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Focus on Race and Politics

Eyder Peralta, NPR Digital News

For the past month or so, we've been asking you to send us your opinions on the intersection of race and politics. This month, Weekend Edition Sunday will feature some of the provocative and illuminating entries on the radio.

Look here to see what your fellow Soapbox readers have said and feel free to join the conversation or post your comments. Below you can scroll through Get My Vote contributions.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Greg's comment about how he is dealing with black kids being mean to his son is absurd. Almost every child is teased and beat up at school by someone. (Have your read Howard Stern's biography?) Why are only the "ethnic" kids representatives of their "whole" race. Both black and white kids were mean to me and tried to beat me up when I was in school. I did not come away from that experience saying to myself that "all" black or white people are not worthy of my friendship or respect, precisely because as a sane logical person I put those experiences into their appropriate and limited context. Greg may want to pursue "enhancing" his parenting skills by learning how to tell his son that there are some ignorant and stupid people in the world, and then get about teaching his son how to deal with those people. I would teach Greg's son how to defend himself, and suggest that he try to take one of the kids who is mean to him aside and speak to them about why he or she is angry and why that anger is misplaced on him. It is absolutley "crazy" for Greg to indict a whole race based on an experience that every child of every race goes through! Greg appears to be looking for a scapegoat experience on which to hang the racist tendancies that he is hiding from himself! If this is not true, I'd like to hear Greg's response to his irrational response to his son's experience.

Sent by Jill Pilgrim | 9:09 AM | 8-3-2008

I'm still trying to figure out why, in a country that has supposedly moved beyond "Jim Crow", we still insist in refering to a person who has one black parent and one white parent as "black". I'm a son of the south, and as naively idealistic as that sounds to me, I have trouble getting past the hipocrocy.

Sent by Randy Cochran | 9:11 AM | 8-3-2008

I am always confused when Barack is called African American an whether his race should be an issue. Well has everybody forgotten he's half white too. I think that Barack is the one true person that can go to Washington and represent the the majority of america because he has the experiences of both races. John Mccain and the republican party is such a non inclusive group of priveledge people who have lost touch with most americans. I pray that Obama wins because maybe just maybe we can get beond the pains of the past.

Sent by denise | 10:09 AM | 8-3-2008

I was saddened listening to Greg's comments on NPR this morning--both that his son was bullied and that he interpreted that experience in terms of race. My own sense as someone who is middle class and white is that social class was the driving factor in the bullying. My daughter--when she was in middle school--was hassled by black girls in a big city school context, and I think it had to do with the resentments that came from living in a stratified society and being at the bottom in term of income and opportunity.
I'm hopeful that Barrack Obama--if he is elected president--will be able to reduce racial intolerance, but I think he won't be able to make much progress unless and until there are more opportunities and more security for those at the bottom half of the economic pyramid.

Sent by Jana Everett | 10:44 AM | 8-3-2008

It was sad to hear the entire report this morning, whether it was Greg's reaction to his son's experience at school or his decision not to cast a vote in the upcoming election or even Juan Williams' bland and rather empty commentary about the experiences of the two listeners. Greg, in fact, reminds me of my own parents when I was a child, well-meaning people who nevertheless were unable to distinguish between the problem of bullying, which is unacceptable no matter what person of any race commits it, and the phenomenon of White Privilege, which is the bigger and malicious problem at work here and is the force against which the black children in his son's school are reacting. My own parents were never able to articulate or admit to me how it is that white people live without profiling, without red-lining, without being caged from voter rolls, without having to question the bias against people of color in politics, the media and the legal system. That was the world in which they grew up and they accepted in as a given. I had to wait years to learn that White Privilege is not a naturally occurring phenomenon; it is a systemic construction, just as the entire idea of Race is a construction that has nothing to do with DNA and everything to do with white people maintaining power and control and consolidating wealth. I hope Greg gives the issue of race some further thought the next time he talks with his son about it, and that your Sunday reports will acknowledge the phenomenon of White Privilege at some point during their airing.

Sent by Rob | 10:56 AM | 8-3-2008

We are all Prejudice.
On Morning Edition, Aug.3rd, I heard Juan Williams says that 'prejudice starts with our grandparents.' But it started much earlier than that. As a matter of survival, it was necessary for the human species to distinguish the members of their own tribe from those who were outsiders and to fear them, and to avoid them and run. As consciouness, reason and rationality expanded, we humans, not wanting to be ruled by our baser instincts, give reasons for these fears which for the most parts are judgments on the qualities of the outsider. But we have to recognize that we all have prejudies,
and we have to constantly question our motives if we truly want to make fair judgments about other people who do not look like us,talk or have different lifestyles from us. Clarence Darrow, the famous defense attorney, faced this very problem when he defended 11 Blacks in Detroit for the killing of a white man before a jury of 12 white men. Darrow confronted the issue of prejudice and race attitudes, but he told the jury that, he believed the 12 white men could make a fair judgment, and that as rational men, they could overcome their fears, and base their decision on only the facts of the case.
The result was a hung jury. There was a second trial with only one defendant, and again, with an all white jury;Darrow was even blunter about racial attitudes and the result was an acquittal. Know thyself has always been the best place to start a judgment about another person.

Sent by Daniel Charbonneau | 11:03 AM | 8-3-2008

Thank you for this series, thank you for talking about race. Having just completed a training session (as one of four presenters) on anti-racism for our church, I hope to add some clarification of terms, and suggest that Liane Hansen address this issue in future segments. Part of the issue that we see, illustrated in the concerns expressed by Greg Haden and the comments on his story, is that we use the term "racism" to mean so many different things - and often end up talking past each other. What Greg's child experienced was no doubt racially-based bullying. Kids do that. But if we look at "racism" to mean racial prejudice coupled with power -- as in the institutional racism of our schools, housing, political institutions -- then what happened on the school ground was racially prejudiced behavior, not racism. It may seem like a small point, but we find in our training that being precise in that way leads to opening of people's understanding of the larger issue of racism that pervades our history and our society. Thank you for this series.

Sent by The Rev. Mary E. Rivetti | 11:08 AM | 8-3-2008

The discussion of race and prejudice in America is not going to get anywhere if people only relate to their own experience and construct the topic in terms of Black and White or, for that matter, Jewish, Asian, American Indian and White. Personal experience is limited and there is a need for individuals to have a broader view.

A solution is to measure personal experience in terms of the experience of others who you also perceive as in your "category." Why do some of the kids or families in a neighborhood seem to feel issues of race more or less than others? Why do some people who are Black or White or Asian seem to be friendly or accepting of others who are not of the same race? Why do some people decide to chose to identify themselves by race more than others? How much does someone's specific geographic area or amount of income or education influence their approach to race matters?

I would hope that in future discussions Lianae or the other NPR interviewers probe a little more deeply than merely continually asking people to talk only about their own experience.


AJ Sabatini,
Philadelphia, PA

Sent by AJ Sabatini | 12:10 PM | 8-3-2008

Dear NPR -
You ask if RACE makes a difference and why people have focused on this. As I have been listening to NPR for several months on this matter, and to the news ( cable and local stations), the 'race thing' has been mindfully exacerbated by the new media. People focus on it because NPR ( and the news) keeps on poking it to make sure it's alive and well. I continue to hear what Barack ( or McCain) does in the black community or white or Hispanic, or ....etc. The media as usual is looking for controversy or 'the story'.

Many (not all) of us out here are beyond this Black-White thing. I am sure you can show me 100's of examples where this is not so. And I can show you 100 + where color is low on the totem poll of decision making.

If you hit people over the head on this over-and-over, then ask ' why do you think there are bumps on your head?' , you needn't go further then the man holding the hammer.

So how can NPR help?
Ask questions on leadership, quality, integrity, team building problem solving, ethical clarity.. don't be so much worry about the color - unless you only wish to stir the pot of differences and issue creation.

Our country is in of strong, insightful leadership. I do not care what color, shape, size, or DNA strand this person comes from. Is that the story you wish to report Black v. White perhaps spending more time reporting at the zoo may help. You can view the diversity of life and report on which color is winning there.

Sent by Frank In California | 12:27 PM | 8-3-2008

The controversial issue of this election is RACE! While many people in the US are living in fear and uncertainity about their financial future, many are listening to hear what the Presidental candidates offer as solutions to their uncertainities. Sen.Obama has been accused of "playing the race card." Sen. Obama has been labeled arrogant, uppity, a flip-flopper and so forth by many in the media. Sen. Obama does not have to play the race card, his skin color IS the race card. The moment he enters a room, the race card is played.
What many Caucasian Americans people know is these are "code words" designed to remind them of and pertetuate the fear of African Americans. It is systemic racism, a system of privilege and oppression, a network of traditions, legitimating standards, material and institutional arrangements, and ideological apparatuses that, together, serve to perpetuate hierarchical social relations based on race.
Rather the shrink from this controversy, Sen. Obama and anti-racist Caucasian Americans must ebrace it, continue to bring it into the light, let people who are fearful feel their fear, talk about it , cry about it, let our hearts break about it and, in the end, heal through it.
what can Caucasian and African American parents do to assist their children learn about race in America?
1. Acknowledg the existence of prejudice, racism and discrimination.
2.Explain to your child why African American's as a group are mistreated
3.Provide you child with a repertoire of responses to racial discrimination and to white privilege.
4.Prepare your Caucasian child for white backlash in taking a stand for equality and African American children for discrimination.
5.Teach your child the difference between responsibility to and for his/her minority group or majority group.
6. As a parent, advocate on behalf of African Americans and a positive identity for them as well as a positive identity for Caucasian Americans.

Please visit my blog to continue this conversation,

Sent by Charles Hill | 1:39 PM | 8-3-2008

I am a white 74 year old woman. Both my husband and I are Obama supporters. I am happy to say our 3 children and their family's are also. Not all old people are afraid of change.

Sent by Carol Ehri | 3:44 PM | 8-3-2008

I recently had two experiences, polar opposites, which tell me a lot about race and politics. The first one was while I was waiting at a bus stop in downtown Minneapolis. There was a black gentleman sitting on the bench talking to another black man and talking about how Barack Obama was the man who was going to save our country from the awful mess we are in now and the Obama has all the right answers. And on and on. I am not black, but I am of a much smaller minority; I am a male to female transsexual. I quietly approached the man who was doing all the talking and just as quietly stated that there was only one candidate that I could vote for (this was while Hillary Clinton was still in the running) and that was Barack Obama. The black man reached his hand out to shake my hand and I shook his hand. I may have said something else, but that was all that I needed to say. There were a few other people around, but I could not tell if anyone else even cared. A few of them seemed to be what you might call "militantly apathetic," a term that a black student used toward me when I was in college and there were student demonstrations against the Vietnam War. I was too busy practicing the piano back in college!
On a recent Saturday, I needed to take the bus to my local drug store. The bus was very late and by the time it showed up people were standing up because there were no seats left. Or so I thought. There were at least one or two seats left, but they were all the way in the back of the bus and all the people back there were African-Americans. I don't have very good balance, so I went back and sat down next to a black woman. It was as if I had invaded the space of these black people, that they would have preferred that no Caucasian (white) person even got on the bus much less sat near them. I was disgusted and still am. I have several black friends. If I would have been on the bus longer I might have said something to try to get their attitude changed. Like:
"Did you know that white people are genetically inferior and that the original humans were dark skinned?"
I feel very frustrated with this country because I was raised to respect everybody regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, religion, or anything else.
In my first job out of college in the early 1970's there was a black woman named Jewell and she and I got along very well. She would say to me;
"See this black pen, does my skin look black to you?"
"Well I'm wearing a white shirt. Does my skin look white to you?"
And we would laugh and laugh about the stereotypes and the terminology. Our country needs to heal from the last eight years. But right now, even though all my hope is with Obama being elected, I know that there are a great many people who just can't vote or won't vote for him.

Sent by Lisa R in Minnesota | 3:47 PM | 8-3-2008

People who feel insecure in their own skin will be the first to be 'racist' hurrying to put someone else down. The trouble with that is that when you hold someone down--you are both captive; the captor is cannot walk away, the captive cannot move.

In this country, we should have grown up enough by now to realize that working together would build a better society for each and every person. Historically, the Black Race has been held down for centuries--the last vestiges of racists are struggling to hold onto their power--for they believe that without power they are nothing! Maybe they are nothing already.

Sent by Carole in PA | 4:50 PM | 8-3-2008

I applaud NPR for creating this useful and thought-provoking conversation. The posted comments make it clear that Americans of all races have insight we can each benefit from. I ask NPR to explore the fact that white people have forgotten that we are "ethnic" too. Why is it that ONLY Caucasians and Negroids (scientific classification terms)are referenced by skin color - which actually is peach or brown truth be told. There are East Indians blacker than "black" people. We do not refer to Asians as "yellows" or to Hispanics as "browns". I think the larger issue here is that these two opposite ends of the color spectrum - whites and blacks as we call each other/ourselves - have little to no reference on their cultural heritage. Every white person in this country is offspring of an ancestor who arrived from some other country, spoke another language and had ethnic traditions. I believe racism could be eased if whites recovered a sense of their own ethnic identity. The systemic power dynamic created to favor whites over the Native Americans already here when they arrived and to rule over the slaves required whites to become a bland, monolithic bunch. That tradition was strongly in force when my olive-complexioned grandfather arrived from the south of Italy to Montana. Immediately he was pressured in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to "white-ify" himself to fit in, i.e., lose his ethnic ways as much as possible. And of course, African-Americans lost most of their ethnic traditions and cultural identity due to the slave system run by whites who knew to strategically eradicate African family names, suppress their traditions, destroy family units and generally erase ancestral history. And so African-Americans and Caucasions have become people only defined/defining by color of their skin and nothing deeper.

Sent by Jana La Sorte | 12:06 AM | 8-4-2008

The Road to Take

Today I saw one of my kind, a tipsy white man, verbally insult an Indian taxi driver who remained calm and courteous throughout the barrage. Yesterday one of my Hispanic students screamed expletives at an Asian biker as we drove by. When I was a teen, a black boy spit in my face and threatened to beat my head in.

Is there no way out of this cycle of racism and violence? Yes, indeed, there is--and it lies clearly before us. Just follow these simple rules:

1. Seek understanding and avoid generalizations. (Do not elevate your personal experience into a broad definition of others. Personal experience cannot overrule the broader truths of humanity.)

2. Be suspicious of your own superioity, whether justified as an inherent personal right or a perceived personal wrong.

3. Do not assume political and social conditions derive from race; it is often the opposite.

4. Remember that race is merely physiology; it's history, class, and prejudice that create racism.

5. The social bond between man and man lies at the core of our survival; we must above all nourish it.

Two months ago three students of mine--a white, a black, and an Hispanic--became friends. It can be done.

Brian Burke, Santa Monica, California

Sent by brian Burke | 12:23 AM | 8-4-2008

I am historian who is in the process of writing a book about whether race in American politics has come to reflect deracialization as some have suggested or has continued to be racialized. Ten diverse recipients of white votes which in turn enabled electoral victories have been examined with their political fates then judged after elections. The final chapter then will be adding Sen. Barack Obama's experiences to the mix. All preliminary signs are pointing to the invalid judgments of individuals who have downplayed race as the pivotal determiner in elections.

Sent by Dr. Dennis S. Nordin | 11:04 AM | 8-4-2008

I have been in the U.S. for 17 years and the experieces with the black are most hostile. When I was in graduate school 1994, on the way to the campus on the bus(all are blacks except me--Chinese), one black called out" killed all the Chinese". In 2002, one of my kids was called "Yellow River", even though my children are White/Asian.A month later since then, I homeschooled my children till now in order to prevent hostile treatment and extreme low academic performance by the whole school systems in my county, which the black are "the majority". My next neighbor had to withdrew their only grandson(one of the few white students) from his middle school due to the hostile atomasphere from the black environment. In my opinion, the black Americans are the most prejudiced ethnic group I had ever encountered. They held on to the history and become so bitter that they gang up on other ethnic group and the local and federal government continue nurture this kind haterd among races.They hold the "the race card" so dearly on every way they turn. There is the reason why late Sen. Helm was liked by his outspoken comments. This year's elections for me is all about "color", even though I am not fond of McCain, either.

Sent by Pi-hsia Hung | 11:47 AM | 8-4-2008

My concern is that the question of "race" and its significance to life in America and in particular the current presidential campaign is so miss guide.

It seems to me your program should discuss the foolishness of the race theories which assign persons to certain racial groups that have no relevance. How does a person from two different racial groups become assigned to one group and then treated as the background of the other parent is insignificant. Which human scientific or governmental agency can determine whether the egg or the sperm is more important in determining race?

In particular, if Mr. Obama's father's racial group assignment is so powerful that it cancels out any attributes he receives from his mother, then I am all for it. This says to me that I and my offspring are creative, intelligent, powerful, articulate, and charismatic people who are far superior to most whites (his other half)

However, sperm and egg cells seem to have not problem uniting to produce bright, wonderful, committed, and thoughtful persons, regardless of the parents race. The same ephitets used against Blacks were assigned to all ethnic newcomers to America. The only difference is that by switching from ethnic origin to color, a human attribute could be exploited for negative and abusive reasons.

It seems to me that the media is more interested in keeping the illogical question of Mr. Obama's race alive as an issue for its selfish purposes. Mr Obama certainly highlights the fact that "Race is not IMPORTANT, but the contents of one's heart and one's willingess to use one's intellect, social location, and zeal to make a difference in the lives of others. And this is what really counts.

Sent by Anita Marshall | 12:56 PM | 8-4-2008

I found Greg Harden's response to his son's bullying incident disturbing. He doesn't seem to realize that his son would have been every bit as injured, and his school situation every bit as unsafe, had the bully been white.

A more rational response would have been to organize the parents and the school administration to implement a zero talerance policy toward bullying, treating all incidents the same, regardless of the identity of the bully or the victim. That would have sent the kids a message: "We're all in this together".

His approach taught his son that "racism happens, and there is nothing you can do about it", as well as that all black people are probably bullies. This is how we perpetuate racism, by generalizing the behavior of some to everyone who has some irrelevant characteristic in common with them.

Sent by Marcella Murphy | 3:21 PM | 8-4-2008

All your comments are invaluable and will help us as we continue to build the series.

Thanks and keep them coming!

Davar Iran Ardalan
Senior Producer

Sent by Davar Iran Ardalan | 5:20 PM | 8-4-2008

NPR like other media is beating a tired horse in the way you discuss the election and race. In this morning's discussion on race, a black republican was pulled in to round off the discussion. I did not find the format enlightening. Here's what we know. Blacks have always voted in large numbers for Democrats. Whoever had won the Democratic nomination would have had the black vote in large numbers; whether that person were black or white or Latino for that matter. Please cease from your well-repeated statement that blacks are supporting Obama in large numbers. There is no surprise in that. They would have done the same for Hilary. What I would like to hear are voices of whites who plan to vote for Obama. Please stop the racial stereotyping that you keep doing. Move the images. Let's hear some white folk -young or old - tell why they are Democrats and voting for Obama. Now that would really be a change in how media presents to the public in a very racialized society.

Sent by paula aymer | 8:56 AM | 8-10-2008

I believe race will play a role in this election. Some people will vote for Sen. Obama because he is Black and will not be influenced by his positions on any of the issues. They could care less. And some will vote for Sen. McCain only because he is white. The latter group is perfectly clear and reflects racism. But the former group is the more interesting. Are they racist? Some will vote for the historical aspect of having a Black man in contention, while others will vote out of some sense of guilt deep within themselves, and others will vote from their sense of pride. The polls are showing numbers in the 90's amongst Black voters for Mr. Obama. Is that a result of his policies for the future or his race? In a perfect world we would all vote on the positions the candidates take on the issues.

Sent by Phil - NYC | 9:19 AM | 8-10-2008

A couple of Sundays ago while on Meet The Press, Joe Lieberman called Barack Obama (who is middle aged) a "Young Man" no less than 5 times while saying he issn't ready to lead. Young man is typically a term we use to describe someone in their 20s. How great of a leap is that from calling him a "Boy" who isn't ready to assume his own rights in society? Could someone from Obama's camp call John McCain an old man without consequence? Barack Obama has been accused of being "Arrogant," by the McCain campaign, and has even been cast in a mock messianic light in internet ads. How different is this from calling him "Uppity?" And if someone from Obama's campaign even suggests that this kind of campaigning might have a hint of subtext to it, they are accused of "Playing the race card from the bottom of the deck." This makes it seem like pointing out anything other than overt racism is cheating.

This kind of subtle racism, and the not so subtle backlash that is unleashed when it is exposed to the light of day is just the kind of story that NPR should be covering, because it's certainly never going to be covered by the mainstream media.

Sent by Jeff Gauthier | 11:03 AM | 8-10-2008

In this morning's on-air conversation with listeners Raoul and Bruce, the question that was asked by Bruce, to paraphrase, was, "What is it like to live with people of difference races?" Raoul described what its like to WORK with people of different races/cultures. That's a very different question than that which was asked. Perhaps Raoul is very lucky to live in the same community he works in. But perhaps what Bruce might be curious to know, is what happens AFTER work. Where do people go after that 5:00 bell?

New Jersey is a very "multi-racial" state. On August 7 the headlines were all about the incredible rise in the Asian polution (both East Asians and South Asians) in the State. Do people mingle happily? For years there have been the development of primarily Asian areas and towns but recent articles point out the fact that the roughly drawn borders of these areas have been spreading rapidly. Although, Asians tend to live and integrate more among Caucasians than with other groups, and Blacks and Latinos tend to continue to be segregated from others as well as from each other. Economics aside, many immigrants bring their own racial predjudices with them as well, which are sometimes stronger than our homegrown versions.

Do we work and walk with each other during the work day? Of course! Do we sometimes smile and mingle with each other at other, non-work related, functions? Occasionally.

Is there still predjudice? Of course! Perhaps more now than ten years ago. Just check out the NJ headlines of only a year or two ago, which read something like, "Whites Fleeing NJ". No longer is it as simple as leaving the city to escape people you don't like. Now that highly educated or wealthy Asian immigrants are coming to the suburbs and wealthier communities, census records have documented that many NJ Whites are picking up roots that go back generations in order to transplant themselves to other States.

The true test of racial integration in a community is the rate of intermarriage, between those of ALL racial combinations. (Perhaps that's why Obama appeals to such a wide demographic. His background symbolizes the myth that we've already reached that point.)

For an idea for a future NPR story, how about a report on how many U.S. communities, nationwide, have people of several of the major racial groups, non-immigrants as well as immigrants, living amongst each other on the same blocks, in the same communities. Living together, not just working together. I'm sure there are several cities that have a few neighborhoods which fit that description.

Sent by lin | 12:23 PM | 8-10-2008

I am a 62-year old white man. Something I experienced recently has left me conflicted in a way I didn't used to be. My department was cut back by close to 50 percent. My counterpart is an African-American woman. It is widely perceived that her work record and contribution to the business were not as good as mine. But I was laid off so that she could keep her job. The day after I received my layoff notice, I took vacation and spent five days volunteering for the Obama campaign in Durham, NC. Among other reasons, I support Obama because he is signaling that past injustices can't be corrected by sacrificing people who did not commit them. I was subsequently given another job in the company. It's not as good as the one I lost, and I had to take a pay cut. But I continue to support Obama and look forward to his presidency.

Sent by Lee Mortimer | 2:13 PM | 8-10-2008

I find it fascinating how the press is so inept at dealing with the subject of race. I only get my news from PBS and NPR because of the lack of intelligence that the other news organizations show in discussing this issue, and other news. I remember the Don Imus controversy, and how the media struggled to understand what the "big fuss" was about. It took Gwen Ifill to go on one of the Sunday news shows to give some insight to what blacks were feeling. What no one understood was Imus' comments came during a year when blacks were feeling especially good. The year started with Wesley Autrey, (the "Subway Superman"), a black man who risked his life to save another person, (who just happened to be white). He was on the way to take his daughters to school, and then on to work himself. Finally blacks felt that there was a black person in the news they could relate to. We recognized this "black man", because he was like our uncles, fathers, brothers, friends really are. He was not what the media portrays a black man as. He was a dedicated father, a brave man, an industrious, hard working man. He even went to work after almost loosing his life while saving another. (but he is not spoken of when the media talks about the blue collar - "hard" working class - that is usually how they describe whites especially in this election) He was well spoken, and full of humility. We also saw the rise of Jennifer Hudson, and the grace in which she dealt with such sudden fame and accolades. Especially since her contemporaries, Paris Hilton, Linsey Lohan, and Britney Spears, had such abhorent behavior. There was Shonda Rymes staring in the hottest show on TV, (Gray's Anatomy). Another black person that looked like the people blacks are used to. She even had a unorthodox name, if you look at what is normal for the white community. The creator of this show was Chandra Wilson, again poccessing a name not in the normal vocabulary of names in the majority population. She also looked like many of our mother's, sisters, wives. It was lost in the white community how proud that blacks were that she gained notariety for a hit show without calling it a "black" show because she was the creator, and some of the main charactors were black. This is the dream of most blacks,(and echoing Martin Luther King's "content of charactor instead of race" dream), for anything they do to be judged just as it is and not what their blackness says about it. We were proud of Epatha Merkerson the longest appearing black women in a TV drama ("Law and Order"), Dennis Haysbert ("The Unit" and "24"). He portrayed a patriot, and the president of the United States with a realism that made people forget his "blackness". Not to mention his commercials that made him one of the most trusted spokesmen in America. We saw the beginnings of Barrack Obama who was not like Jessie Jackson, or Al Sharpton, both of them who lost the following of blacks many years ago, but you would not think that if you listen to the media, and commentators. Everytime there is a race question, both of them are the first that are questioned about it, and then it is a "given" that what they respond is the voice of black America. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The Imus story spun into a discussion about gangsta rap music, which 70% of is purchase by young white men. Blacks don't support it like the media proclaims, almost in a matter of fact way. They complain about it all the time. Imus' comments, to blacks, meant that it did not matter how far you rise, or how hard you work, and how many people show that the stereotypes that are portrayed on TV are false, to people like him in America blacks will still be nothing but a n****r. They use code words like "nappy headed hoe", but most blacks understand what people like him mean. Unfortunately many of the main stream media have no familiarity of what it is to be black, just like the regular population. They, for the most part, lived in separate schools, went to separate churches, and other than some collegues, have no really close black friends. They are as ignorant as the regular polulation, and the blacks that are in the journalism field will not say what they discuss at home because they don't think whites will understand. Gwen Ifill is one of the few that is eloquent in her explainations, along with some of the other PBS, NPR journalists. Barrack spoke the truth about how some people "cling" to guns and religion, but it was twisted to mean something else. He was refering to how those folks will vote for someone because that candidate says he/she will fight for their right to have guns, and portrays themselves as a christian. Meanwhile those same people they vote into office, adopt policies that lead to the lost of jobs. This was his point that they were being exploited, but the media is so inept at understanding these issues that they almost take the tabloid approach, and report attacks not facts. Barrack is like most blacks, who look within the community, and demand that we fix problems ourselves, while at the same time acknowledging the shadow of racism that we face, without using it as an excuse. Sharpton and Jackson's views are no longer the majority view, but a small minority of blacks feel the victim mentality is how they approach life. Now since Obama made a comment about how they will say he has a funny name, and by the way, he's black, (note: to most of the blacks I know it was obvious who he was refering to - it was not John Mcain but a core of the republicans who used simular tactics agains Mcain in 2000 spreading rumors that he had a black child). The media said that Clinton and Obama had almost exactly the same policies during the primary, but in the next breath they say that Obama has a problem winning the support of "working class whites". The only obvious difference is race, but no one has the courage to say it, and start the dialogue. Black already know, we are just waiting for whites to catch up. The media talks about the black vote like it is singular. Blacks know that we all have different views, but whites, and the media still discuss our vote as if it has no thought behind it. No one says that the previous Democratic candidates for President who were recipients of the same percentage of the black vote that Barrack is party to were "black candidates". Blacks are voting for him because they are further advanced in this race discussion than their white friends. They know that Obama is going to work 3 times as hard, because that is what blacks are taught all their lives, that we have to be twice as good to be considered equals. He is going to go out of his way to work for every group, because he knows how it is to be left out as a black man, so he does not want anyone in the country to feel the same hurt. I hope that a "real" discussion, like Obama started, can come to the table intelligently and respectfully.

Sent by Maurice Jones | 2:17 PM | 8-10-2008

Here's a great site about race, race relations, multicultural issues, inclusiveness and more...

They do a great job in stimulating conversations with stories on many relavant topics that you mention here

Sent by joe costello | 2:55 PM | 8-10-2008

I'm a high school teacher in Cambridge MA in a diverse city school. During the primary as the Hillary Clinton / Barak Obama race was heating up, a Haitian American young woman announced proudly to her class, "shoot, maybe I'm going to run for President some day!" I think that one of the most profound ways that this election is changing America is that young women and kids of color are seeing for the first time that maybe all the grand promises of this country really do apply to them. My students and I have discussed at length whether or not race or gender or religion should be a factor in the way we cast our votes (though most of them cannot vote yet.) The consensus among the kids is that of course a candidate's policy positions matter most, but race and gender matter too.

Sent by Betsy Bowman | 5:42 PM | 8-10-2008

Do America a favor NPR and ask geneticists and anthropologists and even sociologists to discuss the concept of race, the history of so-called race classification and how it is used to perpetuate old and new divisions of peoples by anyone who has something to gain or lose, especially during elections. Could you do that for the month of September or October?

Until I attended college, I did not know scientists geneticists believe there is no such thing as race. I believe NOW is the time, during this election no matter who wins, that NPR can champion the following debates: Is there really such a thing as race? How does the concept impact the survival of humankind? Is it possible to stop categorizing groups in ways that either unfairly diminish or grant special privilege to that group? Should the USA lead the debate about whether so-called race actually exists and in that context, why or why not? What are more appropriate terms for various groups of people?

I implore you to do this now, while there is still time to intelligently introduce vital information into your broadcasts. I guarantee, your listenership will increase. Otherwise your news programing runs the risk of being just another whitenoise station for me.

Have I had issues? Yes, yes and yes. Being the first ever, being too light or too dark, being the only. Yes, I have had interesting experiences being these things and it showed me just how absurd is the concept of being one of a so-called race.

To talk about this election in the terms you have covered cheapens NPR and intelligent discourse. It detracts from the more important life and death issues here and abroad.

My dear NPR news producers and listeners, I implore you to explore whether RACE actually exists within the human family, asking experts from the sciences and social sciences about this term. Then, I'll take this particular series seriously.

Sent by Debra Nicolis Thurston | 6:31 PM | 8-10-2008

Great link, Joe. I found many of the issues I mentioned on that site.

Sent by lin | 7:01 PM | 8-10-2008

A double standard based on race is prevalent in our society and it is having a huge impact on the election. Senator Lieberman called Senator Obama a "young man" (code for "boy") several times on Meet the Press the very week of Obama's 47th birthday. Senator Obama has been accused of being too young, smart, elite, thin, athletic, extreme, and risky--all euphemisms for the old Southern expression of saying a Black person is getting "too uppity." He has been accused of being both "too black" and "too white" to be elected--indicative of America's bipolar prejudice and its historical distaste for miscegenation. Senator Obama was condemned for trying to be loyal to his long term friend, the elderly retiring minister Jeremiah Wright, who performed his marriage and served as a Godparent to his children. Little mention has been made of the fact that Reverend Wright served his country as a Marine and he built his church congregation from less than 100 to around 10,000 members, said to be the largest church in the Church of Christ denomination. During his 60+ years Reverend Wright may well have witnessed many injustices to people; the treatment of him by the Press and many Americans has been less than charitable and very respectful to a man of his age and accomplishments.

On the other side of the aisle Senator McCain takes pride in being near the bottom of his college class. He recklessly discards people in his life who he finds in the way of personal gain, such as Phil Graham, his former campaign manager and financial advisor, who called Americans whiners, and Evangelical ministers whom he embraced for their base and then shunned when he was challenged about their racist/sexist/homophobic statements. After his first wife suffered a serious car wreck leaving her crippled he abandoned her to pursue an heiress almost 20 years his junior while he was still married. One can only imagine how Senator Obama would be treated if that had been his path. But it was Senator McCain's opportunistic path and he is arguably not too young, tall, thin or smart. He is known to be a maverick and most Republicans have considered him disloyal and untrustworthy for many years. His hot headed tantrums and quick temper are infamous in Washington, and yet, somehow he is now considered the "safe" one? This double standard is disgraceful. It will be tragic if, in 2008, Americans still care more about the color of someone's skin than the content of their heart.
How will I vote? My inclination is to move away from prejudice and bigotry, and look at the issues and who is likely to be the best leader. Based on McCain's ads mocking Obama's celebrity and the numbers flocking to listen to him, it is obvious that Senator Obama is already that leader. Every time he says something, people listen. Senator McCain's can only get attention by going negative. Expect more backlash and trashy ads, because anger is McCain's strongest emotion and plenty of people will fuel his resentment. But when you get down to the character of the person, the intelligence of the message and the ability to lead, this is a no brainer. There is one clear choice and people who want to look hopefully toward the future already know it. While McCain's camp mocks the idea of hope, I hope Americans will look through the double standard fog and try to do what is best for our future.

Sent by Julia H | 5:58 PM | 8-12-2008

Our organization, the Greater Flint Health Coalition in Flint, Michigan has been focused on the issue of racism and its impact on ethnic health disparities. We have sponsored a two and a half day workshop called Undoing Racism facilitated by the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, out of New Orleans. To date, 1500 Flint area residents have attended. One of the major issues I have with the current debate on racism is the definition of racism. The definition we use in the workshop is that racism equals power and privilege which most whites (like myself) believe we have. It seems to me so much of the current discussion (especially when people deny they are racist) is about prejudice, bigotry and discrimination.

NPR could help by a program defining the differences.

Sent by Stephen Skorcz | 8:54 AM | 8-13-2008

I dream of a world in color, not black and white. I think this because of exposure, if not intimacy, with many cultures and ethnicities. I learned to pick a spot and just sit.That gives me an opportunity to listen and the people around me to approach and talk.

I have been amused at the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reaction to Obama by non-Americans. What a wonderful opportunity to move beyond perpetual war.

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.

Sent by Jim Tarvid | 8:51 AM | 8-17-2008

I'm really pleased with all the comments shown. This is a terrific conversation; thanks NPR!

I am white. Born in Chicago, living in Knoxville, Tennessee, I am what the census bureau calls "American" in ancestry, but I'm really Scotch-Irish and Swiss German. I am a former NAACP member: I am one of the many younger former members disaffected by the elder NAACP members' collective inaction.

My family and I are continually frustrated by not just NPR's but the whole of mainstream media's coverage of race in this presidential election season. I have seen the GOP and Senator John McCain ads that play the race card. I have heard McCain alleging Senator Barack Obama played the race card first. And, I heard today, Sunday 17th of August, a black woman allege Obama played the race card first.

But, I'm not convinced that any minority is capable of playing the race card in the first place, and if they are, then I believe they should play the race card as ubiquitously as possible. And here's why: everytime a white presidential candidate tells us about his past, gives a family biography, appears with his wife and children in public, or relates to us an anecdote of his life - he is playing the white race card (and the sex card). What we perceive as the presidential candidate norms - those very norms that Obama lacks and subsequently gets charged with playing the race card for observing - those presidential norms are only normal for white Americans. Over two hundred years of white presidents has normalized qualities of white America as race neutral in politics, and when Obama comes and points out these obvious differences, which McCain has been pointing out since day one, whether or not America was aware of it since it is so normalized and in-grained in American political society, Obama gets charged with playing the race card. I find the media's ignorance of how whiteness has been normalized frustrating.

Sent by Gaines Hubbell | 11:11 AM | 8-17-2008

Many times when someone wants to diffuse an issue, they state the obvious, themselves. That is how I interpret Mr. Obama's comments about looking different than the President's on the dollar bills. He cannot hide the fact that he has black skin and for some that is a big issue. To try to pretend that that is not so is to be stupid and Mr. Obama is definately not stupid. As a white person, I certainly do notice a person's skin color, but after getting to know that person, I do not even notice skin color. The media is the one who made an issue out of the comments made by Mr. Obama. It is definately the media that is trying to make race an issue in this campaign. None of us are so naive to believe that there is no color bais in this country. For Mr. Obama to acknowledge, try to face and get past that bias is the right thing to do. One of the reasons I support Mr. Obama is because he does not shrink from or try to ignore an issue. He takes it head on and this is one of the qualities we need in a President. I would think that the media could focus more on this fact as opposed to somehow implying that by merely mentioning the fact that he is different than those who have gone before him is that he is "playing the race card." For goodness sake, Hillary Clinton and the media talked all the time about how she was a woman and therefore different than those Presidents who preceded her. The media and population in general revelled in the fact that we may have the first woman president. If, in fact, Hillary Clinton had made the same comments as Barack Obama, I venture to say that she would not have been accused of playing the gender card.

Sent by Judi N | 1:22 PM | 8-17-2008

As a white woman, I was pleased to hear Patricia Norris' remarks this morning stating the Barack Obama should speak about the white side of his family. He does not bring up his white family exept to 'dis' his grandmother, or, in ads 'discuss his Kansas values' even though he did not live in Kansas. He emphasizes his 'black' persona, and does play the race card, as any criticism of his positions is played as being racist.

Sent by Kay Doughty | 4:30 PM | 8-17-2008

Amen to Gaines Hubbell above, and shame on "Race Matters" who is blatently racist in his/her views. The "Black Panamanian" who was featured this morning had not done her research; as Mr. Hubbell notes above, Senator Obama was responding to negative comments from people like "Race Matters" above. He was trying to defuse the insults about his name. "Race Matters" calls Senator Obama a mongrel, (sic. dog), and and talks about Blacks destroying cities, something s/he says Whites would never do. Imagine the audacity of someone in 2008 not being ashamed to think, let alone say such a thing. Panama needs to listen to Senator Obama's speech on race, which is available on youtube to realize he acknowledges both sides of his family and recognizes the difficulties we all have had. "Race Matters" will someday realize that most Americans are "blendings" of many ethnicities--that is our cultural richness. Los Angeles is hardly on the brink of oblivion. Detroit is hurting, not because of skin color, but because of the failed policies of auto industry CEO's, most of whom tend to be pale male, by nature. When there are racists like "Race Matters" voting in this election, I look for someone who can lead us to a new time, where the prejudices of the past no longer dominate our promise of a future.

Sent by Julia H | 4:50 PM | 8-17-2008

I support Barack Obama because he is black, and here's why:

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with the Bill of Rights are among the most eloquent and poetic documents describing the equality and dignity of all. But the inequality of races institutionalized at the founding of this country gave lie to the beautiful words. We have reaped the rotten fruit of that lie for over two centuries; it underlies and symbolizes all other prejudices and inequalities we incorporate into our national consciousness. Until 9-11, race was the most significant issue this country faced. And we faced it repeatedly: sometimes we faced it head on, sometimes it was an unspoken undertone to other issues. But it was and is always there. To elect a black individual as president would be the strongest tonic for this national curse. Colin Powell could have been that man, but now Barack Obama comes brilliantly equipped to play the role.

I'm white and I'm a Libertarian -- not the expected demographic in support of a black liberal Democrat. But I believe Barack Obama is smart enough, articulate enough, and competent enough to work us through the economic and international situations we face while at the same time exorcising the biggest demon from our collective past simply by being who he is.

Sent by Michael Knorr | 7:30 PM | 8-17-2008

I believe that those who are hesitant about voting for Obama on some level are reluctant to do so because race is indeed a factor. Especially those who feel that he is unpatriotic, is a Muslim, is non-trustworthy, is afraid of his middle name are really afraid of the color of his skin.

When these people are confronted with being closeted racists, they lash out and become defensive - almost as if a nerve was touched. As if I'm going to truly believe that they believe that the reason they are not voting for Obama is because he's a Muslim- please you had better come up withe something a little more substantial than that.

I am passionate about Barak Obama. I feel he is the man who is destined to be the next president of the United States. He didn't get through Harvard Law school by just pretending. The man is for real, with real ideas about creating jobs and saving the environment and getting our troops out of Iraq.

It's time for a change and I feel the change is in Obama.

No, I feel that he did not play the race card when he spoke about how he looked and how McCain's people who prefer that they be afraid of him and that he didn't look like the other presidents on dollar bills. He was stating a fact - not playing a race card.

Republicans are afraid of him and he simply doesn't look like former presidents and he has an unusual sounding name - and???? Ok, so we need to address some of that, acknowledge it and then move forward.

It's about simply being aware of the truth that is all around us without seeing it as the white elephant in the room.

Thank you for giving me this time to share.

Yes, I am an African American.

Sent by Grace Adele , Bethlehem, PA | 10:47 PM | 8-17-2008

For generations Americans have found it easy to lay the cause of their problems at others doors. Whether "they" be different races, religions, classes, generations, nations, parties, market systems, and on and on. "They" were always the problem, and as long as you made the other candidate a member of that party you were fine, so long as he belonged to the minority. Senator Obama forces us to challenge everyone of our beliefs and prejudices. That is uncomfortable to many white Americans. If they view themselves as white first and Americans second, shame on them. If they still rely upon the color of a man's skin to determine their opinion, shame on them. This is our chance to say to our citizens and the citizens the entire world, in this country, at this time, any man or woman will be judges upon the content of character and not the color of his skin.

Sent by steve | 1:22 PM | 8-20-2008

I'm disappointed in my country lately. The real issue should be who is better suited to solve this country's problems. Enough with the distractions! Isn't this supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave? If so, then religion, race, or any other insignificant issue shouldn't scare us away from going after what is best for this nation as a whole. When you vote, you should ask yourself the right question. Who would make a better leader? Do that instead of asking the wrong question. Who would I rather have a beer with? Asking the second question didn't work out in 2000 or 2004, so nobody in their right mind thinks it will work out this time either.

Sent by Sean D. Atkins | 9:09 AM | 8-24-2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The entire dialectic of "minority" played out back to back in today's Sunday Edition - first with a self-righteous attack by a "disillusioned" Republican on minorities for their "we're victims and we're not gonna take it anymore" attitude, and then with a woman playing the "we're victims and we're not gonna take it anymore" card for Hillary Clinton.

I suspect that many of the out-of-work Caucasian Democrats will play the same "we're victims and we're not gonna take it anymore" card when they vote against Senator Obama because he's not a 100% Caucasian male. Just as many of those same Caucasian male Democrats voted against Hillary Clinton because she wasn't a 100% Caucasian male.

I just hope all Americans remember the argument of hope we were taught when we were young: This is a country of equal opportunity.

As a 60+ year old female Caucasian from Michigan who didn't get a chance to express her preference for Obama in the primary, I was reminded that equal opportunity does not always translate to equal guarantee.

Sent by Cynthia Faulhaber | 10:55 AM | 8-24-2008

I am a 64 year old African-American and I have come to the conclusion that White America is still in denial about what needs to be done to heal old wounds of slavery to Jim Crow. HR40 is a reparations bill by John Conyers that calls for a study to see how the effects of slavery and Jim Crow still impact people in America. The United States government still has never issued an official apology to Black folks and only when this country faces it past can it deal with its future. For healing of the nation the word is reparations...without a study for reparations of some kind, healing is impossible.

Sent by Jean Claude Toran | 1:34 PM | 8-24-2008

Obama bin Biden.

If these two wackos win, America will turn into one big Detroit.

Sent by Mudshark Baiter | 4:02 PM | 8-24-2008

I was born in 1950 and grew up in segregated rural Alabama. The "N" word was the norm, stereotypes abounded. Black people knew there some parts of town they shouldn't be (unless engaged in domestic service).

And I never really got over racism.

I remember where I was when JFK was shot; I remember where I was on 9/11; and I remember vividly when as a teenager I shook hands with a black man for the first time. It was a transforming experience. I had the opportunity to speak to my high school assembly to tell them that the world wasn't going to end when those two black girls came to our all-white school and that black people were just "people" and that racial characteristics were incidental.

But I never really got over racism.

I consider myself liberal (a card-carrying member of the ACLU even) and I will unquestionably vote for Obama this election. Nonetheless, when I watched all those black folks during the opening night of the Demographic National Convention, it made me somehow uneasy. While I can applaud the eloquence of Michelle Obama and be inspired by her story of public service, I can't escape the observation that she's black. I can support justice for all when the opportunity arises, but there is still a "classification" going on somewhere in my brain that won't go away.

I never really got over racism.

The counsel of Dumbledore to Harry Potter that what we are is defined by our choices, not our emotions, gives some comfort. The fact that I and my generation will pass away, leaving behind people for whom integrated schools is the norm, and whose work experience is multi-racial is some comfort too.

Sent by Kevin | 7:36 AM | 8-26-2008

All this discussion about race does nothing but foster racism. The sooner skin color and ethnic consciousness disappear from the media, the sooner whatever problem there might be will evaporate. The media however assumes for themselves the moral authority of being the best solution to every problem and yet, their solution of constant and persistent race consciousness, race baiting, and using race to modify and identify everyone and everything only amplifies whatever racial strife there might be. It's safe to assume at this point that the media needs racism, loves racism, and will go to any length to spotlight racists. Maybe the news media (including NPR) has become an unaccountable home to our nation's racists. Perhaps indeed it is guilt for this that leads so many of them to follow the tingle up their leg as they fawn over Obama.

Sent by William M. Davenport | 10:11 AM | 9-2-2008

I have been trying to find more info on this... but isn't Barack Obama's father mostly Arab (racially)?

I have read his father is only 1/8 African, 7/8 Arab ethnically, meaning Barack Obama is the first Arab-American major party nominee.

If true, then all the references to Barack as "black" or "African American" are false, right?

Not that it really matters, but this would surprise a lot of people if true.

Sent by Hal | 2:48 PM | 9-7-2008