Bob Meade - Racism

  • Published in Columns

The president, a man of color, was elected twice, to the highest office of the most prosperous and powerful nation the world has ever known. In each election, he received enormous support from white people.

Oprah Winfrey, a woman of color, created an empire that provides her earnings of $300 million a year. She has amassed a total net worth of $2.9 billion, to a great extent because of her skills and abilities and the respect and admiration she earned from her mostly white female audiences.

Two people of color. One became the president of our country and the other became a household name while building a communications and entertainment empire. Both achieved their positions of stature, in part, because of the backing and support of the country's white population.

If a person achieves a large measure of success, it is not because of the color of their skin, it is often because of their vision, intelligence, daring, work ethic, tenacity, and so on. Businesses succeed and businesses fail . . . every single day. Great athletes win and lose . . . every single day. Students ace and disgrace . . . every single day. Some scale the mountain peak and others fall off the cliff . . . every single day. And, those yeas and nays are not because of the color of their skin . . . it is because of their skills and abilities.

Oprah Winfrey recently told a British interviewer that the president's detractors may be so because of the color of his skin. She didn't offer an opinion that he might be an inept manager. Nor did she opine that he may be deceitful, or cunningly adept at creating divisions among the people. No, his failures, or the divisions among the people, are because of the color of his skin.

The mere mention of racism creates a tension between the races that may not have existed before the statement was made. Why? Because it immediately demands one side defend itself lest they be branded as a racist. How does one prove they don't have racist thoughts or intentions?

Our system of laws requires that the government, or the one making a charge of wrong-doing by another, must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the allegation of wrong-doing. The one charged with wrong-doing has a right to challenge the veracity of the charges made against him or her. For Miss Winfrey, or anyone, to in any way imply a charge of racism, they should be required to name names and offer proof, and be prepared for legal rebuttal by the person so charged.

During World War II, there was a slogan, "Loose lips sink ships". Today, the "loose lips" make unfounded charges of racism and those charges are creating unnecessary divisions and animosity among the people; sinking our society with incivility as an alibi for failure.

Over the last few years, our country has become more divided than at any time in my lifetime. When President Obama was elected, most people hoped that his election would continue our country's progress on the road to ever improving race relations. It was an opportunity to show people of color that, as Martin Luther King, Jr. so famously said, people would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.

What has happened though, is that too many people use the color of the president's skin as a shield against legitimate criticism. The president himself, and many of his senior advisors and supporters, have hurled invectives and used "street talk" to demonize any opposition. Some of the disrespect from street talk, and sloganeering such as "Bin Laden's dead, General Motors is alive." appears to have even incited rioters in the middle east who, when our embassy in Cairo was under siege, were chanting, "We are one and a half billion Bin Ladens."

Racism exists . . . in all nations and in all peoples, and every effort should be made to minimize and, hopefully, eliminate it. Racism by the Nazis resulted in over six million Jews being murdered. Europe is again growing in anti-Semitism and the influx of middle-eastern immigrants is imposing an unwanted multi-cultural problem that could well be called racism. The middle east is rife with intolerance and racism against all who are not Muslim. We hear and read of Christian Churches being burned to the ground in Egypt and of Christians fleeing across borders to avoid being murdered. Israel is under constant siege as some Muslim leaders have expressed their desire to wipe Israel off the map and drive the Jews into the sea. They view the United States as the great satan. And Iran progresses towards becoming a nuclear power.

Think of that deeply ingrained racism described above and then ask yourself, can you justify calling someone a racist because of a disagreement over policy or performance?

Wake up before it's too late.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)