Saturday, October 11, 2008

Racism affects the intelligence of people

My friend sent me an email saying, "Janet, what is wrong in our world?" and attached this picture with its inaccurate and offensive caricature and misrepresented stances of Barack Obama's policies.

For a brief moment I wanted to believe that surely someone had photoshopped this picture and put it on the internet. But experience has told me it was probably real. I wondered where in the world would people put a sign like that!

I was taken aback as I read down in the email and saw that the sign was from West Plains, MO! I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.

See...West Plains is only 40 miles from my home I am very familiar with it. Like I said, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, when I was in junior high or high school I remember that a cross was burned in front of one of the black churches in West Plains. At the time, I didn't know what a burning cross meant...and I really didn't know that we even had black churches in our area!

I know it sounds naive, but I want to believe that things like that are not so overtly ingrained in all of us who grew up there. I know and love my friends and family who live there. They are good people...very kind, helpful, church-going people. But racism and racist comments carried through the generations has affected them, despite their willingness to believe it.

Someone from my home town told me the other day, "98% of black people are only voting for Obama because he's black." I explained that their comment was insulting to the intelligence of black people. I explained that although I'm sure there are probably some who are only voting for Obama because he's black, I can't think of a single [black] friend of mine who is voting for Obama for that reason. Every black person I know has watched the debates and can talk about the issues with which they agree/disagree. So unless all of my friends account for the 2% of that equation, something is wrong with that statement. But, see... it's easy to make a statement like that when you don't know or have conversations with people who are black. People in my hometown rarely even see someone who is black. So their information about black people comes from what they hear.

What troubles me so much is that the statements made and the fear that results is created by people who do not know the people of the religion, the ethnicity, the country, the language, etc. who they talk about....yet, they are still willing to repeat, perpetuate, and exacerbate the comments. What further troubles me is that many of the people I know who are perpetuating the racism are good people...intelligent people...but their comments demonstrate that their intelligence has been compromised. Because they don't know people of different cultures and different religions, they have completely bought in to the hateful, inaccurate comments and are content with speaking to character (of which they can only assume) instead of issues.
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