21
Jul
13

A Presidential perspective…

These are some columns that I think offer a gambit of perspectives on the importance of President Obama’s heartfelt, emotional, and historic comments regarding  his own life experiences – with Travon Martin’s unjustified death.

***

Standing by myself I noticed, on the periphery of the party, a man looking as awkward and out-of-place as I felt. I approached him and introduced myself. He was an Illinois state senator who was running for the U.S. Senate. He was African American, one of a few black people in attendance.We spoke at length about his campaign. He was charismatic in a quiet, solemn way. I told him I wanted to pitch a profile of him to a national magazine. (The magazine later rejected my proposal.)The following year I watched as he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, and then won his Senate seat that fall. On Tuesday, Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States.

But it’s her kicker that really stands out in light of Obama’s comment today that “there are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”

“What I will always remember,” Rosman wrote in 2008, “is as I was leaving that party … I was approached by another guest, an established author. He asked about the man I had been talking to. Sheepishly he told me he didn’t know that Obama was a guest at the party, and had asked him to fetch him a drink. In less than six years, Obama has gone from being mistaken for a waiter among the New York media elite, to the president-elect. What a country.”

Indeed.

And yet even as that country elected and then reelected its first black president, the easy assumptions about who black men are have yet to vanish.

***

***

Obama’s unscripted comments were some of the most remarkable and admirable few minutes of his presidency. He spoke carefully, but with great passion and clarity. He spoke explicitly as a black man, but also as an American president. He said the “unsayable” so wisely and subtly that he made it accessible, and to me, indisputably clear and correct.

But today, talking about Martin, Obama embodied the kind of grace that is well-restrained passion. You knew how smart Obama was listening to him, as is often the case, but also how wise.

***

***

In “The Souls of Black Folk,” W. E. B. Du Bois described this phenomenon thusly:

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

Surely, much has changed in America since Du Bois wrote those lines more than a century ago — namely, bias tends to be expressed structurally rather than on an individual level — but the “two-ness” remains. The reality of being marked, denied and diminished for being America’s darker sons persists, even for a man who rose to become one of America’s brightest lights.

And while words are not actions or solutions, giving voice to a people’s pain from The People’s house has power.

On Friday the president reached past one man and one boy and one case in one small Florida town, across centuries of slavery and oppression and discrimination and self-destructive behavior, and sought to place this charged case in a cultural context.

***

***

“Obama was still a chubby adolescent, just returned from Indonesia and enrolled at the prestigious Punahou School, when he suffered the first such experience. He was one of the kids who played tennis after school, sometimes entering tournaments. One day he and some friends were looking at the draw sheets that had just been posted for a tournament when the tennis pro barked out that Barry shouldn’t touch the board, because his color might rub off.

“He singled him out, and the implication was absolutely clear,” classmate Kristen Caldwell later recalled. “Barry’s hands weren’t grubby, the message was that his darker skin would somehow soil the draw. Those of us standing there were agape, horrified, disbelieving. Barry handled it beautifully, with just the right amount of cold burn without becoming disrespectful. ‘What do you mean by that?’ he asked firmly.”
A few years later, in front of Obama, an assistant basketball coach spoke disparagingly about some players from a different school during a pickup game, using the most volatile racial epithet. When challenged, he said it did not apply to Barry, who was different”

***

***

Something in President Barack Obama’s voice caught Gregory C. Ellison’s ear. It was fleeting, subtle, and easy to miss — unless you’re a black man, too.

‘‘In between his personal reflections on what it feels like to be an African-American man, and the history of pain and his strategic plan, there was what I call a very pregnant pause,’’ says Ellison, a theology professor in Atlanta. ‘If I ever have an opportunity to talk to PresidentObama, I would ask him what was he searching in his soul during that pregnant pause?’’

Obama was wrapped in presidential authority Friday as he talked to a nation rubbed emotionally raw in the week since the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was acquitted in a Florida courtroom. Then, in a move hardly anyone saw coming, Obama unwrapped himself, and put his own young, black face on Martin’s dead, young, black body.

This first black president, the guy accused by some of running from his blackness, of trying to address black folks’ needs on the down low, suddenly lifted the veil off his black male identity and showed it to the world. It was something no American president before him could have done.

He had to do it, Obama said, because ‘‘Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.’’

***

***

I’ve read a lot- and heard a lot of thoughts & commentary- regarding the significance of what our President said….please share yours.


122 Responses to “A Presidential perspective…”


  1. 10 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm
  2. 12 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Great job on the post LP!

  3. 13 vitaminlover
    July 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Our Beloved President is deep.

  4. July 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Very fine post, LP.

    Yep.

    #TrustBarack

  5. 23 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm
    • 24 desertflower
      July 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      So sad…that love story is very special. My heart aches for him

    • 25 jackiegrumbacher
      July 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Awww–Schoep died knowing that he was deeply loved and that there is one person who would do anything in the world for him. No dog could ask for a better end. Many people would be happy to be that dearly loved in their final days.

    • 27 Jeff
      July 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      he lived a long life. 20 is really old for a dog and the love his owner held for him is more than anyone could ask for.

    • 28 arkluvspbo
      July 22, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Sad, hauntingly, peaceful and beautiful. I have tears.

  6. 29 nospin
    July 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Just want to provide context to those who are wondering why the #tavisweeps hashtag.

    Here is Tavis this morning on MTP

    Obama’s remarks about race didn’t satisfy everybody, though. Pundit Tavis Smiley argued that Obama had essentially been pushed into delivering remarks about the Trayvon Martin case, and should have been more active in speaking about race after the Zimmerman verdict.

    “This is not Libya; this is America,” said Smiley on Meet the Press. “On this issue, you cannot lead from behind.”

    http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/21/19597091-mccain-joins-obama-in-calling-for-review-of-stand-your-ground-laws?lite

    • 31 jackiegrumbacher
      July 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Nospin, Tavis is such a bitter little man, I actually feel sorry for him. Imagine having to live with that much anger, jealousy and hatred in your heart. Tavis is smart enough to choose to be a great man, but he has instead chosen to be a tiny one.

      • 32 nospin
        July 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

        ” Tavis is smart enough to choose to be a great man, but he has instead chosen to be a tiny one.”

        Worth repeating. Wise words Jackiegrumbacher

      • 33 nathkatun7
        July 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm

        Jackie G, you are a kind and generous person. But in my book, what a person does reveals his or her true character. In Tavis Smiley’s case, he is truly a small minded person who seems to be overly consumed with envy and an overblown ego. I honestly doubt whether Tavis Smiley has what it takes to be a great man.

    • 34 anniebella
      July 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      Tavis Smiley is a bitter man. It is shameful to see what he has become, because he feels he ( big bad Tavis) has been ignored by this President. How dared this President ignore him. MTP knew and got exactly what they wanted when they invited poor pitiful Tavis.

  7. 35 Smoothscotch
    July 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    What exactly has Mr Smiley done for his race in terms of trying to get people jobs, speaking about race relations and other concerns that is profound enough to allow him to speak thus. He seems to have a voice as well.

    • 36 pkayden
      July 21, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      Hello? Exactly. We really don’t need to talk about Tavis too much. There isn’t much to say. LOL.

  8. 37 nospin
    July 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    wait what??? John Boehner’s new son in law is a Rastafarian from Jamaica who is a construction worker by trade? :-) Well how do you know! I can hardly wait until he gets a grandchild from this union.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2324023/The-moment-proud-father-John-Boehner-watched-daughter-say-I-Do-dreadlocked-Jamaican-born-love.html

    • 38 desertflower
      July 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Funny, huh! Karma, baby:)

    • 39 Layla
      July 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      ,,,and a new color of people will emerge…they will be called “boehner black” people…..

    • 41 Dudette
      July 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      LOL!!!! :-D :-D :-D

      “The couple said their vows with the House Speaker looking proudly on – despite the fact Dominic had previously arrested for possessing marijuana…”

      Well we can be sure there was an open bar at the wedding!

      • 42 nospin
        July 21, 2013 at 3:49 pm

        I am loving it. Loving it. tee hee. Congrats to the couple. Please make every effort to make Boehner a proud Pop Pop. :-D

  9. 43 hopefruit2
    July 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm
  10. July 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Even Gallup…….

    Looks like President Obama’s remarks were not well received……?

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

  11. 46 arapaho415
    July 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    From the end of the previous thread (I swear the bt’s know when I’m about to comment, and they post a new thread just as I hit “send.” LOL.)

    Except for Sundays, this is the print newspaper that gets purchased at my local 7-11 on the mornings that I stop by.

    • 47 pkayden
      July 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Trayvon’s death has touched so many people. Hope something good comes from all of this, which I am sure it will.

  12. July 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    O/T: I haven’t had a chance to tell ‘the family’ here that my husband left last Sunday for Maine to AGAIN hike the Appalachian Trail. He climbed Mt. Katadin Tuesday and began hiking the trail — Southbound this time. I talked to him around 10:00 this morning. He was great, beautiful day, etc. Then, at 12:30 got an emergency message from SPOT (tracking device we use) that he had fallen and couldn’t move his left arm. After MANY, MANY phone calls, texts (with him), help got on the way. It’s just that where he is in ME (100 mile wilderness of the AT), it is SO remote. At 2:30, I got a text from him that he is with 2 northbound hikers and they are walking to a more accessible trailhead. That was at the direction of the S&R folks. I have to say that in all the people I have spoken with from all over (local, ME, TX), every person has been helpful, caring, very responsive. I am truly blown away by the whole response. Still don’t know how badly he is injured. He said he’s not in bad pain except when he moves his (left) arm, but also doesn’t think anything is broken. It’s probably going to be around 5:00-6:00 (ET) before S&R gets to him and he gets to where I can talk with him.

    Thanks for listening. I’ll keep you updated as I can. Thanks in advance for your prayers and support since I KNOW I will have that! :)

    • 49 hopefruit2
      July 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Sorry to hear of your husband’s accident tnmtngirl. Glad that he was able to get help and that he is not too badly injured. Thanks for updating us, and hope he returns home safely and has a smooth healing and speedy recovery!

    • 50 Layla
      July 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Oh dear Lala!!!!!!!! Hope he comes home safe very soon and that his injury is minimal!!! Prayers for both of you! Pls keep us updated when you can…

    • 51 desertflower
      July 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Sorry to hear about his accident…but it sounds like he’ll be alright and has others with him now…I find that people that love the outdoors, are good people:) Always willing to help out when needed. Please keep us posted.

    • 52 theo67
      July 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Good luck, tnmtngirl – I’m glad he’s not alone and help is on the way! Keep us posted.

    • 53 Dudette
      July 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      Oh dear tnmtngirl! I’m glad to hear he’s gotten some help. I’m praying he’s not seriously hurt and will be home safe with you soon. Honey, you have been through so much these past few weeks. You’ve had to be strong for everyone around you, haven’t you? Once things settle down with your hubby, I hope you have an outlet to relieve some stress and pamper yourself. In the meantime, I’m sending you love & light. Be well.

    • 55 jackiegrumbacher
      July 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Tn, what an ordeal you’ve had. It seems as if he’s getting good help, but it must be agonizing for you to have to wait to hear. Keep you thoughts positive and know we’re all pulling for you.

    • 56 nospin
      July 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Sorry to hear that tnmtngirl. I hope this ordeal wraps up soon, his injuries are not serious and he is back home with you relatively quickly.

    • July 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Wishing your husband the best….praying that he returns to you safe and sound…((hugs))

    • 58 utaustinliberal
      July 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      So sorry to hear of your husband’s accident. Wishing you both well and please do keep us informed.

    • 59 pkayden
      July 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Hoping for the best for your Hubby.

    • July 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      tnmt, wishing your husband a safe and speedy recovery home….. when I lived in Charlotte, NC we used to go camping on the App…. people don’t realize how big and dangerous the trail is. I’m glad their were fellow hikers their to assist him to safety.

    • 61 57andfemale
      July 21, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Keep us posted, please! The worst part (for you) is the waiting until you can look in his eyes and know that he’s okay. Let him know that there are prayers and healing energy being sent to him from so many.

  13. 62 desertflower
    July 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Beautiful. THIS is how we do it. Thank you, Smartpants…for doing what you do, everyday, to help others reach their full potential.

    http://immasmartypants.blogspot.com/2013/07/some-personal-reflections.html

  14. 64 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm
  15. 69 jackiegrumbacher
    July 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you, LP, for posting the president’s remarks. I only had a chance to read them as I was soothing a crying baby, but seeing the president speak these words is so much more powerful. PBO didn’t have to address the pain that people across the country were feeling. He could have let it go, expressed his admiration for the Martins, declared the case finished and encouraged people to move on. But that’s not the kind of man he is. He took it from his heart and gave it to all of us as a comfort, but also as a lesson. He asked us to convene our own conversations about race, to examine our own biases–to wring out as much of those biases as we could in every encounter we have or decisions we make. Because of my babysitting duties, my husband chaired our monthly progressive meeting and brought up the Martin case and the issue of race and unfairness. He said at first, the people in the room tried to dismiss racial prejudice as a product of the ‘south’ until an elderly Latina talked about the bias she had encountered in New York. That prompted a lot of discussion about the kind of bias we take for granted or close our eyes to. This discussion was not earth-shattering, but it would not have happened without the provocation of the Trayvon Martin trial. He felt it opened the door to more such discussions and was the beginning of awareness for a few of the people there. And really that’s all we as individuals can hope to do–reach the few we interact with in our communities, hold our elected officials at all levels up to high standards, call out unfairness when we see it and most of all, teach the principles of justice, equality and fairness to our children and grandchildren. I’ve been feeling the ‘nudge’ that says, “do more” since I heard the speech and have been trying to figure out next steps. I hope we can all come up with ways that we can overcome indifference to discrimination in our own lives and interactions and share these ideas as we have them. Every thing we try, every attempt we make, every minor wrong we work to right honors the courage of the Martins and the spirit of reconciliation and hope that the president was trying to convey.

    • 70 desertflower
      July 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      so beautifully said, jackie:)

    • 71 pkayden
      July 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Good for your Hubby to provoke such an important conversation. I gather that certain people feel very defensive whenever racism is discussed, although I’m not quite sure why. No one is accusing one race of being the problem. President Obama made it very clear in his speech that the Black community has some issues of its own. That’s what I love most about President Obama — he’s evenhanded and careful with his speeches.

    • July 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Jackie was my pleasure…….and good on you for your families political activism in your community. I guess my form of activism is the threads I muster up thanks to Chips affording me this wonderful platform.

  16. 73 arapaho415
    July 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Scalia is the best endorsement for term limits on Supreme Court Justices:

  17. 77 Walking_on_ Sunshine
    July 21, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    As a white person in a predominantly white community I have several questions to ask of other white people, bearing in mind that Trayvon Martin was an invited guest in the community where he was killed.

    1. Am I allowed to have guests of different races/religions in my home?
    2. Assuming I am, are there any particular races/religions that are more acceptable to you than others?
    3. Is there an authority in the neighborhood (official Neighborhood Watch or just generally recognized) who should be consulted in advance? Does this person own a weapon?
    4. Should I notify the neighbors in advance to vouch for the good character of my guest in order to avoid confrontation?
    5. Should I brief my guest on standards of acceptable clothing, styles of music and opinions that may be voiced while in my neighborhood?
    6. Is my guest allowed to walk through the neighborhood or must he stay on my property?
    7. Assuming he is allowed to leave my property while in the neighborhood should someone from my family accompany my guest at all times in order to avoid confrontations and misunderstandings?
    8. Am I allowed to leave the property while my guest is in residence or is it my obligation to monitor my guest’s activities at all times during their stay?

    Just asking.

    • 78 nospin
      July 21, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Walking_on_Sunshine. It breaks my heart that you feel compelled to have to ask those questions.

      I get what you are trying to accomplish with the questions but you may get responses from those who may be offended by the questions. You could also consider the feelings of the person who would be visiting. Specifically, would it help or hurt the relationship if you were to say hey XXX, I want you to come visit me this weekend but in order for you to come into my neighborhood there is a standard of acceptable clothing you will have to wear and oh by the way I may have to vouch for you.

      You have a beautiful heart but personally I hope you won’t have to ask those questions. If there are openings for a dialogue on race with your neighbors that could potentially be constructive then maybe consider sharing your thoughts in a gentle way to move the conversation forward. Otherwise, you could just say …hey I am having visitors over this weekend and I hope XXX will have a great time.

      The answers are not easy but I am confident that things can and will change for the better. I really do. Yes we have setbacks in race relations but we also make progress. We can work through the hard stuff in the spirit of kindness and love.

      Blessings to you and yours

      • 79 pkayden
        July 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm

        I thought she was just throwing out some rhetorical questions — ones which she would never actually ask, but ones that appear to be germane to the Trayvon situation.

      • 83 Walking_on_ Sunshine
        July 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm

        Thank you nospin for your kind response. The questions I listed were not meant to be taken literally. I was trying to point out the flawed logic involved in the excuses that were made to justify the not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trail. I appreciate your response. My real neighbors are not that bad and would feel just terrible if this were to happen here. I would never insult a guest by telling what they could wear. What I was really trying to say to other white people is “Don’t assume I share your prejudices”.

  18. 84 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm
  19. July 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Wow! Lovelyplains, this piece hit the bullseye. Thank you for this.

  20. 87 Vicki
    July 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Tavis is suffering from the Woman Scorned and Ignored Syndrome, loosely speaking, just like Maureeen Dowd and The Donald.
    I doubt POTUS gives any of these losers a moment of his time. Apart from ridiculing them at the WHCDinner, that is.

    • 88 pkayden
      July 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      POTUS is too busy to think of such losers. Tavis really needs to find some way to be productive to the Black community, which needs good leaders. For some reason, he doesn’t appear to be interested in doing much except running his mouth and complaining.

  21. 89 hopefruit2
    July 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    BOOM – excellent question – let’s wait for an honest response. It’s time to confront these charlatans, once and for all.

  22. July 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Martin Indyk is about as credible an envoy you can get for ME peace talks….

    http://t.co/Fs3TnhPe2Z

  23. 91 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm
  24. 92 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 4:47 pm
  25. 93 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Snorting and cackling my butt off

  26. 95 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm
  27. 98 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm
  28. 99 hopefruit2
    July 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you Smartypants for calling out Tim wise on his presumptuous defense of Tavis.

  29. July 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    there is one piece I would add….
    ***********************************
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/16/3503415/zimmerman-acquittal-another-reason.html#storylink=cpy

    We are living in a perilous era for African-American freedom. The parallels to other eras have become too stark to ignore.
    Every period of African-American advance has always been met by a crushing period of push back, the crafting of laws and the use of violence with the intent of eroding the new freedoms.

    *************************

    Awesomeeeeee LP….how awesome to have this commentary in one place…how powerful….it packs a punch in the gut…..

    This more than anything can help to explain….why the AA community overwhelmingly stands in PBO’s corner/why we will not desert him…because to have a man who is the head of the most powerful and influential country in the world…be reduced to showing papers/be reduced to trying to explain the humiliating and hurtful effects of being followed in a store to an America…a man who even as President…being called UPPITY in all of the code words and metaphors and then that moment of moments having to how his birth certificate….we/ I felt his pain because it is our/my pain….

    I do not know if other folks will ever be able to understand this….

    but this is what i do know….the laws and policies which reinforce and hold blk folks to a 2nd class citizenship have to fought against…

    Blks folks have a legacy of struggle….and we will continue that struggle….we welcome our allies to join with us…

  30. 105 arapaho415
    July 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    For the Georgians on this blog: (via @Philip_Elliott)

    • 106 Dudette
      July 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      TY Arapaho. Georgia in the heezy! Love me some blueberries!

    • 110 nospin
      July 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      love blueberries. Blueberries combats cancer, protects the heart, stabilizes blood sugar, boosts memory and keeps you regular (prevents constipation). :-D My most favorite thing about blueberries is that they taste great.

      • 111 arapaho415
        July 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm

        About 10 years ago I had a business trip to Portland Oregon in August (lucky me!!!).

        OMG. The blueberries there were not to be believed. Absolutely huge, and delicious!

        I stopped at a roadside stand to bring some back to Los Angeles with me (as carry on, of course).

        They lasted a week in the fridge, without much loss of anything.

        Really jealous of the Pacific NW blueberries.

  31. 112 desertflower
    July 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Off to grocery shop…I just love my TOD family. Really, really do.

  32. July 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    LP, what a truly lovely post, thank you for creating it, you’re a treasure.

  33. July 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Yep.

  34. July 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm
  35. 118 Dudette
    July 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm
  36. 120 HZ
    July 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Thank you, LP for your wonderful work. I feel so blessed to come to my TOD family because Chips has some brilliant contributors here. I always enjoy all of the love that you put into your presentation. This is a joy to me. TY. HZ

  37. 121 Nena20409
    July 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Excellent Post LP. Thank you so very much.

  38. 122 nathkatun7
    July 21, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Thank you so much, Lovelyplains for this excellent post. I am glad Charles Blow highlighted W.E.B. DuBois’ classic “The Souls of Black Folk.” DuBois’ collection of Essays, published 110 years ago, should be required reading in college history classes or any courses dealing with the issues of race and racism in American culture. W.E.B. DuBois also published (93 years ago) another collection of essays, under the title “Dark Water: Voices From Within The Veil,” which are a must read. One particular essay in that collection titled “The Souls of White Folk” goes to the heart of the matter about the evolution and nature of racism. Here are some excerpts of what DuBois wrote:

    ‘The discovery of personal whiteness among the world’s peoples is a very modern thing, –a nineteenth and twentieth century matter, indeed. The ancient world would have laughed at such a distinction. The Middle Age regarded skin color with mild curiosity; and even up to the eighteenth century we were hammering our national manikins into one great, Universal Man, with fine frenzy which ignored color and race even more than birth. Today we have changed all that, and the world in a sudden, emotional conversation has discovered that it is white and by that token, wonderful!
    This assumption that of all the hues of God whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan leads to curious acts; even the sweeter souls of the dominant world as they discourse with me on weather, weal, and woe are continually playing above their actual words an obligato of tune and tone, saying:
    “My poor, un-white thing! Weep not nor rage. I know, too well that the curse of God lies heavy on you. Why? That is not for me to say, but be brave! Do your work in your lowly sphere, praying the good Lord that into heaven above, where all is love, you may, one day, be born — white!”
    I do not laugh. I am quite straight faced as I ask soberly:
    ” But what on earth is whiteness that one should desire it?” Then always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!
    Now what is the effect on a man or a nation when it comes passionately to believe such extraordinary dictum as this? That nations are coming to believe it is manifest daily. Wave on wave, each with increasing virulence is dashing this new religion of whiteness on the shores of our time. Its first effects are funny: the strut of the Southerner, the arrogance of the Englishman amuck, the whoop of the hoodlum who vicariously leads your mob. Next it appears dampening generous enthusiasm in what we once counted glorious; to free the slave is discovered to be tolerable only in so far as it freed his master….’

    Clearly DuBois demonstrates how racism– more precisely the dogma of white superiority — became a belief system which is not that much different from any other form of religious beliefs. This is what makes it so difficult to solve it.


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