Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Being Disrespectful

Didi Lima, co-chair of McCain's Nevada Hispanic Leadership Team, unleashed words that seemed right out of a racist playbook in describing the African American community as "dependent on the government."

Ms. Lima explains why Hispanic Americans should vote for McCain to prevent them from becoming like African Americans who "all" rely on the government for their livelihood. Here are Ms. Lima's words:

"We don't want (Hispanics) to become the new African-American community," Lima said. "And that's what the Democratic Party is going to do to them: create more programs and give them handouts, food stamps and checks for this and checks for that. We don't want that."

"I'm very much afraid that the Democratic Party is going to do the same thing that they did with the African-American culture and make them all dependent on the government and we don't want that."

Firstly, Ms. Lima disrespects the African American community by painting us monolithically as welfare recipients. We know this is not true, as within our churches we have PhDs, successful executives and entrepreneurs as well as single moms who are struggling and receive government assistance. Church members look after these too.

Secondly, she does not understand the difference between a people who come over the border by choice, looking for a better life, and others who were brought here by force and enslaved for nearly 3,000 years. While this is indeed true, I am wholly given to the importance of self-respect, self-reliance and community support shown through the leadership of the likes of W.E.B. Dubois and George Washington Carver to improve one's standing irregardless of one's past.

Finally, divisions or differences among minorities or any group of people should not be engendered or exploited, based on ill-conceived perceptions of others, for political purposes or any other purpose. There are more things that bring us together than separate us, even when considering our various paths to America.

In describing "all" African Americans the derision is obvious. The reality is that like every ethnic group it is difficult to express each monolitically. But since we're speaking here of all, let me say that all of my African American friends are successful executives, professors, doctors, ordained ministers, judges, and entrepreneurs; most have advanced degrees. I am also acutely aware that this "all" does not represent all of African Americans. There is yet much work to do.

While reflecting on Ms. Lima's words, I wonder if minorities, including African Americans, can themselves be racists. I wonder what gave her the liberty to express such views publicly. Whether they were meant to be racist or not, her words are definitely disrespectful. While I understand that people are individuals and as such are given to independent thoughts and actions. But I also wonder if disrespect is tolerable in the McCain campaign. Such disrespect was obvious to viewers watching the first presidential debate.

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