Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Be careful there is a Lott at stake


I have watched the events concerning Trent Lott's statements about Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential race with a burgeoning interest. I thought that when the events were first reported that there would be backlash, and I considered the requests for him to be censured and resign as Senate Majority leader were toothless, yet obligatory. I see now that things are coming to a head and I am not quite sure where I stand on this issue. A lot of people that I have talked to are apalled that he would make statements about Strom Thurmond in general because he has been coined "A racist". True indeed, he may have been, or still may be. But I don't have ill feelings toward Strom Thurmond because he was born in another world. Yes, he is still "Senator No" in regard to a lot of issues but he has made changes. I am not posting this to show any particular support for Thurmond, but I am not sure I am going to allow myself to be bitter toward a 100 year old man. Race relations have changed over the decades in a movement toward equality, however, I see things moving away from fruitful negotiation toward bitter contention. I am not sure of the how and why, but the U.S. seems to be quite a bit more polarized in recent years. I hae been watching some of the discussion groups on BET.com swell with angry feelings of disbelief about Lott's interview with Ed Gordon. "Why should we trust him?" "He is just apologetic about being caught!" That seems to be the common theme. I am not going to argue anyone's point, however, I think we should wait before we turn our backs on his "mea culpa" without properly weighing our actions. Had Trent Lott known what misfortune was to befall him for making those statements he would not have made them. In a certain sense I think he may have understimated the sensitivity of Blacks, as well as the number of people who would rally in response to his statements. I also think that he underestimated the precarious position he put himself in by going on BET to "set the record straight." I do think that there is some good that will come out of this regardless of whether or not he steps down. I think it goes without saying that he would not have wanted to go on BET had he not been in the hot seat, but perhaps this will make him more cognizant of the presence of blacks and women. Trent Lott was not wholly accepted by his own party before his faux paus, and things are even more tense with the GOP because of this. But, we also need to decide whether or not this is a good time to talk about issues that are germane to minorities on the whole. I think that perhaps we will have a more objective ear in the wake of this controversy. Additionally, I don't think that this is the time to use racial issues as blackmail. In other words, ridiculous issues such as reparations, (which I don't agree with, don't think should be brought up, and know will never pass), should not even be considered. But we should look to our "legitimate lobby" to remind both the GOP and the Democrats that blacks do have something to contribute so therefore don't cast sympathy legislation to appease us, rather lets work together to make things better for EVERYONE. Ed Gordon asked Lott about his voting record regarding Civil Rights, extension of the Voting Rights Act, and money for the MLK commission, as well as voting for MLK's birthday to be a holiday. It seemed that he was genuinely embarassed about his record, and having it read for him. In all reality, perhaps he doesn't have the supposed disdain for blacks that we all call racism, but perhaps his racism was his indifference. I think the key idea is that if someone has been indifferent and has an "eye-opener", they can perhaps change and do good things. As an average everyday citizen I want the same things that everyone else wants. I want to fulfill all of my needs, I want to fulfill some of my wants, and ultimately I want my children to be better than me, and have more than I had. I suppose that it is futile to say something as trite as, "I only want to see one race, the human race." I see this not because of inherent racism on any one person's part, but rather because we all see each other as physically different. I see nothing wrong with blacks, whites, asians, hispanics, and whomever being proud of their individual races. But, I would hope to live to see the day that my children won't be judged as having something handed to them before someone has seen the depth of their intellect, or the diligence in their work. I would like to see the day when white people are not judged as racists before they have time to speak their mind. We hold so many suppositions and prejudices inside that we don't even realize are there. These are taught from our families, our friends, and from our environment. In that regard this is the reason that I don't hate Strom Thurmond, I just look at him for who he is, and where he came from. Right or wrong he is who he is. I don't have to support him, I don't have to vote him, but I don't have to hate him either. That is the first step for me, hopefully more people will try to do the same thing. I hope Trent Lott is careful of the next step that he makes.

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