Friday, November 14, 2008

Now, more than ever, it's time to deal with racism that lurks in the American psyche

FEAR & HATRED BROUGHT TO THE SURFACE. The recent 20-month Presidential election season brought America's residual racism to the surface. Fueled by code-word campaigning by Barack Obama's opponents in the primary (to a lesser degree) and general elections (to a shamelessly large degree), the rawest of racial bigotry was turned inside out and whipped into age-old stereotypes and fears--even hatred and rage.

CRITICAL MOMENT, GREAT OPPORTUNITY. Despite the race card having been heavily in play, more registered American voters cast their ballots for hope instead of fear. Still, a significant number--perhaps millions of Americans--let race and racism determine their vote. Now we are told that the number of threats on the life of President-elect Obama are unprecedented. My poem, "Residual Racism," invites all to look for the roots of racism in ourselves and deal with it there decisively. Now is both an incredible opportunity and critical moment to turn away from hatred, fear, and resentment and embrace a surpassing grace.

What is this beast that lurks beneath the surface
so long bridled, seemingly dormant, even dead
that breaks the fa├žade of apparent inclusivity
spewing venomous vitriol in fits of pathetic
racial rage?

What feeds this thing during years of guarded restraint
keeping it subdued, at bay, and yet ever alive
until mild provocation shatters political correctness
and the charade ends in a revelation of sheer

Is it birthed by early familial murmurings
implanted in impressionable minds by
loved ones who fail to confront their own
hatred of what they fear and so carelessly
inflict blame?

Is it nurtured by nursing perceived sleights
encountered in the schoolroom and playground,
each conflict and every word reinforcing
an irrational calculation justified by
each new hurt?

Is it fed by the observation of unaddressed injustices
ignored by leaders, minimized by influence groups,
cynically renamed and recast as inconsequential
to a public too satiated by technology and toys to
second guess?

Is it fueled by unspoken allegiances, winks and nods--
the stuff of fraternal bonding and back-watching
that is etched unquestioningly into the social psyche
as necessary and acceptable norms for getting along
in one’s herd?

Is it given wings by ideologies that define civility
by drawing narrow circles and daring those on the margins
to get up to speed, measure up, perform to the standard
that the self-protecting privileged could never fulfill
on their own?

It is driven deep into some supra-social DNA,
by resentments, pride, unsettled scores, and revenge
that build layer upon layer, generation upon generation
until one’s identity as race or class or caste or ethnicity are

Wherever it comes from, whatever its sources
let each and all of us attend to this residual parasite
that leeches our very hope for finding common ground
and knowing ourselves—and the other—as capable of being

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.