Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Open Letter to Misguided Jason Whitlock

Mr. Whitlock is a talented writer. It's why he's making the big bucks at my former employer, and I am not. He's a brilliant sports writer with a keen knack for cutting through the BS by organizing the stats, pointing to the scoreboard, and most importantly, writing about the people who make it all work - on & off the field. We both agree (as do millions more) that Carl Peterson should go! Like, ten years ago, go.

I don't care about Mr. Whitlock's (or any one else's) ethnicity or race other than Mr. Whitlock has self-proclaimed it in many articles and made it germane, as he did for his latest column.
(Since the KC (red) Star is notorious for scrubbing their archives after a very short period of time, his column is posted here in its entirety, at the very bottom.)

It is entitled "Obama's election serves as reaffirmation of our inclusiveness", and contrary to what Republicans were ridiculed for, it does appear to be all about race, after all.

My response:

"It's obvious we disagree politically, Mr. Whitlock, but I do not begrudge your admiration for a talented, accomplished winner like President-Elect Obama. Congratulations to him, his family, and his party. The best man won.

No doubt there is justified exuberance in 'our guy - one of us - won', but what troubles me is that your article did not focus on the his political positions or discussions of policy, or even the brilliance of his campaign, but that of his race, and the promise of success that alone seems to convey to an entire group of people!

You do people a great disservice to hold their requirements so low, and their expectations so tenuous based on a man's skin color. The white majority of this land has long been castigated for such racial judgments.

Granted, I'm not a black man. I am old enough, however, to have seen segregation; race riots; Dr. King; and a whole host of other contortions in the last century. It was a tumultuous time.

The Kennedy boys did what they had to do, and they paid a price. Dr. King did what he had to do, and he paid a price. President Johnson's Great Society did what it had to do, and we have paid the price.

Yes, there is still work to be done, but the locks to the mainstream are cut! The gates are opened! You said so yourself with a list of successful and accomplished black people; you included! The bigots are ridiculed. The racists are marginalized. The decent people of this land embraced the change and facilitated its implementation from neighbor to neighbor. Citizens make the difference. Not the government; not politicians.

I think a community organizer affirmed that idea recently.

The old adage of "all politics are local" is still true today - despite many people's eager attempts to disassemble our federalist system of govt. They'll swoon for Obama and hope for his change, but haven't a clue as to who represents them in Congress, or know the name of their state legislator, or where to locate an alderman. It is truly disconcerting to see so many invest so much in one man so far away based on his skin pigmentation.

Which is why I find your explanation for 'rapidly growing cynicism' specious. A president’s primary job is not to make Americans believe in democracy, but to administer the workings of government. Bush is a fair to midland president at best, but he is not the source of their problems, nor the fount of their solutions, anymore than Obama is.

"After 232 years and recent events in our history, we could no longer wait to emphatically reaffirm that our democracy can work for every citizen willing to invest in its principles."

No longer wait? To Invest? In its principles? Who or what was stopping any one from doing anything? Bush wasn't. Congress wasn't. I wasn't. There maybe still some idiot bigots or prejudiced morons, but those are individuals, not institutions. You yourself alluded to long fought for, proud national accomplishments, and heroic societal change which rightfully enrich & empower minorities . Who in this new millennium could not act on these principles? The same principles which military men & women have fought and died for centuries.

What will Obama hope to change for these people who could no longer wait? Erase the thugs? Stop the violence? Slow the illegitimate birth rate? Unite broken families? Do their homework or go to their jobs? Put them back in the pews? Is there that much power afforded this man simply by the color of his skin?? I know that some mistakenly believe he will buy them gasoline and pay their mortgage, but that is a sad delusion which will engender some serious resentment.

Mr. Whitlock, you may state that for a black person in this land "it’s nearly impossible to turn away from a church or an organization that is making authentic headway in teaching the disenfranchised to be self-sufficient." But I believe that is an insult to all people, black & white, who know that hateful vitriol & racist rhetoric have no place in Church, Temple or Mosque.

Many people have had bad starts in life to overcome, only to become uniquely successful; proud in their adult life of their country, but I know of none so tainted with scandalous character associations, scurrilous business dealings, and destructive political ideology as Barak Obama. The fact that many more are enrapture by "the joyous tears we witnessed Tuesday night," than this man's past is most disturbing of all. Apparently, the 'proper' race covers a multitude of sins.

So you'll forgive me, Mr. Whitlock, if I don't endorse President-Elect Obama as a role model, and not affirm his inclusiveness in "a tale that should be read aloud at bedtime in every American neighborhood."

I prefer to judge our Presidents by the content of their character (and political ideology), not the color of their skin."

Posted on Sat, Nov. 08, 2008
Whitlock: Obama's election serves as reaffirmation of our inclusiveness

Tears and sobs drowned the words my mother tried to speak. My father babbled.

Barack Obama had just won the presidency, and the realization that America loved them back stampeded my parents’ emotions like a wedding proposal from the perfect lover you assumed would never settle down.

“I never thought it would happen,” my 71-year-old father said.

“Not in my lifetime,” my 68-year-old mother cried.

Positive affirmation sustains healthy relationships. A foolish spouse goes a day without verbally expressing his love, a week without publicly demonstrating it, and a single holiday without going into substantial debt to prove it.

For my parents, and many African-Americans, particularly of their generation, America had been a very thoughtless partner at best and an abusive one at worst.

They lived through segregation, Jim Crow, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the lynching of Emmett Till, and were raised by parents and grandparents who lived in near daily fear of racial atrocities.

Too much of their relationship with America had been dysfunctional, one-sided, characterized by limitations rather than opportunities. No matter how persuasively I argued that things had changed here, all they could see was a grudgingly given, easy-to-retract toleration of nonwhites.

We were not — and never would be — part of America’s fabric.

The 2008 election cycle clearly represented far more than the selection of the United States’ 44th president. It symbolized the culmination of our Civil War, redefined for the world the boundaries of our inclusiveness and affirmed America’s unique ability, willingness and swiftness to heal.

A revolution soaked in blood at its 1861 outset was decided by the ballot.

That is not written to castigate the opposition to Barack Obama. I am as nonpartisan as they come. I despise and distrust Democrats and Republicans equally. By nature, I prefer to observe, chronicle and critique political history than sully my integrity by involving myself with the self-serving people trying to influence it.

And I happen to know and love a few John McCain supporters, and their preference for McCain had nothing to do with the color of Obama’s skin.

What I recognize that they don’t is how much America needed to affirm its love for its hard-working, patriotic citizens who believed they were inherently locked outside the mainstream.

I operate in multiple worlds. My friends — the people who stay in my home, vacation, eat dinner and share holidays with me — are lawyers, factory workers, gang members, musicians, athletes, black, white, rich, poor, middle class, housewives, single dads, activists, young, old, conservative, liberal and ex-cons.

My sense is, our democracy is fracturing. The passionate nonbelievers outnumber the passionate believers. The rapidly growing cynicism about the opportunity our democracy affords has risen to destructive levels.

President Bush and our government’s inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina was a tipping point for African-Americans and Hispanics. The neglect and indifference to suffering we watched for days on the steps of the Louisiana Superdome poisoned our faith.

The recognition that we waged a war on a lie about weapons of mass destruction enraged liberals. The Iraq war reawakened the peace movement to the absurdity of how the Bush administration reacted to Sept. 11 with indiscriminate violence and the stripping of Constitutional Rights under the guise of instituting Homeland Security.

The collapse of the mortgage industry and housing market pushed Main Street white America to its breaking point. The people who had used equity in their homes to feign middle-class lifestyles were faced with the humbling reality they were the working poor.

America needed significant and symbolic change. Without a restoration of belief, our superior concept of governance and economy could not survive. The debate about low or high taxes, big or little government, can resume in four years.

After 232 years and recent events in our history, we could no longer wait to emphatically reaffirm that our democracy can work for every citizen willing to invest in its principles.

The joyous tears we witnessed Tuesday night as news spread that America would be led by its first nonwhite president were shed primarily by the true believers who had lost faith over the past 20 years, the men and women who risked their lives in the 1960s to ensure that America lived up to its stated ideals only to see much of their sacrifice squandered and/or exploited.

Barack Obama, a child of the ’60s, a product of American and African union, stands as proof of the righteousness of their sacrifice.

Hillary Clinton, a woman of great courage and accomplishment, would’ve symbolized the same thing but not as loudly. She’s an insider, a benefactor of the Clinton political machine.

My wealthy conservative friends can’t quite grasp how necessary it was for America to embrace all its citizenry at the highest level. Their relationship with this country has — for the most part — always been mutually satisfying.

They see my achievement as a writer, Emanuel Cleaver’s successful run as Kansas City mayor, unabashed adoration for Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, the repeal of discriminatory laws and countless other signs of genuine progress along racial lines as overwhelming, indisputable testimony to America’s desire to move toward colorblindness.

I do, too.

But most people don’t believe in love until their partner says “I do,” until a ring has been exchanged, until a minister pronounces them man and wife in front of as many witnesses as their budget and credit cards allow.

People need symbols to maintain hope. A president’s primary job is to make Americans believe in democracy.

Agree or disagree with Barack Obama’s political philosophy, you cannot deny that he inspires belief that in this country we are primarily limited by our eagerness to dream, work hard and ethically compete.

Abandoned by his father, raised by his grandparents, Obama journeyed from Hawaii to Indonesia and back to Hawaii, from Columbia to Harvard, from Chicago community organizer to U.S. senator, from stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention to Election Day on Nov. 4, 2008. His is a tale that should be read aloud at bedtime in every American neighborhood.

Yes, the story will resonate most profoundly with children of color. For too long their high-profile role models have been athletes, singers, rappers and movie stars, people paid to entertain, people who generally lack the discipline to maintain a stable family.

In President Obama and his wife, Michelle, we’ll have a magnificent example of commitment to family and determination to not repeat the mistakes Barack Obama suffered through as a child.

But most important to our melting pot is Obama’s respect for, appreciation and understanding of all cultures.

The very things that troubled some Americans about Obama’s upbringing are the very things that should give us hope. The fact that he was exposed to Islam as a child in Indonesia is a positive. His mixed-race heritage grants him a level of insight into our racial divide that we’ve never had in the Oval Office.

As someone who enthusiastically attended Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March in 1995 but rejected his demagoguery of Jews, white people and America, I know how and why Obama sat in the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years. When you’re black and self-aware in this country, it’s easy to dismiss and ignore illogical and despicable rhetoric coming from black and white people, but it’s nearly impossible to turn away from a church or an organization that is making authentic headway in teaching the disenfranchised to be self-sufficient.

The search for truth will take a free man many places. It will make him friendly acquaintances with people you’d think would be his sworn enemies and put him momentarily at odds with those who should be his allies.

Before entering national politics, Barack Obama lived as a free man. His unique birthright and upbringing provided him cover to walk intimately with each of us. At this critical juncture in our nation’s journey, his rare path supplies the proper sunlight to heal festering wounds and a flashlight to navigate a world in conflict and rapid change.
© 2007 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansascity.com

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