Monday, June 30, 2008

Indignantly Angry

My brother had the nerve to send me an e-mail entitled "In Obama's Own Words." I would post it, but I don't think I should. Instead, I'll quote the main message of it:
"We should all be very afraid. This man wants to be our President and control our government."
Ah, yes. Because (as we all should know) our government is in the control of one man. Silly me, I thought that we had three branches of government and a system of checks and balances. Whoops, that's right--Bush has everyone thinking that he's in control and that Congress needs to listen to his dictates...

Anyway, not the point. The e-mail then went on to give quotations (they're real!) from Obama's book Dreams From My Father (the e-mail didn't even get the title right, incidentally). These quotations were all taken out of context and meant to convey one thing: Obama is black; Obama doesn't share our white Christian ideals; Obama sympathizes with Muslims; don't trust Obama.

The quotations don't say anything bad. In context*, I'm sure they convey his struggle as the son of a biracial couple and his quest for identity. I would think that it was a difficult experience for him, yet ultimately a positive one. But out of their racism and bigotry, the originators of this e-mail want us to be afraid of Obama's race and his racial identity. They want us to believe that he'll ignore all the Christians and promote Islam. They're idiots, and I just couldn't stand it. So I sent a firm reply back to my brother (and my father, who sent the e-mail to my brother initially). Here's what I said:
I'm not sure what the message of this is supposed to convey, but the biggest sense is that it's racist, and that's not something I'd like to think of you as. Please do not send me stuff like this again. It makes me angry and a little upset.

I don't think selected quotations (taken out of their context, a context that could change the meaning of those sentences) is supposed to convince me that voting for Obama is the wrong choice for president. Nor are the insinuations (ungrounded, based on the fact that he's a Christian and raises his family as Christians) that he's Muslim. The final quotation could be taken to mean that if the political winds should shift in such a way as to target Muslims with prejudice and racism, that he would stand with them, as would I.

Not all of those quotations are negative either. He expresses admiration in one of those quotations for black men who represent intelligence and courage--DuBois, for example, was an intellectual writing around the time of the Civil War who spoke for freedom and equality for black and white. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

What we should be focusing on, when looking for a President, is not race, not that fact that he uses some of the best representations of men of color as role models, nor the fact that he struggled with his identity as the son of a biracial couple. We should look for a leader who is capable and strong, a person of intelligence and reason. I don't care who you vote for, just as long as you don't vote against someone just because they are of another race or believe that people of other faiths should be treated with respect. I see you as intelligent and rational, so please use intelligence and rationality before forwarding things of this nature. Don't support racism and bigotry.
And this is why digging beneath the surface matters. It's too easy to listen to the lies that others want you to believe. I'm sure my family will protest that its message is not racist; rather, it says that we shouldn't elect a person who doesn't have the same ideals as us**. But strip away the superfluous, thin veneer, and you can see what it really is: a promotion of continued racism.

*I'm going to go read that book so I can argue more about it. Uggh, family.
**White, Protestant. Everyone else doesn't count because they're going to Hell anyway. We gotta make sure that the minorities are trying to oppress us!


bockstark.knits said...

Excellent post. It must be hard to have a family with different political views! I give you lots of credit for standing up and writing a really great reply - I would've just shaken my head and hit delete.

Kathryn said...

Whew! Your family is something else. I'm so glad that my family avoids political discussions. Everyone in my family knows that my dad is addicted to FOX news, but we just let him watch it and try to ignore all of the ridiculous things he quotes from their reporters. :)

Donna B. said...

When I get e-mail forwards these days, I tend to reply something along these lines: "Hey, thanks for sending that along. You might be interested in this article about what you sent. Whenever I get one of these forwards, I always check there to see what's gotten muddled in the great game of internet telephone."

That's usually the last forward I get from that person. (Although I admit, family are more persistent.) Anyways, the link above is actually to the snopes article about the "in his own words" forward. I remember reading it several weeks ago and being so bent out of shape that I quoted large chunks of it to Noel. Sheesh.

Justin Ray said...

Ah, the joys of having a family in the age of the internet. I think that everyone I am on an emailing basis with knows I'll be claiming one of their limbs if they send me forwards of any sort. In order to teach my family this, though, I had to finally respond to a "let's get America back to god" forward with a three page rant about fact-faulty propaganda pushing Christian imperialism. Put an end to that. :)

So now I only have to listen to their rants about how Obama is a conniving, Black, dangerous, and radical Muslim when I visit. *sigh*