Forgetting does not erase historical fact

November 2, 2010Mid-term Election Day

I have been lambasted (not the first time) a bit by articles about some of my responses to President Barack Obama. To friends and foes, I call your attention to Pulitzer Prize winning Eugene Robinsons's article in today's Washington Post, "Decoding the Tea Party's Ire".

The article ends with these two sentences; "Obama has made mistakes that rightly cost him political support. But I can't help believing that the Tea Party's rise was partly due to circumstances beyond his control - that he's different from other president's, and that the difference is race."

As the month of November begins, I cannot help but remember a race-related event that I have shared before, that happened to me and Grace, 53 years ago! On November 30, 1957 we got married in Greensboro, North Carolina. We travelled after the wedding to Mt. Airy Lodge in the Poconos where I had made reservations to stay for our honeymoon. I went to the desk to claim my reservation and after some preliminary debate, I was told, "Our guests would not be happy if you stayed with us. We do not accept black guests."

I returned to the car where Grace waited, shared the news with her, engaged in an emotional reaction to our refusal and then decided to find the nearest white Methodist Minister. (After all I was a senior at Boston University School of Theology preparing for the ministry.) I found him, he was white of course, and I expected that he would go back with us and confront the desk personnel who had refused Grace and me because of our race.

Instead, he took us to a black-owned facility that catered to black hunters who were in the Poconos to hunt bear, and with serious sensitivity left us there. We stayed one night, and then went to NYC to finish our honeymoon.

I share this because it is descriptive of what so many do when racial insensitivity and/or racism, rear their ugly heads. It is easier for them to express a modicum of sympathy to those who have been hurt and harmed by racism than it is to confront the persons, the system and the culture through which racism is expressed.

There will be those who will say that what Robinson wrote, "just isn't true anymore". Or, they will be prone to protect the Tea Party, saying unnecessarily what all of us know, "A majority of Tea Party members are not influenced by the race of the President."

But, I remember well when Henry "Hank" Aaron was on his way to break Babe Ruth's homerun record, the racist-tinged words directed at him were vicious. Some may have forgotten them, but forgetting does not erase historical fact. Using the language of some today and applying it to those who were anti-Hank Aaron and "wanted him to fail", they were saying; "We cannot allow Hank Aaron to take baseball, America's sport, from us. If he succeeds, we will never be able to take back OUR baseball from him and those like him."

We are at a moment in history when some persons are intimidated and thus are silent about racism because they have been frightened into believeing those who say, "To talk about race is to be racist". Grace and I would have been more comfortable sleeping in our car than in the hunting lodge, if that white pastor had confronted the racism we encountered 53 years ago.

We have "many miles to go before we sleep", as individuals and as a nation. Those miles will challenge the best of our nation that has travelled so far and so well in so many ways. Let us not allow the foolishness about "difference in race" keep us from confronting the serious issues of our time. We have wasted so much time as a nation being hampered by "America's Original Sin; Racism". Who would have thought that the election of our nation's first black President would bring out the Halloween-like ghosts and goblins of racial fear, bitterness and bigotry that we thought had been buried in a 20th century graveyard?

May the ire and anger of Tea Party advocates about government become an anger that we all share about attitudes and actions that suggest some Americans because of their race are more equal than those Americans whose race is "different".