White

I’m sure you’ve all seen this by now, the Randy Newman video of his new song, “I’m Dreaming of a White President.”

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My son loves Randy Newman.  “Short people got, no reason,” and “Let’s drop the big one,” and all that.  He was one of those kids who got irony at an early age.  A kid who knew a little too much about what was really going on in all of those Seinfeld and Simpsons episodes he watched every evening before supper.  I remember being worried (really worried) about him when he decided to go to college in Kentucky, and major in Political Science.  I grew up, after all, in the town of Rush Limbaugh.  But I needn’t worry.   My son, unlike me, was brave, steadfast, secure, outspoken.  He held his ground.

Still, I remember the first time he called during the last presidential campaign season, in 2008.  “I was walking to class today,” he said, “and somebody’s hung an effigy of Barack Obama from a tree.  Who does that?”

Go ahead.  Imagine this conversation.

And now here we are.  2012.

About a month ago, I got into an phone argument with my favorite aunt.  She was going down the road that Mr. Obama is a Muslim terrorist (born in Africa) who has found his way into our White House for evil deeds, as predicted in The Bible.  Then there was, “It’s called the White House for a reason,” followed by a hahahaha and I remember just sitting there, wondering if anyone even noticed my response of non-response.

Randy Newman sings “I’m Dreaming of a White President.”  I wish I had the words and tools to respond better, hold my ground better.  Hell, I can’t even seem to say what I want to say in this post.

I know I’m not the only one in the country having these conversations.  How do you talk to someone who really just wants a white president?  What are the words?

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24 thoughts on “White

  1. Lyra

    There are no words. There is no argument. There is silence.
    There is the knowledge that even as some people raise their kids to think just like them, there are all of us raising our kids to know better.
    Knowledge.

      1. Lyra

        I’ve spent the majority of my life fighting. Most people don’t mistake my silence for agreement. Perhaps it’s in my, Wow-you-really-are-an-idiot expression?
        You’re right though, it is exhausting. Whether fighting or being silenced having to listen to it is absolutely draining.

  2. girl in the hat

    Just recently, a very political friend posted a picture that had been passed out at the last GOP pep rally, a replica of the tricolor Obama pic with the word “hope” underneath that you’ve probably seen, but with an “r” instead of an “h” and a picture to match. The impact of that image has not worn off yet. I can only write about it, but I can’t say it out loud.

    1. Teri Post author

      I haven’t seen that, Anna. Just imagining it makes me ill.

      A friend recently included me on a group email where the 99% is compared to people who want to learn how to play golf but don’t want to put in the time or effort, they just want to be given a good golf game. As usual, I hit “delete” and didn’t respond. But even this, as tame is it sounds, set my hair on fire for the rest of the week.

    2. Teri Post author

      And then there was the FB posting of Mr. Obama as fetus killer. I’m having a harder time this election season than last, and I didn’t think that was possible.

      Hey, if you don’t like him because you disagree with his policies, I get it. But the rest of this noise is about to take me out.

    3. Averil Dean

      I think I’m with you on this, Teri. I am beyond being content to skewer someone with a look. We are writers, after all, and have had lots of practice with words. In my experience, racism is beyond subtlety and needs to be literally called out.

      That said, it’s hard to know where to begin. If people can honestly look at this fine, intelligent, well-intentioned man and think of lynchings or the “White” House, they are clearly so completely mired in fear and resentment that there’s little anyone can do to change them.

      This may sound awful, but how important is your aunt to you? I’ve cut people out of my life for shit like you’re describing, and have never honestly missed them. That’s of course not the ideal way to go about things, but then I am completely intolerant of intolerance.

      1. Teri Post author

        It doesn’t sound awful at all. I’ve said goodbye to many over this very topic. I know there will be more. Like you, I have no tolerance for it. And like I said I’m tired of keeping my mouth shut, so I doubt they’ll miss me much.

        As for my aunt, she’s a huge part of my memoir and the story of my family, so she brings a lot of insight into how and why the entire family (and even region of the country) is this way. She’s been willing to go all the way back to her beginnings and explain in graphic detail how this fear and ignorance started, so I have to give her that. Twist in the fact that she was my mom’s favorite sister, and looks like my mother ….. nothing is uncomplicated.

      1. CJ Rice (@leapof)

        Yes. And it makes me sad that he had to sing it. Bigotry. Not conducive to self-reflection. Whenever relatives (usually) or old college friends become brittle announce yet another bad thing that man has done I counter with logic and send them the Politifact URL. I worked for a newspaper so long I still believe in logic and facts. Bigotry however is not persuaded. I’ve lost touch with a few old friends that way. Oh well. Open minds. They are becoming rare.

  3. LauraMaylene

    Lately I’ve been in agreement with Lyra: silence, because arguing doesn’t work with those who might hold these opinions. They want to believe what they want to believe (and view us in the same way). But I’m tired of the us-vs.-them mentality and wish I had the right thing to say. Whatever that thing is, I am thoroughly clueless.

    So far I’ve only learned to hide the Facebook feeds from certain family members — I have no doubt learned that raising questions and trying to get a thoughtful discussion going, one that doesn’t devolve into thinly veiled racism surrounding Obama, is simply not going to happen.

    1. Teri Post author

      After the argument with my aunt, she called me 2 weeks later and started the conversation with, “Can we agree to never talk politics and just go back to talking about the past?”

      This is getting harder and harder.

  4. Jennine G.

    I try not to – talk about politics that is. My vote goes with the candidate that supports my moral beliefs and nothing anyone says can ever change that. And probably nothing I say will change others’ minds.

    People who comment on candidates based on their race, etc., don’t deserve the time it takes for me to look at them. I already wasted time hearing them. I just make sure my face makes it clear that my silence is not agreement. This also goes for the crude names like “baby killer.” There are official names for the stances people take, they need to use them instead of nicknaming

    1. Teri Post author

      You are wise, wise woman, Jennine. Part of this stems from chapters I just rewrote in my book, which brings up the racial issues (in my family) from the last election. Add in my lack of sleep lately, and I’m a woman with zero tolerance.

  5. Paul Lamb

    In my experience, most people don’t want conversation or argument. They want a script. They want their opinions pre-packaged for them, their sound bites spoon fed to them, their bile spewed for them. Discourse is not wanted. I pretty much avoid the conversation altogether. Most people know where I stand (which would not be what most would guess of a man who grew up in the same state as Rush Limbaugh — ugh, my fingers feel dirty just having typed those two words).

    1. Teri Post author

      Paul, I do believe you’ve hit it. The script. It’s funny, after typing this post 2 days ago, I have said not one word about politics. I think i vented so much here I’ve gone quiet again, and that might be okay because you’re right about that script.

      I understand the “Rush” thing. I grew up in Cape Girardeau. So my fingers feel dirty too.

      Here’s to surviving this election season.

      1. Teri Post author

        Missouri is a different place, isn’t it Paul? I remember the first time I read that Missouri was the only state divided during the Civil War. The north, the big cities, went with the Union. The south, the smaller towns, went with the Confederates. This is no surprise at all.

  6. lisahgolden

    This is the first time I’ve seen this video. It is brilliant satire but it makes me so sad. We’ve really come to this. Yes, we really have.

    I try not to talk politics because I get so emotional about it. I do, however, blog about them. Don’t ask me how I separate the two. I couldn’t explain it.

    1. Teri Post author

      This video, and the Sarah Silverman video, make me wish for another art form — something else besides just plain old writing about it. I’m bored with myself.

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