Oh, the “isms” in our lives.
A few weeks ago I wrote a column about sports star Roger Clemens and one of the emails I received in response asked sarcastically if “Nancy” has ever interviewed an athlete or covered a game. Apparently he missed the paragraph about how I spent much of my career as a sports writer.
The email was clearly an expression of sexism. Yes, that still exists even though women are actually hired quite often to cover sports for media outlets; there are still those who don’t like it. Most thinking people, however, know that doesn’t mean all men are sexist.
This brings me to Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and her comments last weekend on The Chris Matthews Show that were characterized by Fox’s Monica Crowley – filling in for Bill O’Reilly -- as “playing the race card.” Over and over I keep hearing President Obama’s detractors wonder incredulously how we could possibly have racism when we elected a black president. Seriously?
News flash: Just because I am hired to be a sports writer - yes, a female - doesn’t mean sexism doesn’t exist. Get the correlation?
What Tucker expressed on the show was also in her recent column called “Summer of Discontent, Backlash to the Browning of America.”
“Our long, hot summer needed another ingredient to induce a fever-like madness in the national psyche: demographic change,” Tucker writes. “Over the last year and a half, many Americans have begun to see a deeper message in President Obama’s inauguration — the end of the white majority. For some, especially those who are middle-aged and older, it’s a jarring and unwelcome message.”
This observation has apparently ticked off some folks who reacted knee-jerk instead of digesting it. Personally, I don’t need to hear it from Tucker. I get it firsthand. In the beginning of the summer I attended an extended family gathering where one man stated he was getting a gun. The other men sitting around him nodded in agreement, saying they’d all need to be armed because there was going to be anarchy. It was a foregone conclusion. Later, in relaying this comedy (in my mind) to another relative, I was flabbergasted when she said, “Of course. The blacks against the whites.”
The exchange sent chills up my spine. I keep thinking I live in a different country than these people I happen to love, yet no. We reside in the same America. What in the world is this about if not absolutely and unequivocally the fear of losing control, of not being the majority? I have actually heard it stated that simply at other family gatherings.
So the idea that Cynthia Tucker is crazy or race-baiting? Please. Tell that story walking.
This is a whole different brand of racism than what we normally think of when we hear the word. There’s no “N” word at my family picnics. It’s not like that. There’s no hatred expressed. These are folks who happily interact with people of all races in school, at work, at church. At its core this is about fear of being the minority. And depending on the way the wind is blowing on any given day, either Mexican or Muslim is the new black.
If you’re reading this as an indictment of every person who disagrees with the president, if you think I’m calling them all racists, then it’s time to go back to Dick and Jane or put eye drops in your eyes or something. That view is a red herring designed to divert us from the more insidious thinking and behavior going on here.
As Tucker writes, “Before you assume that I’m stereotyping all of the president’s critics as racists, let me be clear: I’m not. Many voters have legitimate criticisms of Obama’s policies. I’m talking about something more subtle and yet more profound: a fear of minority status.”
We have a man of the cloth who was planning to burn Qurans on September 11 and this was not about fear of people who are perceived as different? He was initially ignoring a request by our commanding military officer for what reason exactly? He feels he’s been divinely appointed to deal with “evil” and this was the route he was choosing to go. Yes, it’s his right to free speech, but what was underneath? Christianity? Jesus is cringing at the thought. Blessedly, he changed his mind just two days before September 11.
The "isms" exist. We all know it, or at least most of us do. We just need to acknowledge that sometimes our fear can be tilting or completely coloring our viewpoint.
Being on the receiving end of discrimination or distorted thinking doesn’t have to stop us from our mission. If that was the case, I would have given up on sports writing the first day I answered the phone in the newsroom in 1986 and a gentleman asked to speak to someone who knew something about sports. Instead, I thrived in that profession for years.
The president will continue to lead the country as he sees fit. The Americans who happen to be of the Muslim faith will continue to worship. And those who feel threatened by it all will continue to wallow in fear and anger.
Oh, the “–isms” in our lives.