Jimmy Carter, America's 39th president, made this statement publicly, and his comments have been subject to much criticism ever since.
This simple quote caused a firestorm, particularly among the Republican media. The statement did not come from the traditional spokesman for the civil rights movement. It came from an 85 year-old statesmen -- a Southern gentleman, if you will.
He comes from the ranks of those who have helped racism be what it is today.
The former president's statement isn't a flippant one to be ignored, but rather should bear weight because it comes from one who knows the signs of the attitude of racism when he sees it, because he is intimately aware of the white man's culture, values and habits.
He knows the practice.
Jimmy Carter is right.
A white reporter, Andrew Manis, who is also an associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia, wrote an editorial for the Macon Telegraph, a Georgia newspaper, asking "When Are WE Going to Get Over It?" In part, this is what he said:
For much of the last forty years, ever since America "fixed" its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, "When are African Americans finally going to get over it?
Now I want to ask: "When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?"
Further, he recalls his white classmates and their parents wanting to do harm to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. He recalls the "reprehensible" conversations from his boyhood.
The article is worth reading. It is an honest account from a white male Southerner.
When Bill Clinton was president he attempted to open an honest racial dialogue among Americans by naming the late black scholar, John Hope Franklin, to a special commission. Clinton even went so far as to consider making an apology to the American public about slavery. Though the apology never came, it was an attempt -- the first ever made by a president about the country's wrongdoing.
America is a racist society. Period. End of discussion. Post-racial is a Disneyland concept. The racial cause has advanced and improved. After all, we do have a black president now. And as he acknowledged himself on David Letterman's show, "I was actually black before the election."
We frown and become skittish at an honest racial discussion.
We twist and we turn; we reject the notion, but we cannot accept the candor of the discussion. We should get over it. The only way America will ever solve its racial hang-ups is through admission. The end of racism will not happen without white men. I think this is the real Carter assessment.
In this day and age, as we still seek "equality," we are seeing America change right before our very eyes. The stuff that America is made of is in question. Power, money and position. The very thing racism feared has come true. If the schools are integrated, then we will be equal. If they vote, they might out-vote us and put their own in. If they get good jobs, or if they have businesses, they might become successful. The dream happened. The change came. Now what? How do we get it back? How do we turn the clock? How do we get our country back?
The answer is: Let's do what we do best. Let's attack. Let's attack the health bill and make it seems anti-American and dangerous to the American public.
Let's create an atmosphere of hatred.
Let's use the symbols of Adolph Hitler's Germany.
Let's make the first black man in the highest office a socialist or a communist. Let's stir up the fear factor. Let's develop a negative atmosphere.
Let's confuse the American public on health care with an underlining theme of racism. This is what Carter rightfully identified, and called out racism.
And now the Republican talk show host says any negative or critical comment against the president is racial or that Carter is an old fool. Neither is true. Carter is right. Then the president goes into a denial mode when asked to comment on Carter's comment. He will not touch the no-win conversation because it is too hot and will take him off his health bill course.
The answer is not in the attack or the denial. There is no comfortable time to discuss America's racial issues. There is no right time. There will always be something else more pressing. America needs to look its racism in the mirror. It is not for black folks to do. It is for white folks to do.
So maybe, just maybe, Pres. Obama can do what Pres. Clinton did. And that is, name a special commission to examine racism from a white point of view and Carter could be the head of it.
Maybe, just maybe, we can get concrete recommendations to end America's longest sin so that we can all move forward toward a post-racial society ... or what Nelson Mandela calls a race-free society.
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