Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

“Unfortunately, Race Still Matters.”

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President Obama must be a man and a half to take all the verbal abuse, insults and pressure that he receives from his political adversaries each day. When words like “primate president,” “monkey business,” “food stamp president” and other derogatory and racist code words are used to mock and demean the president, there must be times when he cringes in pain.  He and Michelle must sometimes hurt deep inside having to deal with all the “stuff” that is hurled in their direction each day. And if they do not hurt there are many of us in this nation of all colors and hues who hurt for them when we hear and see how this man is disrespected, talked down to and treated like an outsider; a stranger, always having to prove himself and put up with the senseless diatribes that are thrown at him perhaps for no other reason than his race.

In many respects what Obama is facing is a metaphor for what many black men and women have faced in America over many centuries; or any other people who have suffered and swallowed insults, who have shouldered and absorbed unmitigated rebuke because of their persons, and no matter how far they have come or how well they have done, they always have to prove themselves by being twice as good yet half as valued as many of their white counterparts. This is still true in America. Unfortunately race still matters.

On the other hand, we have come a long way in this country in terms of race relations and we should all be proud of the progress that we have made. But we are also painfully aware that we have a long way to go in healing the racial wounds that still maim and divide us; wounds and scars that serve as constant reminders of the blood, sweat and tears that have been shed in a long twilight struggle to free ourselves from the demons of racial idolatry, race hatred and racial prejudice. We still have a long way to go and many of our brothers and sisters of different races and cultures; many of the younger generation have overcome these race barriers and have come to truly view people of different races by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. We thank God for these advancements and are grateful how countless people in America have overcome the albatross of race.

But when I hear a Congressman call President Obama a lie during his 2011 State of the Union Address, and when I hear Donald Trump and others demanding that the President turn over his birth certificate and college transcripts, it gives me pause about how deeply ingrained racial phobia still is in our country. Is the demand for the president to show his birth certificate and college transcripts a genuine political concern or just a diversionary tactic fueled by racial animus that still questions the possibilities and legitimacy of having a black man in the oval office?

When I see a whole swath of the electorate who would rather cast their vote for a candidate because his skin is chalky who seems to care nothing for them and then deny a person because his skin is ebony who has had their backs socially and economically, it shows the irony of racial  sentiments in this country.

In psychology there is a concept called the Horns and Halo effect. In my professional and personal life, I have seen this effect played out time and again. We put horns on people that we do not like and cannot see the good they do.

Conversely, we put halos on the people that we do like and cannot see the wrong they do.

In both instances our assessments and corresponding behaviors are prejudiced, skewed or conditioned based upon our feelings for the person. “For those we love we can see no wrong. For those we hate we can see no right.”

The great German philosopher Immanuel Kant developed a concept called the apriori which means that prior structures of consciousness and evaluation are acquired early in our lives which we then impose on all subsequent human experience. No matter what human experience presents to us we can only interpret that experience through our previously constructed apriori, which is acquired before human experience. Aposteriori on the other hand, is the grid and lenses of consciousness that we develop after human experience.

My prayer is that the apriori structures of race consciousness and prejudice will not cause people in this country to vote against someone because they have put horns on him or have allowed the previously acquired prisms of racial reductionism and race prejudice to influence their capacity to see the true man and all that he has done for all American citizens and all that he is worth as a public servant of the people.

It is time in this country that we move beyond race matters, but I am afraid that it will take a long time before we all get there and move to a place in the words of Krishnamurti,  where we can view one other as though seeing each other for the first time, without the demeaning labels and without the previously invented assumptions that refract and distort our correct God intended vision of one another.

This will be a very important step in building bridges of respective cooperation and unity among all people rather than viewing each other as objects of scorn to be demeaned, devalued and ultimately dismissed and discarded because we truly cannot see or appreciate other persons because of our previously conditioned structures of consciousness that limit our ways of thinking and ultimately cause us to needlessly do harm to ourselves and others. When a person decides to vote against a president because of his race, even when such a decision undermines his own family and his own well being, and he casts that vote for no other reason than the color of that person’s skin then this nation will continue to wallow in the quagmires of faulty political decision making that will set us back for generations to come.

We all long for the day where race truly no longer matters and for the day in which a black president can be viewed for the value of his contribution and the content of his character than the color of his skin. God hasten the day where we can see others as they are and not as we are and accept each other without all the racial gook clouds our lenses and prevents us from seeing the truth.

America took an important step in electing Obama to his first term in office. It is our hope and prayer that America does not return to those days of race reasoning that can prevent him from a second term in office because the viruses of racial influenza have infected the American body politic. Let us innoculate ourselves from such reasoning, see reality clearly and elect a person to office who cares about all Americans of every race and creed and not just a select few.

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