Monday, October 1, 2012

Race 2012 - My Journey

I've tried multiple times to start this blog post. I know it is incredibly important that I get things right, say the right words, and do it so eloquently and profoundly that I change the path America is going on.

Who am I kidding?

I need to just state the facts.

We've got issues, folks. Big, ugly issues. It's time for an America Intervention. Perhaps we all need to sit down, hold hands and sing Kumbayah.
Since we know that's not going to happen, let's see if we can break down one specific point:

Does Race Affect Politics?

My honest opinion: I do believe it does.

It's moments like this that I wish I was able to craft a graph of sorts, because the issues can seriously branch off into a million different theories. In the next couple of weeks, on each Monday, I plan to share with you a different profile, a different take on how race affects politics in America. Today, I want to share my story.

I was born in a medium sized town in Central Georgia. Macon is known for it's cherry blossoms, it's rock & soul music heritage, and crazy politics. It does not take a political scientist to figure out that we probably have race relation issues in our community - still.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a working class family - my dad worked for a dairy company, while mom stayed at home with my sister and I. Dad had a college education, but soon found himself with a wife and kids, and did not have the luxury of turning to his mom and dad for financial help. He had to work and work hard. To save money, mom chose to stay at home with us versus throwing us in daycare. They did the best they could with what they had. I never knew or understood that they struggled. My little bubble was very much protected by keeping us safe and creatively busy. Without going into a complete bio - it will suffice to say we were just fine.

As time went on, I moved on into the public school system- racially integrated, a wide variety of financial situations, and wouldn't you know it - politics were hardly an issue. My biggest concern was whether I got the good swing on the playground at recess.

However, looking back, I remember my parents openly praising Jimmy Carter and then grumbling about the "idiot Reagan," oh yes, the life and times of growing up with Democrat parents. Luckily, my home was a safe bubble, where the "n" word and other derogatory terms were never used. Unfortunately, I could not tell you whether or not my family would vote for an African American President back in the late 70s and early 80s, because.. well.. an opportunity never really arose.

I remember a time when I was in high school I saw Nelson Mandela giving a televised speech. For the first time in my life I asked myself, "How can South Africa have a black President before we do?" In our Foreign Relations course, our teacher tried to get us to debate foreign policy and human rights. Here we were discussing whether Israel should allow the Palestinian refugees their own state, yet here at home we were blindly living in a Caucasian dominated world where the racial divide was still going strong in our own backyard.

When I went off to college, I remember my shock as I walked into the cafeteria for the first time. All of the white students were sitting to my left and all of the black students were sitting to the right- by choice. It was 1991. In my five years at that institution, it never changed. That was my first taste of racial divide post Civil Rights in what should be the modern south.

I finally saw how hatred could really raise its ugly head when the OJ Trial was taking place. I remember walking into Maxwell Student Union at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, GA and watching as the black students cheered during the verdict and the white students groveled and spit out racial slurs. It broke my heart, but opened my eyes.

I went on to work in television during the Clinton era. I suppose time and society got to me and I was voting Republican and spitting each time I had to cut more tape for a VOSOT that evening. I remember giggling as I heard President Clinton say, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," but then realized how scary the times were.. that in the same evening I had to write a short story on the bombing in Iraq. I began to feel conflicted about my thoughts, the policies, but never feeling like America had a true representative of the general population. Which brought up the question - were our elected officials really representing our best interests? Was my best interest any different from someone of a different ethnicity?

By the time Obama came around, I found myself in a tough spot. I was in the process of trying to marry a middle eastern immigrant and slowly but surely, becoming more and more upset with Big Brother in DC. The Patriot Act as well as other profiling measures suddenly put me in an interesting place. I felt like I was in the minority for the first time in my life, with my trip to Egypt, my love of a young Arab man, who just happened to be Muslim and wanted to marry me. I saw things a little differently and felt like I should vote accordingly. I grew angry as people were screaming about immigration, as if the only immigrants in America were Latinos - what I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs was that we were all hurting in some way due to the cultural misunderstandings. Our country was at a ethnic boiling point post 9/11.

When I decided once and for all I would support Obama, my white friends sort of snarled at me. Not all, but a lot. I asked them what their issues were with Obama, and of course the main complaints were that they thought he was a Socialist and was too young or too inexperienced. As time went on, and as social media became the platform for raising social consciousness, I saw that the underlying root of some of the anger was race related with hateful cartoons, not in the "picking on a person's policy" sort of way, more often than not they were racially motivated. I would often see references to the white house becoming a housing project and a ton of other ridiculous ideas.

My eyes were wide open. I listened. I debated. I challenged. I fought along side Obama, whether or not he realized it. I fought for African Americans, I celebrated that we as a people voted for and made history, I took a HUGE sigh of relief as his policies were secured.. and suddenly I had hope for our nation as a whole.

Finally, when I was asked to participate in RACE 2012 for PBS, I decided to ask my "friends" their opinion - Does Race Affect Politics? One answer from one of my more staunchly conservative friends was, "I think a better question would be how much does it affect?"

Food for thought.

Please make plans to watch RACE 2012 on PBS October 16, 2012. Check your local listings for time.

Race 2012, a PBS election special about race and politics in the 2012 election and beyond. Premieres October 16th at 8pm on PBS! (check local listings)

Support for Race 2012 comes from CPB, PBS, Latino Public Broadcasting and Southwest Airlines.

In the coming weeks I will break down various aspects of how I believe race affects politics, and I would love your feedback.


monicastangledweb said...

Nicole, this is a very powerful--and personal--post. Thank you for having the courage to be so honest. I know the topic of race in our politics is very sensitive, but, with your no-nonsense style, you manage to cut through the chaff and get to the heart of the matter. I look forward to more posts!

Robin said...

I would say that race does affect politics. But I think we are beyond that for this election. I think that race was important in 2008. 2012 is a whole different election. This election is about how well Obama has done as a leader. Now, we are judging him on his PERFORMANCE. And even those who voted him are ready for another change. He promised Hope and Change, but he brought Discontent, War, and Failure. And he is busily throwing Israel under the bus and the Middle East is about to blow up. Huge Fail.

Jodi @ Heal Now and Forever said...

Hard to write about and i am glad to be sharing the project with a great writer like you!

SomerEmpress said...

Nice "meeting" you Nicole! I am also one of the fellow Race 2012 bloggers. What a joy, and quite a new experience, I might add!

This is a very insightful post. It's raw and authentic, just what we need to move the conversation forward.

"As time went on, and as social media became the platform for raising social consciousness, I saw that the underlying root of some of the anger was race related with hateful cartoons, not in the "picking on a person's policy" sort of way, more often than not they were racially motivated. "

I'm not sure whether you know how painfully honest that sentence is. I've noticed this trend, this pattern of thinking, acting, and the false attempts to "raise awareness" about POTUS Obama. Undergirding it is a tremendous ignorance for which we have no excuse. It's refreshing to hear this from someone other than myself, one with whom I have never met, until now.

Thanks for sharing your personal perspective. Looking forward to more!



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