Thursday, October 16, 2008

Xenophobia, Racism, and the healing of White America

The latest newsletter by an Inland Republican women's group depicts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama surrounded by a watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken, prompting outrage in political circles.

The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps -- instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of "Obama Bucks" -- a phony $10 bill featuring Obama's face on a donkey's body, labeled "United States Food Stamps."

The GOP newsletter, which was sent to about 200 members and associates of the group by e-mail and regular mail last week, is drawing harsh criticism from members of the political group, elected leaders, party officials and others as racist.

An Inland Republican women’s group sent out a newsletter showing this fake $10 “food stamp” with Barack Obama’s face on it.

The group's president, Diane Fedele, said she plans to send an apology letter to her members and to apologize at the club's meeting next week. She said she simply wanted to deride a comment Obama made over the summer about how as an African-American he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

"It was strictly an attempt to point out the outrageousness of his statement. I really don't want to go into it any further," Fedele said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn't my attempt."

Fedele said she got the illustration in a number of chain e-mails and decided to reprint it for her members in the Trumpeter newsletter because she was offended that Obama would draw attention to his own race. She declined to say who sent her the e-mails with the illustration.

She said she doesn't think in racist terms, pointing out she once supported Republican Alan Keyes, an African-American who previously ran for president.

"I didn't see it the way that it's being taken. I never connected," she said. "It was just food to me. It didn't mean anything else."

She said she also wasn't trying to make a statement linking Obama and food stamps, although her introductory text to the illustration connects the two: "Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would he be on????? Food Stamps, what else!"

Today I had a particularly revealing conversation with my brother who used Barrack Hussein Obama when referring to the Democratic Presidential candidate. It’s no secret that he is fully in the Neocon camp of Carl Rove and company. When I asked him why he felt compelled to use Barack Obama’s middle name he said something lame like “This is the United States of America…our enemy was Saddam Hussein….” and so on.

I find it fascinating that we don't hear Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. , John Sidney McCain, or Sarah Louise Heath Palen. No. Only Senator Obama gets that singular treatment by his opponents. Why do you think that is? It is naive to play dumb here. Ms.Fedele (see above) says she had no idea it would be percieved as racist. Really? Lets see, a black person with fried chicken, watermelon, a rack of ribs and some kool-aid is not racist? Would a person of Asian descent find rice bowls, sushi, slide rules and glasses with buck teeth on the character non-offensive? Or a Jew with money, dreidels, yellow stars and bagels floating around be amused? No. While we all have ethnic characteristics, they are a point of identity, not for use by or to be satirized by persons of other origins for ridicule.

I informed my brother that American citizens had first, middle and last names like Adolph, Benito, Hirohito, Juan, Fidel, Miguel and so on. They were born here, they don’t look like Western Europeans, but where born and grew up in places like Honolulu, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. They are Americans. Perhaps only second or third generation, but Americans nonetheless.

We are told that this is the last election where the majority of electorate will be white. So be it. The America I believe in (and love, and am quite proud of) has welcomed those of non-white and non-European immigrants for 232 years. It has honored the words of the Declaration of Independence and those carved on a statue in New York harbor. If you welcome all people, all people (eventually) are going to get the idea that democracy is for everyone and maybe run for public office.

This might be America’s chance to really put racism behind us, to open all avenues to all races which would be a water shed for our nation so racked with racism and xenophobia in many quarters all these years. The`formerly white Wesetrn European majority can learn that being in the minority may not be the worst thing in the world. It would be a shining moment for our country and yet another reason to embrace and hold dear “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.


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