Rand Paul took the stage Wednesday and led a filibuster that should have had both sides of the aisle applauding. Unfortunately, only the GOP...
Embers By Ira Schwartz
On January 20th, 2009, the 44th President of The United States was sworn into office on the lawn of the Capital building in Washington D.C. It was a proud day for most Americans, a day when the strongest democracy in the world elected its first African American president into office. For most of us this was a day long in coming. For most of us we hoped that the fires of racial hatred would finally be suppressed even if it was for a little while. Well that “little while” lasted a bit over eight months.
On Tuesday, September 15th, former President Jimmy Carter told NBC News “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.” With that one statement the dying embers that had been smoldering just beneath the surface of this country for so long had been brought back to life. Reaction was immediate.
Mike Steele, Chairman of the RNC who is African American, responded:
“President Carter is flat out wrong. This isn’t about race. It is about policy.” He continued, “Injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families doesn’t create jobs, reform our health care system or reduce the growing deficit. It only divides Americans rather than uniting us to find solutions to challenges facing our nation. Characterizing Americans’ disapproval of President Obama’s policies as being based on race is an outrage and a troubling sign.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told FOX News that it is “very destructive for America to suggest that we can’t criticize a president without it being a racial act.”
And as much as it pains me to say this, Newt is right. We have come a long way from those days in the sixties where smiling police turned fire hoses on black demonstrators. Where African Americans were forced to sit in the back of the bus or drink from a “Black Only” water fountain. Even though we’ve come a long way in dealing with racial prejudice, this incident also shows us we still have a long way to go. And to think that an African American President could get through his term in office without the ignorant rant of racism rearing its ugly head was a bit naïve on our part.
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, on that hot August day back in 1963 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to crowd composed of both African American and white listeners. In it he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Most of us are still waiting for that day to happen. Most of us realize that day is much closer now than it was back in the 60’s or 70’s. So far the 44th President of the United States has handled these outbursts with dignity and intelligence. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, “The president does not believe that criticism comes based on the color of his skin.” End of story from his point of view, time to move on. But where do we move on to from here?
So far the fires of racial hatred are small, slightly more than embers but it wouldn’t take much to cause those embers to flare up and incinerate all the progress that has been accomplished in the last 45 years. Just look at the Los Angeles riots in 1992 that started over the Rodney King affair as an example. That’s why all of us need to be alert to racism where ever it rears its ugly head. Like a cancer in our society it needs to be eradicated before it has a chance to grow. We’re supposed to be better than this; if not we sure as hell should be.
©2009 by Ira Schwartz