Sunday, November 09, 2008

I'm Tryin' To Drive You To The Sto'

Something about this article written by Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post about the historic momentousness of Obama's election bugs me.  For those of you who are not aware, Kathleen Parker, southern white conservative, wrote an article in WaPo about how Gov. Palin was monumentally unprepared to be vice-president and was vilified by readers (who sent responses suggesting that her mother should have had an abortion).  Watching the right lose their minds that yet another conservative had "betrayed" the party by disagreeing and calling it how she saw it could not be more illuminating on how the Republican Party has devolved into lunatics.  (Note that the "lose their minds" link is from an article Parker wrote for Town Hall and I direct you to the comments.)

Yet and still, she is a southern white conservative.
But like many other Americans, especially Southerners, my life is inextricably intertwined with the African American experience. It isn't just a bit of thread or texture in life's tapestry, but is central to my emotional and psychological constitution.

Although a child during the civil rights era, I remember the protests, the sit-ins, the march from Selma. I remember the day Martin Luther King was shot -- and the following morning at school when all the black students stormed out of class, prompting my nervous English teacher to send for smelling salts.

Most important to me personally, I remember Dorothy, the woman who cared for me after my mother's death, and her two much-older children, Ronnie and Sylvia, who were an intimate part of my very young life.

I eventually learned that Dorothy was black, but to me, she was simply "Dot," the first person I was consciously aware of loving and the only mother I knew. My own was gone before I was able to discern that a mother is an entity separate from oneself.
She goes on to tell the story of how she spent her days in the "colored part of town" (she quotes this in her article) at Dot's mother's grocery store and how she couldn't go to the movies with Dot because the theater was segregated and the balcony was where blacks sat and how she saw the unfairness of this at four years old.

The article, I suppose, is touching.  She's plainly writing from her heart in remembrance of the only mother she knew.


My grandmother was a domestic, cook mostly -- she could throw down in the kitchen.  But she also had been a maid and did other domestic chores for well-to-do white families on the Upper West Side.  One job she had was ironing the family's clothes.  This she did in the basement of the building in a cage.  Let me say that again.  In a cage.  I seem to remember witnessing an 8 year old dress down my grandmother ironing his family's clothes in her cage, about something I do not remember.

This picture came to mind as I read Parker's article, fairly or unfairly.  That is, as I see it, my issue.  Parker admits her privilege and though I have problems with the whole "magic negro" aspect of her recounting, I choose to believe she is probably sincere in her feelings.

Yet and still...

A commenter to Parker's article in the WaPo points out her article "The Bubba Vote" in the Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2008.  Referring to a voter's proclamation that he would not vote for Obama because he would be more comfortable with "someone who was full-blooded American who was president":
Full-bloodedness is an old coin that's gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values, and made-in-America. Just as we once and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide.
Who "gets" America? And who doesn't?
It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.
What they know is that their forefathers fought and died for an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years. What they sense is that their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative. And they fear what else might get lost in the remodeling of America.

Republicans more than Democrats seem to get this...
During the campaign she trumpeted the Republic strategy of making Obama foreign and un-American, when in fact (and I believe she knew this), he was no more foreign and un-American than her beloved Dot.

I wonder how four year old Kathleen Parker would judge her own future actions.

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