw a poll today that said 56% were against Obama's plan (ironically he does not have one) which would be the one from the democratic House. He promised a 5 day period that any and all bills would be publically available before a vote. Last thursday the senate leaders said that their bill was too complicated for us "the people, their bosses" to understand. So these elitist attitudes are just angering more people. These protesters, which are a statistical majority come from all walks of life, all political parties, races plus collectively they know what's going on better than any of these elected "employees." I agree with you about Bush, but the people did not give Obama a free pass to do anything he wants, so it's time he listens. Frankly I don't believe this has anything to do with trying to improve national healthcare, but to exercise control over nearly 1/5 (or more) of the economy. It is a lot of power, and a power the majority does not want to give the federal government. Also because of our high unemployment rate resulting in less tax revenue it is hampering many tax funded programs like social security. We do not have the resources and the politicans know that, so for city, county, state and federal levels it's all about raising taxes to fund ongoing boondoggles. That's why people are angry and it has nothing to do with race. It appears race is losing traction over the weekend so I saw Bill Clinton bringing out the "far right conspiracy" mantra, once again. Time will tell, but there is much going on in the world and we need to see some strong and consistent leadership coming out of DC based on principals, not projected strategies to curry favor with specific small political groups.

Phil September 27, 2009 11:46 am (Pacific time)

Oakland is quite a place to behold now. It is a gang war zone. As far as the political signs at today's protests, they were far worse in the past. Many of these protest groups back then burned/hung and called for the death of President Bush. Was that racist? If that was done to the same level today re: Obama, would these people be arrested rather that have democratic leaders like Clinton and Pelosi a few years back call this type of "dissent is patriotic?" Let's be honest, today's protest have simply been the "silent majority" with a large percentage of older Americans, voicing their concerns about current policies. There will always be fringe people on both the left and right, but these calls of racism will not distract anyone after a while, in fact it will backfire. Remember Carter in his re-election bid lost by a 44 to 6 state margin, and his VP Mondale lost 49 to 1 states 4 years later. America clearly rejected them then and also currently. Only the media, who is held at a very low level, is giving this racism charge any notice. When they find that the national polls say it's not working, they'll move on to something else, which will also fail. You have a strong national majority that is pretty well focused on a couple of issues that will not be changed by talk, only by action.

Editor: Phil, I personally think you nailed it on the head when you referenced older Americans.  My late father was a person who, because of the time period he was raised, probably was somewhat prejudice.  I believe  he was a product of his generation growing up in LA in the 1930's and watching many changes take place there. I think he was reasonable, but not sure what he would think of President Obama.  I believe most Americans solidly support Obama and that is based on the election results and other criteria.  There are people who are vehemently against him, but I do not think, when it comes to the U.S., that Obama is not well intended.  Whether people admit it or not, Bush was fed with a silver spoon and never had to work for what he had, overcome any real challenges in life, etc.  And when he became President, he couldn't wait to start a war, or so it seems.  Heck, he didn't even leverage our troops the right way and now we'll be dealing with the fallout of that bad decision based on WMD's that never existed.  Obama represents the will of the modern man and man at large.  Bush represented a small fragment of our population.  Under Bush, the richest 1% of Americans had more assets than the first 95%.  How do we rationalize that?  In the end it is a time period and many U.S. cultures who are still thouroughly prejeduce toward black people and the only ones who can change that are the prejudice people themselves..    

qui vive September 25, 2009 9:31 pm (Pacific time)

Anon: It is hard to know with what you disagree. It is not always what is said, but how - that makes the message go awry. Your natural defensiveness may be the reason. Mr.Ramey was not talking about you! He said if racism exists, it is a latent form that Republicans use to confuse its base and cause it to act contrrary to its best interest. Its time to drop the martyr complex, Anon. No one is calling you names. Endless and useless wars do benefit only the industrial-military complex, but Obama didn't start them. He is attempting to reduce costs and make friends on an international scale: He will not deploy a missile-shield in Europe. It is easier to start wars than end them, for Republicans don't want them to end. It is wonderful that you love all your fellowmen Anon, but it would mean more if you quit spitting into the wind.

Anonymous September 25, 2009 3:32 pm (Pacific time)

I humbly disagree, with due respect. When the people of a nation, see what is transpiring, ie: obama is bush's third term, they get angry. Altho racism probably exists in certain areas of this country, the people complaining are not racist, they are complaining about policy. The racism card is used because they cant argue the facts. same ol same ol. In fact, it seems to me? that this all comes from divide and conquer. I myself, will not be divided, and I myself will love my fellow human beings no matter the color. But yes, I will complain about policy. The endless and useless wars that only benefit the industrial military complex etc. Call me all the names you want, I dont care, I will still stick up for truth..will you?

Daniel Johnson September 25, 2009 11:02 am (Pacific time)

I read a story in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago where, in a typo, the author referred to the "Untied States". Freudian slip?

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