Obama, Woods, Racism and Me

In the past few weeks, the two most famous and arguably most successful black men in America have taken a huge fall.
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

In this spot was a post I wrote a few weeks ago which talked about Obama (and the failure of good health care reform) and Woods (right after his debacle was revealed) as heroes who had been fallen by pride.

Many people saw this as offensive and racist, although many, again, did not, and completely understood where I was coming from. But because the post took on a horrible viral life of its own and I was, as the saying goes, denounced from pulpit to pew, I decided to remove it. It is, as is the internet's wont, available in other places. I will not repost it here.
What I will post here is a variation on my response to Mike Barber's piece of January 4 which again took me to task:

You are right that I should have apologized. I have been thinking about how to write something that would incorporate an apology and begin a new discussion, but I let it sit too long. I do apologize to you and others for offending you.

I am glad, however, that I happened on this article by accident; it might have been nice to alert me to it so that I could respond, as I am doing here.

Yes, I took the piece down. It was clearly stoking fires I did not wish to stoke and the comments were degenerating into personal attacks on me and my writing (as happens frequently on the 'net, especially under the easy clock of anonymity) See my article on same here :http://blogcritics.org/scitech/article/the-painful-art-of-blogging/

However to, in your tags, linking me with the KKK, is the height of hyperbole and one good reason that a national dialogue about race, which Eric Holder called for last year, may be a long time coming.

We clearly need that dialogue even if it makes the majority of Americans uncomfortable (as evidenced by reaction to Holder's call). Americans would like to THINK they live in a post-racial society, but we are not even close. Incidents of anti-Semtism, misogyny, racial prejudice, sexual orientation prejudice and every other kind of prejudice one can think of, still plague our country.

As a Jew I have been subjected to a huge amount of anti-Semitism and I would like to think I understand discrimination a little. I don't see myself as a victim and never have; I do put down a lot of it to sheer ignorance and misguided assumptions. My experience with anti-Semitism means that I am much more than a white woman of privilege, as some have decided to describe me.

But I, in no way, wished to speak for black people in America, and did not presume to do so in my article. I was trying to talk about role models--and as America in general idolizes sports figures, it was not an idle assumption. In addition, Woods had received praise for his mentorship.

Putting Woods and Obama in the same post was ill-advised. Obama is a different kind of role model and rightly so. A majority of our country--including progressives, the young, and first-time voters-- put him in office and as such have a right to be disappointed, as I am, in his leadership. That has nothing to do with his being black: it has to do with our expectations born out of his promises. And using the word "hubris" was certainly not meant to signify uppity-ness, as some have claimed. In fact, a Washington Post editorialist used the same word to describe Obama just last week. I stand by my statement that the president's sense of himself does not jibe with what he is doing for the people who elected him.

Right now, criticizing Obama has become a polarizing issue: those who wish to hold his feet to the fire are fighting against those who wish to support him, no matter what his decisions are. ( I have written about this before: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-solod-warren/dear-president-obama-with_b_162588.html ) It is a difficult time for both the President and the country. I sincerely believe that many of those who are disappointed in him do not wish to say so out of a white guilt. That's another reason for a dialogue on race.

Assuming, as many have done, that because I say I am not a racist, I therefore must be, is illogical at best. It is akin to being sure that someone who protests that they are not crazy therefore must be insane. And because I wrote an article that many people took as racist does not mean I am so... and further investigation into my writing on both race and class might have proved that:

Instead, some one reader found one review of my book, Desire, which was somewhat equivocal, and dismissed me completely as a writer.

Mr. Barber's assertion that he tried to reach out to me by tweets gives even more credence to the idea that Twitter is set up to allow a free exchange of ideas between people: much too much to expect of media that allows a mere 140 characters. I do not sit on my twitter account 24-7 and I had no idea the article had even gone viral, I had no idea why people were following me until hours had passed, and I also did not tweet the article myself. He assumes that I did not care about how my article was seen, which is not true at all. His description of my defenses illustrates to me, a woman bewildered and genuinely confounded by some of the reactions to the post. Under attack, I tried to protest but each protest was met with more attacks. It is hard to start a conversation that way, which is why I chose to back off and sit tight for awhile, rather than keep the "conversation" going.

That the article took on a life of its own, an unintended life to be sure, is unfortunate. That it provoked comments about both me and my skill as a writer was unnecessary. But that the article was found offensive by many is accurate and, again, for that I apologize.

Clearly, we are not the post-racial society that many seem to think we are and many more wish we were. And there is much more to say about race in America--and people from all races need to say it--but this comment is not the place. I will try and write more soon. But, suffice it to say that I heard you, Mr. Barber, and I heard all the others.