Friday, February 22, 2008

The Power of Words

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

America has made some wonderful strides toward ending racism during my lifetime. Gone are the days when bigoted simians like Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Orville Faubus built careers on denying civil rights and human rights to people of color. The past fifty years have witnessed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, freedom marches, bus strikes, school integrations, and the slow and steady eroding of the old segregationist mindset. Indeed, America stands poised to elect a black President, something that was not even conceivable just a few short years ago.

We are witnessing the birth of a new America, an America of which all citizens can be proud. Unfortunately, not everone seems to have gotten the memo.

A clash occurred in 2006 in Jena, Louisiana, over nooses that some white students hung in a tree on the campus of the local high school. They were given a slap on the wrist by school officials. Later six black students were accused of beating one of the whites invovled in the noose incident, and they were jailed and treated as dangerous adults. Many in the community felt that situation and the perceived unequal justice harkened back to the bad old days of segregation.

Last April radio personality Don Imus opened the old wound of racism by referring to the ladies of the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team as "nappy-headed hos." His thoughtless and hurtful remark went out nationally over radio and television. Mr. Imus was subsequently fired by his employers.

Earlier this month things seemed to take a turn for the better. President Bush gave a speech at the White House to mark African American History Month. In that speech the President addressed America's awful history of lynching. He said,

"The era of rampant lynching is a shameful chapter in American history. The noose is not a symbol of prairie justice, but of gross injustice. Displaying one is not a harmless prank, and lynching is not a word to be mentioned in jest."

While I am admittedly not much of a fan of President Bush, I respect what he had to say on that subject. My thought with regard to lynching is that if someone like George Bush can understand the significance of the subject, the power of that word, then anyone should be able to comprehend it. Hate is not rocket science, it's just plain-old-stupid hate.

Fast forward to this week. Michelle Obama, a woman who stands an excellent chance of becoming our next First Lady, made a statement Monday at a rally for her husband in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her exact words, their meaning, and the context in which they were said have been a subject of continuing controversey this week, and they stirred a small firestorm, particularly on conservative news outlets. I have searched the Internet and I believe this to be an accurate quote of her remarks:

"Hope is making a comeback and, let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change. I have seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues and it has made me proud."

Admittedly, she opened herself for criticism from certain quarters, but I think she spoke from her heart. Wouldn't this be a far better place if all people in the realm of politics would do that, instead of pandering to the masses by trying to tell them what they want to hear?

The following day, Bill O'Reilly, a staple of the Fox News Network, made the following statement on his national radio show:

“I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels.”

There it was, the "L" word. And, he doesn't want to go on a lynching party against this prominent black woman unless...Unless? Does O'Reilly not get it? Does he not even listen to his own President? Is he at worst a hate-mongering racist, or at best just stupid?

Yesterday I sent the following email to Fox News:

From: Rocky Macy []
Sent: Thu 2/21/2008 8:51 PM
To: Web -Fox News Online
Subject: Bill O'reilly

Whether Mr. O'Reilly is a racist or simply ignorant of socially appropriate behavior, his continued presence on the Fox Network diminishes its relevance as a news source. He needs to go the way of Don Imus for his crude and insensitive behavior.

Rocky Macy
Goodyear, AZ

Today, I received this reply:

Dear Rocky,

Thank you for your e-mail. We appreciate your comments on our site, and are sorry to hear that you are offended by some of its content. As a reader your opinion is very important to us, we know that you are the reason we are here. Please feel free to stay in touch.


(God, I hope that I'm not the reason Fox is there!) It was, of course, a form email. I wonder how many of these dismissive missives they had to send out?

The problem is not O'Reilly. He is a symptom, just as Fox News is a symptom. The disease is hate and stupidity and fear. The disease is racism. Fortunately for America, this disease is finally being eradicated. We are verge of a beautiful future, and I, also, am becoming very proud of my country!

There is good news at hand, America. Just don't expect to hear about it on Fox!

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