Sunday, May 25, 2008

Follow - Up to Newsweek Story

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Obama's losing voters.

Barack Obama is facing lingering problems winning the support of white voters--including some in his own party.

That's according to a NEWSWEEK article titled The White Stuff which examines an extensive poll that digs deep into the way race impacts presidential preference. Here's the part that I found most interesting:

"Obama's race may well explain his difficulty in winning over white voters. In the NEWSWEEK Poll, participants were asked to answer questions on a variety of race-related topics including racial preferences, interracial marriage, attitudes toward social welfare and general attitudes toward African-Americans. Respondents were grouped according to their answers on a "Racial Resentment Index." Among white Democrats with a low Racial Resentment Index rating, Obama beat McCain in a hypothetical match-up 78 percent to 17 percent. That is virtually identical to Clinton's margin in the category, 79 percent to 13 percent. But among white Democrats with high scores on the Racial Resentment Index, the picture was very different: Obama led McCain by only 18 points (51 to 33) while Clinton maintained a much larger 59-point lead (78 to 18).

Who exactly are these high Racial Resentment Index voters? A majority, 61 percent, have less than a four-year college education, many are older (44 percent were over the age of 60 compared to just 18 percent under the age of 40) and nearly half (46 percent) live in the South."
In the entire article, the word "racism" is not mentioned once. Looks like Gwen Ifill was on point.

read more | digg story

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fund schools today, or prisons and welfare tomorrow

So many people claim that funding is not an issue in public education. However, these students show from their own experience that a lack of funding has negatively impacted their educational experience. Their argument echoes many others who have studied the issue. Maybe it's time we listened.

Some of the best of our public school students discuss some of the worst aspects of their schools and what we need to do to fix them.

read more | digg story

Geraldine Ferraro is not my Hero

Warning: This post will be all over the place, because I am so angry at so many things, and this is my therapy.

I used to thing that Geraldine Ferraro was cool. I was proud that my party, the Democratic Party, had nominated a female to be vice president of the United Sates. I thought she was a change maker, and I looked to her as a hero of the party (not a personal hero, because I have few personal heroes that I don't know personally). Then this primary season started, and I actually heard the things that came out of her mouth. Now, I'm repulsed. Ferraro's incendiary statements are emblematic of many of the underlying problems that have been exposed by this primary election process.

Now, let me pause here, because anyone who has been following so far will see that I talk a lot about the primary elections. Well, that's because I see them as a great way to approach the subject of race in America. The candidacy of Barack Obama is a great microcosm in which to examine race, and it has exposed a lot that people have not been willing to discuss otherwise. The same can be said for other people, and other situations, which is why I plan on writing about Donovan McNabb sometime soon.

But back to Ferraro. My first eye-brow raising experience was when a friend tipped me off to one of Keith Olbermann's special comment in which he rips into Ferraro and the Clintons. At issue was a comment she made suggesting that the only reason Obama even has a shot at the White House is because of his race. This will take a while, but I want to lay out exactly what comments she has made:

On Fox “News” Radio:

“John, between me and you and your millions of listeners, if Barack Obama were a white man, would we be talking about this as a potential real problem for Hillary Clinton? If he were a woman of any color, would he be in this position that he's in? Absolutely not.”
Then, in her own defense, to the Daily Breeze (California):
“Anytime anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says, 'let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world,' you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. ... Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?”
What? Are you kidding me? First of all, if Ferraro's argument is true, then one must question if a black man can make a legitimate run for the president. Her argument leaves open the possibility that the millions of people who voted for Obama did so solely for the incredibly stupid and simple minded reason that he is black (although statistics show that many haven't voted for him because he's black, and I've heard many advocate that women vote for HRC because she is a woman). Ferraro's comments were remarkably condescending to all of the hard work that Senator Obama has done and to anyone who supports him.

But, this is not what really bothers me. In the interview with Fox Radio, Ferraro goes on to argue that the growing support as “the guys sticking together.” This is representative of her other theory of explaining why Obama has been successful: male privilege.

Now, I won't deny that all men in America and in the West in general benefit from male privilege. However, for Ferraro to argue in such a way that suggest that male privilege operates equally for all men is quite repulsive, because it ignores the issue of race. Particularly, it ignores the fact that Senator Obama is black. It is incredibly naive (or racist, take your pick) not to acknowledge that race and gender are not two parallel phenomena. Instead these two factors intersect in interesting ways. The fact that we have a BLACK man running against a WHITE woman is significant. A while back, Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell had a conversation on this that really got me thinking. Harris-Lacewell made the following point: how is it following the historical trend for the black man to dominate the white woman? In fact, we have a long tradition in this country of protecting the purity of white women from the aggressiveness of black men. The fact that Senator Obama seems to be on his way to the nomination is quite the deviation from the historical trend.

So, knowing all that, it becomes clear why, I was very offended with the way Ferraro conducted herself on the Today Show a few days ago.

For those who don't want to watch the entire nauseating clip, here are a few highlight comments:
  • The men were beating up on Hillary in the first Philadelphia debate. Never mind that she was the front-runner at that point.
  • “I don't want to see another woman get attacked the same way when she tries to do as well.” But, it's OK to attack blacks and make up lies about them in chain e-mails.
  • Obama's “Annie Oakley” comment was sexist. Actually, Obama's comments were made to draw attention to Clinton's sudden embracing of “blue collar” hobbies.
  • Obama's “brush your dirt off your shoulders” Jay-Z impersonation was a sexist attempt to “diminish” Clinton. How dare he defend himself. How dare he let unjust criticisms roll off his back. Who does he think he is? That uppity ni- well you get the point.
Now, let me try to pull this all together into some semblance of an organized summary.

Ferraro's comments are offensive for a few reasons.
  1. They ignore Obama's blackness. They also ignore Clinton's whiteness. Clinton is painted as a victim, Obama as a villein. Sound familiar?
  2. Ferraro is obviously grasping at straws to support her claim that Obama is sexist. The two arguments she offers are so paper thin, I think Rachel Maddow and Meredith Viera refrained from criticizing her in order to avoid embarrassing her. The thorough tongue lashing she deserved just wouldn't have been appropriate for he Today Show.
  3. Ferraro seems to think that there is absolutely no legitimacy to Obama. She names every other viable contender (leaving out Kucinich and Gravell) as potentially competent presidents. Quite frankly, she comes off as odiously racist. Not that she is, but she doesn't seem to concerned about demonstrating that she isn't.
So, I've come to the conclusion that Ferraro is not a hero of the Democratic Party, at least not if the party really stands for any of the good things I once was sure it did.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Facebook preparing for redesign to clear clutter

Well, this is certainly good news. It was almost getting to the point that I didn't really want to have a Facebook page, because it was getting to be too much like MySpace. The clutter is insane. I can't even stand to look at some profiles. Hopefully, these changes will help return the F-book to it's former glory.- KL

read more | digg story

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

HRC, please reject the racists

This is one of the best things I've seen all day:

I completely agree. It would go a long way for HRC to come out and denounce those who are voting based on race. So far, she only seems glad to have their support and use it to bolster her argument for stealing the election. Shout out to for exposing me to this video.

And for those who wonder "what about blacks who vote for Obama because he's black or men who vote against Clinton because she's female?" Well, the numbers, at least the ones's that I've seen, don't seem to confirm that this is nearly as big of a factor as race. When 20% - 30% of voters in a DEMOCRATIC primary are voting based on race SOMEONE (like the person they are overwhelmingly supporting) needs to say something (like, "I don't want your dirty, racism stained votes").

White, Working Class, Less Educated Voters: What's it All Mean?

It's gotten to the point that we don't even need to watch the post-primary election analysis that seems to happen every-other Tuesday anymore. We already know what will dominate at least the early discussions: “Why can't Barack Obama seem to win the white, working-class, less-than-a-college-education vote?”

It's as if this is all that matters in the election. OK, we get it already, Obama has had problems winning whites in certain states.

As a side note, MSNBC / NBC News points out that he does much better in states with almost no black population or very high black population, but just can't seem to win over white voters in states “in the middle.”

My question is this: when is the media going to move off of simply reporting these statistical facts or asking "What can Obama do to win over / connect with / convince these voters?" and move on to some real analysis? When are we going to really discuss what these numbers mean and what they say about American voters?

Yesterday I had an opportunity to see a clip from meet the press from a few weeks ago (usually I'm in church when it's on, and no TiVo for me). There was a round-table discussion going, and Gwen Ifill raised an interesting point. She noted that in this election, there has been a lot of talk about race but little talk about racism. (For the Hill-heads out there, I'm willing to concede that there's been a lot of talk about gender but less talk of sexism, but, still, the gulf is not as wide as in the case of race and racism.) Instead of trying to use Senator Obama's candidacy as way of claiming that a “glass ceiling” has been broken, or that we've finally moved into a “post-race society” lead by a new generation of wonderfully “colorblind” voters, we should acknowledge the ways in which his meteoric rise to the top of the Democratic party has exposed just how pervasive racism is in the American psyche.

Now, let me pause here to say that I'm not claiming that most American's are racist. I don't want to come off as saying that only racist people won't vote for Senator Obama. There are lot's of good reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton (or earlier on Edwards, Dodd, Richardson, Bidden, even Kucinich), and I suppose there are good reasons to vote for John McCain as well, although I've not yet been introduced to them. But, we must ask, what does it mean that so many white individuals, and particular groups of white individuals are reluctant to vote for the African American male that is all but officially the party's nominee? Look at the split within the white community (probably the most generalizing term ever): old vs. young; rural vs. urban; those who live in states with sizable black populations vs. those who don't; those without college education vs. those with college degrees; “Regan Democrats” vs. “liberals.” In each of these comparisons, Clinton does better with whites in the first category, Obama with those in the second category. Why?

Why won't the media go there? Why don't the ask the uncomfortable questions? Why, for example, don't they ask if less educated whites are simply less willing to vote for a black man? Last night I heard Chris Matthews (who I like overall but who still annoys me often) reference voters with more “traditional” views on race. What? What a load of crap? Call a horse a horse, call racism racism. To me, if you won't vote for someone because they're black, or are reluctant to vote for them because they're black, that's racism (except for those special cases in which people won't vote for a black person because they don't want him or her to be assassinated; that's not racism, that's fear). Everyone's quick to say that demographics may keep Obama out the White House. When is someone going to get some courage and admit that RACISM might keep him out the White House?*

And then, as I referenced in the earlier post, there's the racism we can't see. Think about how much easier it is to paint a black man as a crazy, black-power-obsessed radical Muslim super-spy. Lots of people won't vote for Obama because they fear his “Muslim past” and don't want a president with the middle name Hussein. This is not limited to this election. Remember how a little more than a year ago everyone was freaking out over Congressman Keith Ellison (Democrat, Minnesota) for being a Muslim. You don't think his blackness made it easier to paint him as “the enemy”?

But enough of my babbling. Do you think the media is letting the American electorate off the hook too easy? Leave a comment and let me know that you're out there, your reading, and you have an opinion.

* Now, this is different that Senator Clinton's not-so-subtle argument of a few weeks ago in that she essentially suggested that it was futile to nominate a black man for president because they country won't vote for him.Personally, I think in the right climate with the right campaigning, an African American can win. I'm simply saying that the media needs to put some pressure on the American public to really think about the fact that there is the potential for racism to determine the outcome of this election. American media, don't let us take the intellectually easy road.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Racism You Can't See

Note: This entry is one of those original Facebook notes. It was posted on Thursday, May 15.

By now you may have read the article in the Washington Post by Kevin Merida or at least heard about it. It deals with the topic of racially motivated incidents of hate experienced by volunteers working to help elect Senator Obama. You can find the article here:

These are the highlights:

  • Comments like: “I'll never vote for a black person”
  • Doors slammed in face
  • Students campaigning on a main road being called racial slurs by passers-by
  • ”One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: 'Hang that darky from a tree!'”
Now, these are very specific, tangible examples of racism and racial hatred. Racism is being shown toward those who refuse to vote for Senator Obama because of the color of his skin, and to those, black and white, who are volunteering for him.

But I personally believe there is another type of racism mentioned in this article. Merdia notes that the Obama campaign has not made much fuss about these issues. Now, surely there is more than one reason for this. One tactical reason is that they do not want to discourage people from volunteering. However, there is another reason. As an African American candidate, Senator Obama has to avoid appearing as complaining about racism too much. This is a more subtle form of racism, one that few notice and even fewer are willing to admit exists.

Traditionally, the media, when it comes to racial relations, is only concerned with the first manifestation of racism: calling someone the N-word, police brutality, blatant racial discrimination in the workplace, and the like. However, the second form is much more controversial, because it strikes at the heart of racial relations and what it means to live in a racialized society such as ours. The fact of the matter is that there is a double standard. If Senator Clinton or Senator McCain decried the attacks on Obama volunteers or vandalism of his campaign office, they would be seen as noble. If Senator Obama were to do it, he'd be another complainer, another Sharpton, another Jackson. It would be seen as “race-baiting” which I'm sure some people would accuse me of just for writing this letter.

It is this double standard in the way we assign credibility when discussing race that is key evidence of the existence of white privilege in this country. For a better understanding of the very real but very controversial topic of white privilege, check out Unpacking the invisible knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. This article addresses the way in which, in this society, whites area aloud to say certain things that others just aren't allowed to say without being cast in a negative light. It is, I believe, the chief reason that Senator Obama, as well as countless silently angry black journalist (Eugene Robinson from MSNBC come to mind) have had to bite their tongue on a number of issues this election season.

You can even look at the fallout over spiritual leaders. Senator Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, claimed that, following September 11th, the U.S. needed to consider what impact being an international bully has on incurring the wrath of peoples of other nations. He's been branded as anti-American, and virtually all of the news media asked when and how – not if – Senator Obama would “denounce” him. Meanwhile, one spiritual adviser to Senator McCain, John Hagge, claimed that the Hurricane Katrina tragedy was a result of the wrath of God. He believes that God destroyed New Orleans because “homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”(read here: Where are similar calls for McCain to denounce and reject Hagge? Or how about Rod Parsley, who believes that America was founded to destroy Islam? Or the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who blamed “gays” and “abortionists” among others for the attacks on 9/11? Why no calls for Senator McCain to throw these men under the bus, men whom he has publicly held in high regard, being fully aware of their statements? Why only such a call for Rev. Wright? Who's take on 9/11 makes more sense, Falwell or Wright? But how gets lambasted and daemonized by the media?

But, no one wants to talk about this. To acknowledge that there is such a double standard would mean to acknowledge the existence of white privilege (for those of you who watch FOX “News” you may better know it as “reverse racism,” which is an oxymoronic concept that determines it's own lengthy note unto itself). If white privilege is real, than that means that we as a nation must re-evaluate everything, because it means that everything is in some way, shape, or form racialized. This means everything from how we choose presidents to how we choose spouses to how the cast for the Oscar Meyer commercial I just watched was chosen. It means that race is involved not only when a white police officer shoots an innocent black victim, but also if the officer was black, or if the victim was guilty of a crime. It means that race is involved in what I lean in school, who teaches it to me, and if I retain the knowledge. Essentially, it means that race is inescapable because it has been so deeply entrenched into modern American culture. Sadly, that's not a notion that many are willing to accept, despite the evidence for it, because they believe in the phone, romanticized view of America that they were taught in school, or at best they believe that we have “turned the page” and “gotten past all that.”

Race in America is like termites. If you only look at what can be seen, you'll never think anything is wrong. It's only once you peel back the layers that you realize how extensive the damage is. We have yet to peel back the layers.

What is "Line Crosser 21"?

Welcome to Line Crosser 21. The content of this site will cover a wide range of issues from religion to sports to urban architecture to education. However, the main focus of the site will be to discuss issues of race and politics. A few events lead me to realize that I needed to create this blog. First was the absolutely appalling coverage of the Jeremiah Wright [shouldn't have been a] scandal by the mainstream media. I realized then the need for deeper, more complex, more mature public discourse.The second was my recent propensity for writing Facebook notes on this issue. I soon came to realize that I was inching closer and closer to writing a blog anyway, and that I might as well do a real one that's open to more than just my Facebook friends.

So, here it is. The name "Line Crosser 21" comes from a statement by W.E.B. DuBois that "the problem of the twentieth century is the color line." Well, the question is, does that statement hold true for the twenty-first century as well? If it does, what does that mean? The name also reflects the fact that I plan on toeing or even crossing the line of what is expected or "acceptable" in this blog.

Being that this blog has it's roots in my Facebook notes, many of the first entries will come from there. I will make an attempt to update everyday, but no promises.

- KL