Mike is a fellow Stanford grad and was one of the original investors in Wallstrip. He left the following as a comment on Fred’s blog and Fred wisely turned it into a post, a move which I am seconding. Serious times demand strong words and I 100% agree with these words.
“I want to weigh in on this issue and I apologize in advance for this long post, but I just can’t sit quietly anymore. I’m a black professional who went to high school and college (Stanford Undergrad) in mostly white schools and whose career was spent in an industry (semiconductors) where people like me were overwhelmingly under-represented. I find that Obama’s candidacy is unconsciously causing the country to come face-to-face with its continuing discomfort with real discussions of race. The comments I see here, and that I have experienced at large are so much more painful than people “not of my color” can really imagine.
When Obama first decided to run I spoke to many of my friends who commented that their fear of his candidacy wasn’t that he was too young, too inexperienced, too liberal, but that he was … well, just Black. And our fear was - that in the rough and tumble world of politics and the media’s coverage of it, that the country would find ways to tear down a Black man for all the public to see; a public lynching of sorts.
I know those are strong words, but I’m expressing the strong fears that still exist in our community. And there are people who want to make us wrong for feeling this way, but feelings are neither right nor wrong - they just are. It’s how we deal with those feelings that count.
In some ways Obama is one of the most perfect Black candidates, almost out of central casting. He’s youthful and energetic, he’s extremely well spoken (what that means in my neighborhood - he doesn’t “sound” black, which has been a bit of a kiss of death for blacks in the public eye), he’s highly educated, he’s not from San Francisco or Austin, Texas (don’t take offense - it’s just that people in many parts of the country think that people from highly liberal cities don’t share our values), he’s a churchgoer, the list goes on.
Yet look at what seems to be the issues dragging him down:
Biggest Mistake One: He is associated,with maybe even likes, an angry Black preacher (my experience is that if you want to be sure that people not of your race discount you, be perceived as being “angry”, whether you are justified or not). If that is a litmus test for a black candidate, it will be several more decades before we can run for office. Many black leaders from the civil rights era speak in angry tones, use hyperbole and exagerration to make their points, but are just as patriotic as George Bush or Rush Limbaugh. We understand that when one of us “condemns” America for Jim Crow (and its remnants), segregation, “economic apartheid” (Jesse Jackson’s current favorite term), or whatever label is used, what we are saying is that America’s actions are often out of alignment with its ideals, and that we can be better than that. I don’t agree with Rev. Wright’s use of words or characterizations, but I ABSOLUTELY understand his upset and his passion about what needs to be changed, and what needs to be exposed and discussed.
Biggest Mistake Two: He’s being considered to be “elitist”. OMG - this is the same fight that I fight with my own people when boys in the hood look down on kids with schoolbooks because they are trying to “act white” (as if that’s some kind of disease). You know what, as an American I pray to god that my President is smarter than me and maybe has more education, more knowledge, more insight than I do because we need that level of sophistication to deal with a complicated world. And before you pile on about being able to “connect” with people yes, I want my President to be able to understand my situation, and empathize with my situation, but being able to bowl or liking deep friend twinkies is not a rational pre-requisite to running the most powerful nation on the planet. So for me, I hope that Obama is elite.
Biggest Mistake Three (and this is not really a mistake), he’s inexperienced. This is a specious argument, you know why? It assumes that having experienced makes you more qualified to do this job. If that was the case then Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Chenney should have led us to the land of plenty. There were no more experienced people in the country than those two, yet look at the havoc they have caused. I don’t care what you did before, I only care about your ability to make the right (or at least the best decisions). So I don’t want to hear about this argument anymore.
And lastly, the press is complicit (and we with it) in dragging down our public discourse. If any of you on this blog were to have a camera in your face 24/7 and had any 10 words you spoke in any given day taken out of context, do you beleive that those 10 words are who you are or what you believe? We have to be better than our entertainment-driven press whose sole job is to look for the flaw or look for the hero story because that makes better headlines than, “New Candidate offers tough but reasonable plan to reduce hunger.”
Who wants to buy that paper? I do, but I’m not sure many Americans wouldn’t pass that up for “Hilary catches Bill with another intern!!”