Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Okay okay, we're all racist! Can we talk about the issues now?!?!

Our top story tonight, President Barack Obama is still black. Well, half black, technically. But there have been no melanin-based changes since he was elected in November.

A series of events, beginning with Rep. Wilson's comment, followed by a weekend of protests and capped off with a former president making yet another quotable declaration - have now brought the issue of race to the forefront of discussion about the president. It was even a poll question in the Express this week.

The Express poll is a good example of the problem with this debate - "Do you think race is a factor in the opposition to President Obama?" Your choices are YES or NO. As Carter himself said when he brought this up in his NBC interview, "That racism inclination still exists" in the country. Of course. Without question it still exists, and if you were to put that as your poll question with a choice of YES or NO, you should get a 100% unanimous vote that we all agree - racism still exists. But to bring this up as "is race a factor?" will get you nothing but a never-ending dialogue with personal attacks and racial insensitivity. Of course racism inclination still exists. No one is denying that. But to suggest that race is the key factor in the opposition to Obama is irresponsible, unfair and dangerous.

Not surprisingly, the published results of the poll were 50/50. Split down the middle between yes and no on "Is race a factor." A 50/50 vote should show that this a very divided issue. The problem is, it's not a divided issue. I think most of us agree that race will inevitably factor into many peoples decisions, but this poll suggest that half of the people think race is the number one overarching factor. Which is irresponsible, because it does nothing but dismiss the opinions of his opposition.

I can not say this any better than Joe Scarborough did this morning. This country elected Barack Obama. His approval ratings until recently were in the 70 percentile range. The amount of hope and positive energy on the National Mall in January was palpable. But now, the protesters descend on the capitol over the weekend and accusations of racism abound. This issue of race is an important one and it is worthy of lengthy and substantial debate. But let's refrain from dismissing peoples' opinions as being race-based and try to work on solutions to some real problems. This argument about whether race is a factor is a distraction. During the primaries, Bill Clinton was accused of playing the race card. Joe Biden was accused of making racist comments right after he announced he was running for President. However much of a factor you think race may be to the opposition, this is not an argument that will ever get resolved. This country is in crisis. I for one would like to hear solutions on how to fix the economy, the healthcare crisis, the national deficit; rather than accusations and finger-pointing.

It is unfortunate, but there will always be an undertone of racism in all matters related to Barack Obama. Just like there will always be an undertone of sexism in all matters related to Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton. Instead of reducing these people to categories and characteristics, can we just let them try to get something done? Our elected officials have enough distractions as it is. Let's stop reducing complex arguments about race to yes-or-no questions; and while we're at it, we're not accomplishing much by demanding apologies for rude outbursts either. It's time to stop focusing on the bad behavior and get to work on putting this country back together.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When in DC, do as the tourists

I took a late lunch today and walked up to the Farmers Market in Penn Quarter. While the walk itself is only about 10 blocks, it's not a straight shot. The walk across the mall can be like navigating a racecar driving video game. You're going really fast, but you have to zig and zag across the sidewalk just to stay out of someone's photograph. Within one block I saw four different photos being taken right in front of me and at least three different languages being spoken. The best was the woman getting a photo of her friend with the capitol building in the background. When she had the camera on her, the woman smiled and said "whiskey!" She had a huge grin on her face.

That's when I stopped and decided to take my own picture. The photo itself isn't that impressive, but it is all part of why I am so in love with this city. I can walk a few blocks from my office on any given day and this is what I see. Just in one lunch hour I took in the capitol building, the Washington Monument and WWII Memorial in the distance, the Navy Memorial, Archives and the Smithsonian buildings. I moved here in May of last year, and after 16 months I still find this city as breathtaking as ever. I am truly, madly, deeply in love with this city. Sure, it's not perfect and it's expensive as hell. But there is nowhere else I would rather be right now. Thanks to the whiskey tourists for reminding me not to take it for granted.