Spare Us the “Conversation” on Race

Now that Barack Obama has all but sealed the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, there is great … Continued

Now that Barack Obama has all but sealed the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, there is great anticipation that he might lead the country toward a world of postracial politics. But the opposite fear has also emerged—that of a divisive and potentially mean-spirited debate that only deepens misunderstandings between ethnic and racial groups. While Obama’s campaign has inspired great hope, it has also revealed deep and persistent wounds.

Of course, the problems run deep. Despite the great legislative victories of the 1950s and 1960s that moved the nation toward social and political justice, the divides remain—in some ways reduced but in other ways stubbornly persistent.

What we don’t need at this time is another “conversation” because our national conversations on race feel like bad marriage counseling sessions. We vent, we point fingers, we name the problem over and over again only to find ourselves getting up off the couch in the exact same state of mind as before we sat down.

Why not put the conversation on hold and try a more active approach? What about challenging Americans to focus less on how to identify the problems of race and more on how to solve them?

It’s time for deeds, not words. The goal is not dialogue, it’s understanding. And understanding requires a lot more than talk.

That’s where the work of volunteerism, service and citizenship come in. America’s thousands of dynamic not-for-profit organizations mobilize citizens every day to solve problems both large and small. We all know how valuable these organizations are whether we’re trying to solve the problem of a polluted neighborhood stream or a shortage in a hospital blood supply. Citizens joining together and taking action to address a need are the pulse of America.

It’s a great thing to make a difference in another person’s life whether reading to a child or visiting with an elderly person who’s alone or serving a meal to someone who’s hungry or helping someone who’s struggling to find a job. To reach beyond one’s own interests and offer help to someone who needs it can be transforming in so many ways.

But the real payoff is seeing our differences disappear as we find ourselves pursuing a common dream. When we serve a purpose larger than ourselves, we don’t get hung up on semantics. Differences that may have seemed pointed can all of a sudden seem petty. In the simplest of terms, service can be an experience of healing, especially for those who serve.

If a President Obama or President McCain is going to have a chance at overcoming racial divisions (not to mention other dividers like religion and political party), why not start with a call to action rather than a call to conversation? Why not challenge the nation’s churches and volunteer organizations to build action teams across ethnic and religious lines? Why not invite the people who are out there every day making a difference to create new citizen teams that transcend boundaries of income, ethnicity, party, and religion?

I can imagine an AME church and a Catholic one creating a joint service group on homelessness. I can see the Cleveland Park-Marlow Heights Habitat for Humanity build team. I can envision a National Cathedral-National Urban League job bank. And while I can’t imagine any of these solving the problems without government partnership, I also can’t imagine that they wouldn’t be powerful sources of healing for those who serve together.

How could citizen engagement help overcome a problem as complex as the deep social divisions that plague our country? Think again: it’s the only thing that ever has.

Both Obama and McCain have staked out strong positions on the importance of service as a source of strength for our country. They might also find it a source of strength in our centuries-long struggle to create a postracial country. In that pursuit, why not start with action?

Timothy Shriver
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  • P.S. Peete

    Has anyone thought about why a man whose mom is white and father black would grow up to consider himself black? In our great democracy, where the percentage of negro blood determined what you were referred to: “octaroon, quadroon” etc., we still in the 21st Century are stuck in a racial divide. Obama is as American as you can be, unless he was 100% American Indian. We need to get beyond this classification system so that we begin to deal with problems of all Americans. The wealthy love to have us hate each other. If you are rich, it works to your advantage to have the poor fight each other for the crumbs. I see the same thing being played out with hispanics and blacks. WAKE UP AMERICA! The world is not caring about your color, unless it is GREEN!

  • Sue

    Mary, you write: “Obama’s partnership with Rev. Wright has undermined any honest dialogue about race in this election. It is just not okay for a black man to hurl racial prejudice and slurs at my children and get away with it because of his skin color. Particularly when it is done from the pulpit and a presidential candidate.”Exactly what racial prejudices/slurs have you heard from Senator Obama?

  • CardFan

    Seems to me that discussion comes BEFORE action. The author seems to advocate a FIRE, READY, AIM, approach. Who’s to say that an action without thoughtful discussion wouldn’t make matters far, far worse?I grew up in the south, in the 60’s and 70’s. And I respectfully disagree that we should “spare us the conversation”. We’ve been sparring ourselves this conversation since August, 1619. The discussion is long, long, long overdue.CardFan…

  • Anonymous

    “Has anyone thought about why a man whose mom is white and father black would grow up to consider himself black?” *Could it possibly be because that is how the American government decided to classify children whose parents were white and of “a drop of Negro blood”? (despite whatever box is available to check on a Census Form)Sure, when a child matures into an adult, self-perception/classification becomes important, but let’s not kid ourselves: unless he/she appears to have almost all Caucasian features, a person known to be biracial is DEFINITELY CONSIDERED AS “BLACK” here in the good ole US of A. Thus, that individual is subject to all of the racism, predjucice, fear, discrimination, and mistreatment that all other Blacks continue to face — from birth ’til death.THAT’s the American reality. OF COURSE there still remains a need for “the race conversation,” regardless of how you want to couch it. And as long as white folks continue to be the dominant subculture in this country, that need will always exist. Let’s all be real here…

  • Rusty

    Re: Democrat and Black: I believe the wording you were looking for was “blindly” support not “faithfully”. Obama may have a grasp on what he feels are the issues but, his “solutions” expose his general lack of experience and show him to be even a little naïve. Also if I was you, I would come to terms with your own racism before pointing fingers at others. Your entire comment is flush with racial bias, especially the way you capitalize black but leave white in lowercase, its very telling.Now on topic, one of the only ways we could ever end the “racial divide” in this country is for thicker skin to be grown and for the race card to be taken out of the deck. If certain groups in this country are supposed to man up and just take criticism, personal attacks, attacks on their faith, their politics, their cultures etc etc etc then other groups in the country will need to start doing the same. It always seems that the ones crying racism are generally the ones race baiting to begin with.

  • Ntlekt

    “Has anyone thought about why a man whose mom is white and father black would grow up to consider himself black?” *Could it possibly be because that is how the American government decided to classify children whose parents were white and of “a drop of Negro blood”? (despite whatever box is available to check on a Census Form)Sure, when a child matures into an adult, self-perception/classification becomes important, but let’s not kid ourselves: unless he/she appears to have almost all Caucasian features, a person known to be biracial is DEFINITELY CONSIDERED AS “BLACK” here in the good ole US of A. Thus, that individual is subject to all of the racism, predjucice, fear, discrimination, and mistreatment that all other Blacks continue to face — from birth ’til death.THAT’s the American reality. OF COURSE there still remains a need for “the race conversation,” regardless of how you want to couch it. And as long as white folks continue to be the dominant subculture in this country, that need will always exist. Let’s all be real here…

  • Brambleton

    WMARKW,Washington D.C. routinely spends more $$$ on education, on a per student basis, than any other school system in the country. And what do they get for their $$$? Test scores that rank them near the bottom.President Bush has spent more on “education” than any other President. Does it work? No. Why do we continue to do it? Because politicians know that if they say they’re going to spend $$$ on education, the Jerry Springer/Oprah Winfrey audience will vote for them. Pathetic.People need to turn off the TV and stop thinking whatever that dimwit Oprah tells them.You don’t need swimming pools, fitness centers, and a shiny new school bus to be a successful student. You need parents that don’t treat schools like free day care, but instead, encourage their children and hold them accountable.

  • WmarkW

    BRAMBLETON: “You don’t need swimming pools, fitness centers, and a shiny new school bus to be a successful student. You need parents that don’t treat schools like free day care, but instead, encourage their children and hold them accountable.”True, you need BOTH my a) and b): a) equitable funding and standards; and b) a home environment that fosters learning, which would be a consequence of two-parent families.NEITHER will work by itself.

  • Rusty

    Actually with education what we need is more private sector competition and vouchers. Private school teachers are held accountable for their students, can’t say the same for the unionized government school teachers.

  • Jill Cerino

    Hey Tim – If Senator Obama stepped on an elevator next to you, would you really wonder what his ethnicity was? With his clearly African American features? No. That is why he self-identifies as black, because he physcially presents to the world as black, which in America, is a defining experience. Is there anything wrong with that? You certainly seemed to think so from your comments on his parentage, which he is never anything but blazingly proud of. Take a minute to really ask yourself: why does Obama’s self-identification as a black man offend you? What do you care?Have some humility and consider for one moment that your experience as an American or a man or a person just *might* not be universal. It just *might* not be the baseline norm that needs to be worked towards. Consider for a moment that maybe it is you who needs to learn, to open your mind and grow – not the other way around. Consider that it is *you* that is separating yourself from others, not the other way around. The desire to shut down conversations about difference is assuming that your experience as a human being is baseline. It is not. Are you capable of considering this? Why or why not? To be honest – from this post, it looks pretty grim. You seem positively blinded by your entitlement and privledge. Take some time to learn what that privledge is and means and how it has affected your outlook. It doesnt make you bad or mean, we’re all affected by our socialization, its no one’s fault. But we do have a responsibility to cultivate humility in an attempt to understand this process. And when you are done with this journey towards being a whole person Tim, be a responsible parent and actively pass that humility and desire to reach across difference on to your children. Please start soon.

  • dcp

    I don’t think that the government can initiate anything that can change the human heart. As a matter of fact, it’s probably foolish to believe so. So the courts order desegragation and what happened? The price of housing and education now serves as instruments of legal segregation. There are no programs or institutions that will force people to feel differently. After all, racism is a matter of the heart. And to “Obvious,” religion is not necessary for hatred, prejudice, and intolerance. Remember a little thing called Nazism. Which god did they worship again? And that’s just one example.

  • Democrat AND Black

    Nice try Rusty, but you see racism refers to a pattern of discrimination. You refer to my capitalization of the word Black but not of the word White. The word White appears twice in my post. Once, I forgot to capitalize while the other is proper. There is no pattern.And my characterization of Blacks having faithfully supported the Democratic party is a statement of fact which can be supported by statistics and is widely accepted as fact, while the term you chose is a matter of opinion which cannot.Not that I’m advocating this position at all but why is that we Black folks must “man up” when the larger society can’t even do that much and at least apologize for slavery to the descendents of slaves? As soon as we make any mention of that, we are told to “get over it” and labeled an “angry Black man.” No I’m afraid America is not ready for a conversation on race because those who have benefited from slavery and institutionalized racism aren’t ready to “man up.”

  • dcp

    I am going to make a prediction and say that the Black voting bloc is not going to be quite so faithful to the Democratic party after this election is done. I have a strong feeling that this Clinton- Obama feud is going to shake up the Black vote permanently.

  • Rusty

    Not saying your advocating but…Why should the “larger society” apologize for slavery when a sizable percentage had nothing to do with it ? Why should one group be forced to apologize for a widely used, at the time, source of labor when the ones who created the situations are barely mentioned in the apology bs ?Could you please point out who is still benefitting from slavery ?If the mysterious “larger society” would apologize, would the descendants of the families of those who lost everything or lost their lives to fight the war get a thank you ?

  • JohnR

    Rusty,I have been sort of browsing through some of these comments with any intent to ‘opine’ myself; but something about your most recent comment raised several alarm bells and prompted me to simply ask you if you were trying to be flippant, or actually sincere? Either way, works; but as a social historian I’d just like to be sure.

  • Anonymous

    Nice try Rusty, but you see racism refers to a pattern of discrimination. You refer to my capitalization of the word Black but not of the word White. The word White appears twice in my post. Once, I forgot to capitalize while the other is proper. There is no pattern.And my characterization of Blacks having faithfully supported the Democratic party is a statement of fact which can be supported by statistics and is widely accepted as fact, while the term you chose is a matter of opinion which cannot.A few other thingsI used capitalization as an example not the only example, and racism is prejudice or animosity towards other races. Discrimination is a form of racism, racism can’t be a pattern of racism, that makes as much sense as Obama’s economic plan.Actually the “opinion” in this case can easily be validated by reviewing exit polling data, public comments, survey results etc etc etc….

  • Rusty

    JohnRDon’t see about what I said that rung any bells but which part ? some of that was lil from column A lil from coulumn B…

  • Democrat AND Black

    Yeah anonymous, we’ve all seen just how accurate exit polling data is now haven’t we?

  • Andrew Austin

    Confronting racism is not simply about changing hearts. It’s about changing the structure and function of our social institutions. Ending racism requires a revolutionary act, which means that power has to be somewhere else other than practically exclusively with the white majority. Confronting racism requires more than ameliorative programs lifting blacks out of poverty. It surely doesn’t need happy talk about what amounts to false unity. Confronting racism requires ending white skin privilege and eliminating whiteness. It requires a national project of social-institutional transformation.We need dialog, but we need the right kind of dialog. That means we don’t need the Obama colorblind liberalism kind of dialog. Obama’s pronouncements on race represent the white establishment ideology dissimulating the reality of the caste system that forms a pillar in the foundation of American civilization. We need to educate Americans about the social reality of our racist society. Whites need to know about the life they lead at the expense of black children. The activist needs to know that without a proper understanding of theThe answer to the problem of racism does not lie in hoping for a post-racial social order or pretending like we have already achieved it. That social order can’t exist until we change the present, and we can’t change the present until we confront the past that shapes and determines it. The proper course of action was just beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. The revolution was stopped before it really got started. The answer lies in those ideas and works – the very ideas that the propagandist dismisses as the “old divisions.” On the contrary, the “old divisions” are the real divisions – class, gender, and race – that form the basis and dynamic of our unjust social order. Obama is not part of the movement. He never really wanted to have the conversation. He wants to be a man running for president who happens to be black. The Philadelphia speech was designed to draw attention away from the real anti-racists while ingratiating himself to the white establishment. He couldn’t have made his position any clearer than he did when he carried out the orders of the white establishment by denouncing Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United. Obama says his vision is “much more hopeful” than Martin Luther King, Jr. Sure, if by this he means that he is the white person’s black presidential candidate. Obama’s candidacy is about dissimulating racism in America. This disqualifies him as a spokesperson for black America and the struggle for civil rights.

  • Michael

    The next generation of Americans will help us close the racial divide. My son and his peers have no lingering doubts that they can accept people of all races based on character. If we raise a generation in integrated schools, churches and work environments, we can end the prejudice. When our children see our homes open to people of all races, they welcome diversity.Parents lead by example and God does the rest.

  • Sandra

    Look at the numbers, people! Rusty, who benefits from slavery? Better ask who benefits from RACIAL FHA Loans (up until the 60’s). Who benefits from the Homestead act? Why are whites TEN TIMES as wealthy as blacks, on average?And ask yourself why 150,000 is the new threshold for the middle class.Colorblind, wealth-based affirmative action will do a lot to heal wounds, while helping the RIGHT people (WV, AR, MS) — blacks and whites together.If you want some facts to back up what I’m saying, check out the Center for Race and Social Problems at UPitt.

  • Rusty

    Well Democrat AND Black thats why I said validated not proven…

  • Richard

    Has it occured to you that those precious few who own most of the wealth of this nation rule only because they purposely divide us? Cumbaya touchy feely and avoidance of the subject only assures that the racism that a majority of the media ignores will continue. Asinine bleetings about Clintons’ “toughness” and popularity make cover for the fact that the only reason we continue to suffer her pandering is because a few of the last primaries are in racist states.Want to be a responsible media? Shine a light on these racists. Get off your cans and get quotes from the hollows and hills of ignoramus land. No American with near an average IQ will be caught dead publically ‘fessing up to their real bigotry but in W. V., Tenn. and Kentucky the personalities of those who would be honest would be revealing indeed. These are the same dolts who voted for the dull tool Bush because they were told the democrats would “take your bibles away.”

  • Steve M

    Pardon the length, but this is important to me: Year by year I see multitudes of women giving up their real power…that of visionaries, healers, human process integrators, leaders for peace, etc…by virtue of becoming more macho in public life than most men. What does your machismo and that of men give us? A planet that feels dead and angry. Is it now women’s birthright to become more corrupt than men?Machismo, in my opinion, may have worked well among cave and hunter-gather warring tribes, but is a pathetic fit with modern life. I think we have to find a way to override those extremes, or watch ourselves reduce humanity and mother Earth to rubble. I think we all know we stand at just that precipice, despite the serf-serving corporate and Republican voices and their twisted greedy pitches. Macho jerks (including hordes of women) in attitude, violence, arrogance, mean-spiritedness and presumptuousness are losers. And, I see women, young and not so young, stampeding to the macho corner of the culture, rather than demanding that we all, female and male, back off on the vacuous posturing and focus on balance and nurturing the entire culture and the Earth, which will both die without rebalancing immediately under the next administration. How many bombs, wars, deaths, lies, and trashing of the environment does the U.S. have to observe worldwide to accept this truth?And, to the immediate point, SOME aspects of HRC are the worst of macho practices, and her husband has recently shown that he is no better. Ferraro, showing herself also to be quite ok with macho power-mongering, is even more abrasive. She has illustrated herself to be a nobody. How she finds anything resembling sexism and machismo from Obama for me looks like some wacked-out invention of new millennium America at its worst. Virtually all of Obama’s messages to voters are about the perfect opposite of those corrupt values. While I profoundly resent stupid male machismo and the horrors of its destructiveness, I’m not going to stand back and watch Ferraro’s inane pitch aired at Obama a la Swift Boat. Isn’t she a little long in the tooth to plug this immature, negative, ugly cheap shot into her reasonably successful political career? Is she lacking attention these days or what? Hate collaboration when what she really wants is to be the “star” politician sellout in the White House herself? Finally, I don’t care if Barak Obama were female or male. It is his message and his wisdom and vision, his resiliency and calm, under the endless assaults that I like and admire. Those elements in him mean someone of influence on this planet still has the horse-sense to look at the big picture. By contrast, HRC definitely seems to carry some birthright that it all just belongs to her. She’s wrong. We should have a female president soon, just not HRC who has become part of the problem rather than the solution.

  • JohnR

    Rusty,Perhaps the phraseology “…alarm bells …” was a bit too strong. I guess that I was simply reminded of discussions that I engaged in with fellow classmates some forty years or so ago that seem to defy resolution in the vein of “What we are looking at depends upon who is doing the looking.” That’s all.

  • faithfulservant3

    The only way to really get to know someone is to find out who they are; their experiences , what they think and how they feel–in depth.As individuals we often fall into the trap of having superficial relationships, whether within families or more broadly. The same can be said of relations between races.By and large, whites don’t know blacks; and blacks don’t know whites. The only way to bridge this divide is to communicate, no matter how painful this is.To truly love your neighbor as you love yourself you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes and see the world as they do. This is why we must have “the conversation.”

  • miller51550

    I do not deny that Obama is a gifted speaker.I have read everything I can read on the individual.This gentleman has had a GOAL. Whether he will be as he preaches only YOU his supporters will know. Those of you that have blindly supported him through his campaign for Presidency may live to regret that day. Only the future will tell. He is more than your TYPICAL politician. He has a plan like no other politician we have seen in a long time. His political career has been made on the backs of the POOR BLACK Americans in Chicago. On the back of Viper Wright and his flock at Trinity Church. Picture if you will a Elite Black African that graduates from Harvard with vision to be GOVERNOR He learns how to register black Americans as Democrats, he learns that one of the shaker and bakers in the black community is VIPER WRIGHT. He hitches on to his coat tail, learns who the shakers and bakers in the Chicago political arena.He then ‘uses’ these connections, these poor people, these shakers and bakers to get into the State Senate.. There the Black Governor… decides to PROMOTE OBAMA at the expense of all other state officials for the next US Senate slot. He wins the seat… BECAUSE there is no else on the ballot.. he used his law degree to have all them removed from the ballot. He has raised over a total of 300 Million Dollars for campaign spending. As of today he has SPENT approximately 190 Million dollars on his campaign.We talk about campaign funding.. Obama pays back his debts.. so the Rich, Elite Supporters that are funding is campaign… WILL BE PAID BACK.Who says you can not BUY THE PRESIDENCY.The American Voter has been bought and paid for by Obama, Mainstream Media and the DNC.Politics as usual.

  • Marjorie

    Wonderful column, Timothy. Though I must admit to being thrown by the title at first. It *is* the 1000 pound gorilla in the room, after all. But I honestly fear it just may take the newer generations to put us where we really need and ought to be. *sigh*

  • JohnR

    Miller51550,Let me try to decipher the salient points of your post. Those who do not see the world as you do are ” …blind …” and by inference have no cognitive capacities of free will nor any ability to reason intelligently or to form valid conclusions based upon the empirical evidence reviewed by them.On the one hand Barack O is an intellectually deficient ‘Johhny come lately’ with no experience and nothing of substance to fill up his empty suit; yet is capable of single-handedly perpetuating one of the larger political frauds upon the hapless, deluded masses (but not upon you thinkers, by golly). Oh, I almost forgot, and he also is wholly to blame, again as a political newcomer, for the tenor of the country’s campaign finance deficiencies as the first politician to ever engage in successful fundraising. Illuminating!

  • Rusty

    –On the one hand Barack O is an intellectually deficient ‘Johhny come lately’ with no experience and nothing of substance to fill up his empty suit; yet is capable of single-handedly perpetuating one of the larger political frauds upon the hapless, deluded masses (but not upon you thinkers, by golly).–She actually pointed out that he did not do this ‘single-handedly’ first off. Secondly its not that hard for any gimmick to sweep the dumb masses off their feet.Obama has played to groups and voting blocs not to individuals…I have yet to see or hear one instance where any of the same tired rhetoric he spouts is geared towards the individual. Not saying all the other candidates are different, its something all politicians do, but Barack shouldn’t be bullet proof for being called on it.Plus you would think that a social historian such as yourself would be able to understand how “Obama-Mania” came to be. Its not hard to fathom how the ignorants and the dumb masses of this country after being fed daily the same one sided regurgitations of the left through: tv, movies, music, pundits, celebrity wannabe pundits and their elected officials would fall to some empty suit chanting “change” and “hope”.Remember this is the same country that fell for the Macarena, falling for Obama aint much of a stretch.

  • Garyd

    I’ve got a better idea. Lets quit worrying about what color someone is and start worrying a little more about the content of their character. I don’t care one whit that Obama happens to be black or that Hillary is female. What I do care about is that their ideas are disastrously bad.

  • harold

    quoting “But the opposite fear has also emerged—that of a divisive and potentially mean-spirited debate”I have ventured amoung them are can honestly say there is nothing sacred to them. a man’s wife, children, family, home, and friends. they will attempt to destroy everything to get their desired results. it is a revelation to what is in their heart, soul, and mind. they serve what they know, only evil. just as the president protected those who served him, they protected him. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.””So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him””creature that hath life””Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.””And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.””And the gospel must first be published among all nations.””But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. “corruptible man, birds, fourfooted beasts,and creeping things””Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”Quoting

  • victoria

    My initial reaction is “you know what a great idea”…but then I remember the churches can’t conquer their own great cultural and racial divide. They fight over semantics, “love the sinner, hate the sin”. They don’t visit minority churches, and when minority churches are invited to usually because it’s black history month. And G-d help you if you’re gay, then you’re not welcome in anyone’s church (except UCC churches and other non denominational churches)It’s funny how predominately minority churches are more than willing to “reach across the aisle”, but white churches…not so much. White visitors to my church are welcomed with open arms, when i go to a white church, my presence is barely acknowledged.Please pardon my cynicism, but until churches learn to follow the greatest commandment of love there can be no partnerships.

  • lawrence2xl

    thank you for an excellent & timely opinion. many in America are sick of the politics of negativity and division. Barack Obama has every ability to be one of the world’s best leaders. his policies will generate respect, stability, and begin America’s return to presperity. Barack Obama represents a change we can all believe in!

  • nkbe

    Great column but you might want to add removal of sexism in any political race. I have seen more disgraceful products as Tee shirts and “nutcrackers, against Hillary Clinton then anything disparaging racial bias. Our country should be above all of this but most media promotes both racism and gender issues in their reports. We have a bigger problem here.

  • MHB

    President Obama sounds too much like President Osama for my taste.

  • v racer

    The circle the wagon knee jerk response of blacks despite Wright’s rantings, announces loud and clear the little secret of black racism and that black churches are a hot bed of hate America followers. Nice try Harold, you must be a GOP plant intending to make us believe that all liberals are fools. It worked, clever GOP.

  • Cabby

    I can’t understand why the Washington Post forum rejected my comments earlier and asked me to edit it. Then when I took out what might be considered bad in the moderator’s eyes, I was told they don’t allow successive messages.

  • captbilly

    I don’t get it, the point of the article is that we don’t need words or debate, but actions, but then the author goes on to give his opinion about what should be done about racism. What about the person who has a different opinion than the author? I don’t think America still has racism because we have been discussing it too much. The problem is that we discuss racism only with our all black or all white, or all asian friends. We need to talk openly, not Rush Limbaugh style angry ranting but calmly and with the intention of trying to understand each other.I’m no liberal but even I can understand that it is much better for America if we don’t have whole segments of society that feel they are not part of the mainstream. We have to understand tehat we all feel like outsiders to some extent, but that how well we are accepted should be based only on our desire to be part of the mainstream, not on the mainstreams desire to accept us. I may well be happy to be on the sidelines on certain issues. I certainly wish I had not allowed myself to be sucked in to the idea of the necessity of invading Iraq, but I would hate to feel that nobody wanted me to be part of the mainstream simply because of where my ancesters came from.

  • Jason

    Total ignorqance and stupidity lead by fear from people like the poster MHB is why this country is ready for a change, but that change will be difficult and ugly. We need to put these people back under the rock from which they came, so we never elect another hate mongering bigot President that give racist jerks a reason to open their ugly mouths. MHB you must be a real loser in life to continue to vote for things that do not help you.Good riddance to this “old school” of American politics.This racism is not an Obama weakness, it is an American dysfunction

  • Terri Mudge

    Thank you for the call to action, and being a marriage therapist, I appreciate your metaphor of how more talk is not necessarily what’s needed.I also especially am drawn to your comments about community action groups being the source of the action. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, many groups are already involved in racial/gender/prejudice-freeing activities. What we need is a call to more involvement by more citizens, and the government can help support this by their policies = with money and positive propaganda.

  • Fred Fep

    First, isn’t there anyway to leave out the stupid comments about Obama Osama, middle name Hussein, etc. This kind of voter should probably be committed to a mental institution. Yes, “Bush” means bush, McCain sounds like McLame. Who cares. If you vote on names you shouldn’t vote.The Republican should search deep until they actually find a real subject they have real opinions on that mean anything as well as haven’t been shown to be complete failures these past 8 years. If not, if all you have is abject stupidity and doubletalk, why waste our time and webspace?Let’s take appeasement. It was giving Czechoslovakia to Hitler, it wasn’t talking to him. I didn’t realize Obama proposes giving Czechoslovakia to Iran. Now, Prescott Bush, grandfather of the current frat boy president was actively profiting from German industry until a law was passed in 1942 against trading with the enemy. I guess this is not appeasement, but treason and collaboration.Does McCain want to explain the Keating 5, or even why he never proposed nay of the legislation he now claims to be for if elected? He had the last 8 years with a Republican Senate to do so. Stop claiming this against Obama when McCain is even lamer in the senate, he’s been tehre since Polk was President after all, doubletalk on earmarks and lobbying doesn’t cut it. A fake maverick, a hero whose claim to fame is not actually heroic.Republicans never stood for much beyond cheating to get their way, I guess they are having a harder time fixing things now, so they believe lashing out will still work. Perhaps it will, Hillary thinks her uneducated racist vote may work, maybe it will for Republicans as in teh past. Good luck suckers

  • Obvious

    we need to crush organized religion in this country if we want to overcome hatred, prejudice, and intolerance.

  • Anonymous

    Tim,Great article as always your articles are always so full of sound wisdom. I admire you and your writings. I think that you are good-looking too.Keep writing and I will keep reading.

  • Bob

    Victoria Wrote:Please pardon my cynicism, but until churches learn to follow the greatest commandment of love there can be no partnerships.Is this what was taught in Obama’s Church? I sure didn’t hear the love. Obamba can say all he wants that he didn’t know the nature of his pastors remarks, but you can’t go to a church for 2 months and not get the feeling of a church not alot 20 years. I have know pastors to be let go for far less than the remarks that were made in this church. I was leaning on voting for Obama till alot of things starting coming out like his wife’s comments then his pastor’s remarks. On top of all of this we still have the black voters voting for Obama at a minium of 90% rate. I can’t remember any voting block every voting for any person or issue at this rate. So one would have to assume that we do still have racism, but since Obama is getting at least 44% of the white vote, where is this racism coming? The one thing that has gave me some sense of hope that we will get past this racism someday is there is at least 10% of the black population still choosing not because of the color of skin but on issues

  • Mel

    I disagree. I think we need conversation and action both. There is just too much ignorance. We’ve seen our weaknesses as a nation this campaign season– regarding racial intolerance and sexism both. How many people see both? Until we are able to see the problem and identify our own role within the paradigm– we can’t change it. Doing good deeds is not enough.

  • Pamela A. Hairston

    When will the color of one’s skin not matter in America? If our REAL ENEMIES ever succeed in dropping a nuclear bomb on this great country we call home, the color of one’s skin finally won’t matter because we won’t have any.One last thought. White Americans constantly tell us black Americans to stop whining about race, to “get over” slavery. Tell me, why should I have to forget so much of our history that I’ve never known? Let me know first before I have to forget. Thanks for listening and may God bless and protect our children and soldiers everywhere!

  • Chris

    If only you could increase the intelligence level of the American population, many of these problems would solve themselves. Unfortunately as long as you give dumb, ignorant, hateful people the same say in America’s future as you give intelligent, educated, informed people you are going to have a nation that isn’t realizing it’s full potential.

  • Mary CA

    Perhaps the Clintons, their friends, the press should have stuck to issues, rather turning this into a contest about ethnicity versus gender. “Is America Ready for a Black President” (or woman) were the first headlines. NY Times Op-Ed by Gloria Steinem; Bill’s “it is only natural for people to vote for people they can relate to” comments before SC (continued that blacks would vote Obama, women his wife~the equation did not mention who black women or white men would relate to); followed by Ferraro’s insistence that millions of white people got caught up in the concept and were only voting for Obama because he is black are a few examples.Perhaps if the adults and media would stop thinking of Senator Obama as black they could lead the way for dropping the issue. Hillary and her followers will not drop the “sexist, misogynist” issue. She and they truly believe her gender is why people who did not approve of Iraq and do not like her constant lies, special interests and into Iran do not vote for her.

  • Jeremy

    You know, I think that the more this conversation comes up the better. The fear of the fringe racists is that we will talk about it. The problem for them with talking about it is that they are clearly immoral, and their positions are clearly indefensible. I say talk it up. The McCain folks can make this whole campaign about race for all I care. The more people like Pat Robertson open thier stupid mouth and spew thier deep seeded racial hate, the uglier they look, and the more people don’t want to be like that or be associated with people like that. Bring on the race baiting. It did nothing but sink the Clinton campaign. It will pull McCain down as well.

  • Gaias Child

    The racial divide is partly generational and entirely based in the guilt and shame of the perpetrators. Those conscious and unconscious imprints express as suspicion and hatred. But, thank God and Goddess, the clock has run out on all that and we have young people whose DNA is color-blind, global, and generous. We have the Harry Potter generation coming of age. They will vote. They see through the fakery of power in the government, media, higher education. They see through the prejudices of small minds that would dominate and disenfranchise others. Their hero was the very personification of selflessness and courage. This ancient disgrace cannot survive because there is too much global communication. One nation’s tsunami or volcano is everyone’s heartbreak or environmental emergency. Things have changed and these mean small politics are out of time.

  • Michael

    You don’t need to wait on the president to tell you what to do, just act.Just do.A good starting point would be opening the doors to the LBGT community in a real way, in every denomination. Rather than most church’s “don’t ask don’t tell” approach, face it.That would do more for breaking down racial walls than just about anything else within the pews, because acceptance breeds acceptance.But that isn’t really what the author is after, in my view. Rather, Mr. Shriver wants religious organizations injected into the forefront of the conversation. He wants the candidates to talk loudly and often about Christianity.Acceptance is a priority, but putting religion as the vessel is the actual aim of the article by implying that the major candidates should solve the problem “on the church’s turf” and so cede the issue to religion.Thats fine. But a more comprehensive approach is required if your priority is acceptance and diversity first, religion second.

  • WmarkW

    No one is going to solve the racial divide as long as:a) schools are funded and administered locally, meaning wealthy white suburbs don’t have to help poor black cities; and There’s a big difference between the societal attitudes of blacks who are recent immigrants or their offspring vs. those descended from slaves and segregation victims. An Obama presidency’s main effect would be to confirm in the minds of whites that race isn’t the issue, one’s willingness to participate in the American way of life is.McCain’s not going to mend any fences either. Like the current Republican President, he left his father’s Episcopal church (about as ecumenical an organization as you’ll find) to follow a right-wing nut who quotes the most idiotic book of the bible to insult another denomination.This election isn’t going to do anything but show how Christian sects REFLECT differences in society, not bridge them.

  • Democrat AND Black

    It would be nice….but even in the comments left here it is obvious that many are not ready for even a call to action. It amazes me that we Black folks are called Democrats when we faithfully support the party candidate, who happens to almost always have been white, for nearly all of my 40 years on this planet. But when we throw our support overwhelmingly to the Black democratic candidate who happens to have a good grasp of the issues and viable solutions then we are called racist. Incredible!! It couldn’t be that he is just as qualified if not moreso, or that his policies such as his healthcare plan are a better alternative to that of the White candidate OR that he has the ability to build a concensus on issues such as immigration reform OR that he seeks to move from the status quo in government to a more transparent beauracracy? Add to that the fact that he might actually be able to identify with the experiences of so many Black men and women. Nope, we Black folks just vote for whatever Black candidate is on the ticket. I guess if that were fact Jesse Jackson, Michael Steele, Alan Keyes might have actually won an election.I’d say those that are making such ridiculous claims are the real racists. You totally disregard the Black candidate’s qualifications and suggest that the only reason he is doing well is that the majority of Blacks have voted for him. Statistically that just is not fact. What is fact is that if Hillary somehow steals this nomination, and at this point that’s about the only way she can secure the nomination, the Democratic party will have alienated and likely lost it’s most consistent bloc of supporters.

  • Polly A

    In re: Jeremy



  • Vidal Sassoon

    Nice hair, Tim.

  • Mary

    Obama’s partnership with Rev. Wright has undermined any honest dialogue about race in this election. It is just not okay for a black man to hurl racial prejudice and slurs at my children and get away with it because of his skin color. Particularly when it is done from the pulpit and a presidential candidate.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous


  • GeorgiaSon

    An excellent program for volunteer activism would be a campaign to put an end to the appalling rate of illegitimacy among the African-American community. It’s running well over 60%. There is no hope of easing, much less solving, the problems facing American blacks as long as two-thirds of black children are illegitimate. It would be like throwing resources into a big black hole. Every single study and scientific analysis I’ve ever seen shows a direct connection between the absence of a nuclear family and lack of success in later life. If you are born illegitimate and raised in a single-parent household, the odds are stacked against you from the word “go.” Black Americans simply cannot continue producing illegitimate bastards by the carload lots and hope to end the dysfunctional lives of so many.The pay-off of pennies invested in condoms and birth control pills in terms of dollars ultimately saved by having fewer dysfunctional citizens to cope would be overwhelming. It is far and away more guaranteed to help the black community than any new social welfare programs or any easing of alleged white racism.The most important thing is this: It’s something that blacks can do on their own. They don’t need to wait until whites do something, or until government provides some new program, before taking action to bring down the illegitimate rate. For example, why don’t successful blacks go door-to-door, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, preaching the gospel of responsible sex? Carrying boxes of condoms for free distribution? Why don’t black churches sponsor a nation-wide “safe sex” month, like black history month? Why not put condom-dispensing machines in schools? Same for birth control pills. The second priority is to find out what black females are doing that has produced a huge and growing gap between them and black males. That gap proves beyond any shadow of a living doubt that white racism is not the cause of black failure to achieve. Whatever the degree of white racism in America, those successful, achieving black females live in it and succeed despite it. Let’s show black males how to duplicate that success. Again, this is something blacks can do on their own, without whites changing one iota or spending one penny of new tax money.

  • Lynn

    Obama is in no position to lead any conversation or action to end racism. He is one of the most obviously racist candidates who has run for president since before the civil rights era. He suggests that having both white and black DNA somehow uniquely qualifies him to break down racial barriers. Yet his nomination campaign has done more to stir up the hornet’s nest of racial tension than anything we’ve seen.The way to heal racial tension is to stop pandering to it, to stop validating reverse racism and discrimination as valid, to stop making decisions, good or bad, based on race, to stop clinging to the guilt and anger of events long in the past and to allow everyone to seize their own future as they will.Racism, like bad behavior in a 3 year old, exists because we give it the attention it’s seeking.

  • GeorgiaSon

    REPLY TO WALTERROCK:Thank you for your kind comments. Alas, I’m not surprised at the lack of comments. There is unfortunately little actual dialogue on these blogs, just everybody stating their pet peeve. The chief sinners are the panel members themselves–like Mr. Shriver–who almost never deign to respond to others’ comments. But, some will say, aren’t I doing what I am critiquing others for doing? All I can say is, I proposed a plan of action. I did not just state a position. That’s what I had hoped to see discussed.

  • Paul

    I realize–and so do a lot of other people–that I am old and none too bright. People talk about “reverse racism”…exactly what in the hell is that? Is racism like a car that you can drive it around the black, put it in reverse, turn the corner and maybe park it somewhere?I have always thought racism was racism–regardless of who done it!! If you can be racist AGAINST someone, then why can’t you be racist FOR someone? Since I am a “DOWN STREAM” white guy–i.e., I have to put up with all the trash and sewage the wealthy, elitist, yuppie white bigots don’t want. I worked myself up the ladder only to be met with, you did not graduate from one of the ‘approved’ colleges ad your family tree is six foot of rope thrown over a tree limb and therefore, you are not of my race or class.I have found that racism is a convenient blanket to cover up all the problems that plague us all. I have coined the following: “The greatest fame and the most fortune comes from FIGHTING problems and not solving them. If you solve the problem, the money stops coming in, you have to fire people, and your fame and fortune wanes. This is done while spreading Hate, Hypocrisy, Lies and Fear in the aftermath of those unresolved issues.Stereotypes have a basis in fact or observation. If the stereotype becomes incorrect, then it goes away. Is a stereotype ever a profile?

  • b



    Yes, let’s forget about race and focus on extricating ourselves from the long-standing monumental misery of Iraq – clearly with Obama this process will begin, and particularly with a super-majority in congress….and it still won’t happen overnight. And of course with McCain, he figures to ‘win it all’ in four more years! – and another trillion bucks and a few more thousand troops dead, and so forth. This is monumental alright – as in monumental moron….yes, let’s talk about bad ideas, by all means. The guy is still fighting the Vietnam war….the one he always wanted to win.McCain, who actually has a record of voting with the majority GOP 83% of the time, is no maverick -instead, he’s the biggest sell-out ever to run for president in modern times….he can be bought and sold by the highest bidder and he has demonstrated that quite amply. This is not the kind of character we need in the White House this time around – we’ve had more than enough of ‘character challenged’ presidents.

  • perplexed

    Looks like some of the white folks here are working on reasons not to vote for the black candidate! Imagine that – unfortunately you have no options, unless you want more Bushco. If so, have at it by all means….but no more complaining for selling yourselves down the river. You’ve done it twice now, so maybe 3 times is the lucky charm. Stupid is as stupid does……

  • walterrock


  • Dave

    People should think very clearly here. Racism exists because

  • testing testing for Federal Law Suit against “NEWS CORP” et al
  • Athena

    First of all, Tim, I’m sending your Uncle Ted some healing energy. He’s a great man, and we need him now more than ever! Second – Mary, I wasn’t aware that Sen. Obama attacked you or your children personally. You must be pretty important. 😀 I suppose it’s okay for white people to scream racial epithets at black children in your book. Because that’s what has been going on for decades. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s okay to be screaming epithets at ANYBODY. Obama isn’t doing that to anybody. His pastor may be unhinged, but Obama is not. News flash: just because someone attends a church does NOT mean that they parrot their pastor’s views! That only happens in Fundamentalist Christian churches. Normal people tend to “take what they like and leave the rest”. If you had looked into Trinity UCC instead of just hearing the silly sound bites, you would have seen that they had a very strong community outreach focus. They have committees for everything from HIV/AIDS to tutoring kids after school. But, I guess it’s easier to get your opinions from Fox News than it is to use the Internets.

  • meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    Tim,blog on your uncle Ted,what a great guy.You know i believe he will be fine,what a fabulous attitude he has,Most people would be feeling very sorry for themselves at a time such as this not him,he’s ready to fight.all the best to you and your big clan.

  • Rob L.

    Renowned scientist Albert Einstein dismissed the Bible as a collection of “pretty childish” legends and belief in God as a “product of human weaknesses,” according to a letter to be auctioned this week.Einstein, who was Jewish, also rejects the notion that Jews were God’s chosen people.

  • A Caring Catholic

    Professor Thistlethwaite wrote a highly critical analysis of this essay on her blog. Maybe you’d like to clarify your position in order to ensure that a misunderstanding and misinterpretation doesn’t add fuel to the fire of anti-Catholicism since your life and work is an anti-thesis of racism. A conversation is essential in addition to any and all common activities because not everyone participates in all the activities that leads to better understanding. One powerful option among many are mixed schools and mixed places of worship which consciously teach equality.