The Story I Didn’t Tell You

On Super Tuesday, February 5th 2008, I drove to Central Los Angeles (with pneumonia) and interviewed Congresswoman Maxine Waters for

During the course of the interview we discussed why she was supporting Senator Hillary Clinton and I shared with her the story of my very stubborn grandfather who, no joke here, thought I would grow up and be a ‘fine secretary’ one day. I thought it was an important point to make; a 90-year old man with some very ‘traditional’ ideas was going to vote for a woman. I’d like to think it meant progress.

What I didn’t tell the viewer, or the Congresswoman, was that in the same breathe my grandfather championed Hillary, he called Senator Obama (and I’m paraphrasing) slimy like that Jesse Jackson and a typical black politician. Mind you all of this information came to me through my Dad, who I am guessing censored.

While a 90-year old, former Chrysler worker, blue-collar, union, grandfather being racist may not be all that shocking, what happened in my mind is – I just shrugged it off and accepted it as life.

In my mind, I filed it in the ‘some people are just like that’ category and moved on.

Now I’m not saying I was going to give my grandfather a call and lecture him, as he is not always very clear on thought these days, but I could have at least processed the gravity of what I had just witnessed.

My grandfather let go of sexism (sort of) before he let go of his racism.

I say ‘sort of’ because I can’t seem to shake conversations I’ve had over the years. The ones where he would be proud to the point of playing tapes for his friends of my radio news days, yet convinced I should be having more than two children.

I’m also very used to racism in my own family. My childhood memories are littered with my uncle screaming N***** RUN! at the tv while watching football. My cousin knew she was being a rebel by putting a poster of Michael Jordan on her bedroom wall.

As I watch the race issue continue to unfold in this election, I wonder how many more grandfathers and uncles are out there. The ones who would congratulate me on ‘marrying well’ and then decide voting for a woman was a much better option than voting for a black man.

I don’t have the knowledge or the expertise to go into all the reasons why these things are the way they are, but I am watching poll numbers for Senator Obama dip since the Wright flap. It’s beyond discouraging. It leaves me without much pride for this nation. It is starting to make me very angry that it matters.

God Damn America, indeed.

There. I said it. Let’s see the outrage. Let’s see the hate. Tell me how unpatriotic I am and how I’m evil.

Let me say it louder


Prove me wrong. Show me you’re not a bunch of racist idiots.

Don’t let them fool you-the Rev. Wright fiasco is ENTIRELY about race.

How many of you have been to a black church? Show of hands please. How many of you know or even TRY to know the reasons for anything that *may* happen inside a black congregation? How many of you have seen or read the ENTIRE sermon?

I am not an African-American. I am not a minority. I do not even pretend to know the experience. But at the very least I have attempted to educate myself. At the very least I have stepped outside of my safe suburb and stood at First AME in Los Angeles.

Rev. Chip Murray, who has since retired, was one of the most inspirational men I have EVER met in my life. I have struggled with religion since I was a child and I can honestly say the ONLY person who ever came close to bringing me to God was a black preacher in Los Angeles.

That particular church had members doing and saying exactly the words of Rev. Wright and this white girl was always welcome in those doors. Welcomed with hugs and kisses and invitations to picnics after services.

In the end I have to believe that if my 90-year old grandfather can make just enough progress to vote for a woman, the rest of you-who have far longer lives ahead of you and far more clear thoughts left, can go all the way and make enough progress to vote for a person of color.

It is time. Hell, even Dave Winer admits he’s racist and voting for Obama.

The discussions are happening. Be real. Get yourself involved in them. Talk about it, write about it, be honest about it ALL.

It is time for this nation to get over this, or at the very least make an honest effort to try. You can’t do that if you’re afraid to ask or to speak up or to learn.

If not, we are a damned America, for certain.


  1. I’m troubled about how much race has come up during this election. It shows we have a long ways to go in this contry. I like Barack because of who he is and what he brings to the table, enough said.

  2. I do have to say that I think that a lot of good can come out of all this discussion on race, even though it sucks that it went there. I’ve personally learned a lot (let’s be honest, most of it from Professor Kim 😉 ) by re-visiting my own thought process and my own understanding.

    Also, I have grandparents that grew up in the south……yeah. You can imagine.

  3. I believe that the very fact that we have 2 people from minority groups running for the ticket says a lot about the progress we have made in the last 60 years. Though there are still people who will believe what they believe, I am excited to see what the future holds based on what we are witnessing right now. I think these conversations, as irritating and hard as they may be, are just going to provide more for the future in terms of opening people’s minds

  4. What makes me so sad is that so many people are bemused by race being “an issue.” As if we had “fixed” everything thirty years ago. THAT obliviousness makes me very sad.

  5. I’ve been struggling with how I felt about this issue since it first came up. Having grown up in Memphis, TN, AND having biracial children adds complexity for me that is sometimes hard to sort out. Thanks for linking to the Sermon. That helped me tremendously.

    Deedra Bass

  6. I have an uncle who has always told me that I can be and do anything I want, that being a woman is not a handicap, to never let other’s ideas about my gender stop me.

    In the next breath he can then utter the most insane racist comments. “Stupid n******” and the such.

    It’s hard to brush it away when A) it’s family, and B) you’re used to it. I’ve always felt uncomfortable, but never said anything. “Oh, that’s just Uncle Jerry. He comes from another time.” It’s an excuse, one that shouldn’t be made.

    God damn America. It takes more patriotism to see the bad and the good of our country and still love it than it does for the sheep to blindly love America while pretending the bad isn’t real.

  7. After hearing Obama’s race speech, I wished I was an American so I could vote for him. Apart from taking on the race issue in one of the best ways ever, the speech was inspiring in so many other ways too. The US is lucky to have a politician like him who is a thinking person.

  8. I’ve been saying all along that it’s the sexists vs. the racists when it comes to voting this year. And it makes me sad. We should be past the point of skin color and body parts.

  9. I agree with Melody. Huge progress has been made. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and we’re obviously not quite “there” yet (we will be “there” only when gender and race become non-issues), but we are at a better place than ever in history as far as race and gender are concerned.

  10. With all of these people with racists in their own families, I don’t see how they can’t understand why Obama didn’t leave the church.

    I tell my son he can be anything he wants, but this whole thing starts to make me wonder–and within my own damned party.

    I’m afraid we’re going to fuck it up again. Pres. McCain here we come.

  11. As a white woman growing up in a racially divided town in the 70s, I’ve lived with racism all my life, and much of it from inside my own living room.

    I want to applaud your post. I am not at all surprised by the anger expressed by Rev. Wright. How can we, as a nation, not be angry at the indignities white America has and continues to perpetrate on a huge portion of its citizens.

    This thing has not made me want to vote for Obama less. I was very moved by his speech on race, and he continues to have my vote.

  12. I have also been in a black church. And I have heard black writers who moved to Europe because of the way they are treated in America. And by the way, I believe that OF COURE we brought 9/11 down on ourselves. I just hope Obama 1)gets elected and 2)doesn’t get assassinated.

  13. I am having difficulty formulating my response . There are so many layers here. The entire way people are seizing on any little thing to use as cannon fodder toward a candidate is approaching the ludicrous. People are zeroing in on details and making flawed extrapolations that are specious and inflammatory. Even if the out-of-context snippets of sermon used to create the furor were as described, neither the sermon nor the minister are relevant to the election.

    Racial bigotry is still alive in America and in many parts of the world. I see it when I am with my bi-racial nephew. My Moroccan born son-in-law experiences it routinely (sometimes because people assume he is Hispanic). I too often hear people make demeaning assumptions about Asians. Do you thing the illegal alien issue would be such a hot topic if the illegals were pale skinned folks from the United Kingdom or Sweden?

    Nope, it is still there and it is insidious because it pops up in the most unexpected places from the most unexpected people. I see and hear widespread prejudice against people from Mexico, Central and South America, Islamic countries, and Asia that it is just maddening.

    Your post is right on target and thanks for raising your voice.

  14. Your post tells it like it is.
    After Easter I had the pleasure of hearing my in-laws insist that Obama is Muslim and no way would they vote for a black Muslim! No amount of reasoning would convice them he is not Muslim. They read on the internet that he was and if it’s on the internet it has to be true. Sadly, there are LOTS of voters like them. Bigotry is alive and well in America.

  15. As a Canadian I’ve been watching this curiously, it shall be interesting to see who wins out.

    Visit me @

  16. Great post….you may also want to check out some of the posts regarding this issue over at

  17. Racism and sexism were allowed to be hidden subjects until Clinton and Obama ran for president. Now people are being forced to talk about them. It’s less taboo now. Posts like yours help to keep the dialogue out of hiding, it’s great. Keep up the good work, and keep speaking your mind.

  18. I just want to say that you inspire me. You rock. I just had a conversation with my 83 year old grandma who told me that she voted for Obama in the primaries. I was thrilled. Of course, in the next breath she told me that my 93 year old grandpa (on my dad’s side, not her husband) had just informed her that he — a hard-core democrat — was voting for McCain this year.

  19. In a word Brilliant! How is it I did not know of you before now!

    I came across your blog on twitter via the “conversation” last night with noahdavidsimon (you were far more engaging with him than I was).

    Thank you for this piece, very well done.

  20. I really hate how race is being brought into this. If you don’t like Obama, you’re a racist now? How is that progress?

    Obama comes across to me as the classic slimy car salesman or greasy lawyer/politician. He never gets flustered and has not just an answer for everything, but a perfect 30 second sound bite. He’s so smooth and polished that I don’t relate to him at all.

    Hillary, on the other hand, seems more human to me because she’s not perfect. She definitely gets rattled and frustrated, which to me shows she’s got some heart.

    Obviously Obama is inspiring to a lot of people. I just don’t get it. To me it’s like watching the thousands of religious folk be wooed by a television evangelist.

  21. As a recent transplant to the heart of Dixie….let me just promise you this.
    Racism is alive and well.
    And very quietly not going to vote for Obama.

    I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying what I see around me.

    It sucks.

  22. I live elsewhere in the world. I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen of Obama’s wisdom and political style. I so hope that enough of you vote for him, so that the whole world can benefit from Obama himself and from the changes his becoming President will symbolise.

  23. I have been to Black churches, but I don’t need to be able to say that to say that Wright is a moron.

    He is not a moron because of his skin color, that has nothing to do with it. He is a moron because he says and does moronic things.

    He makes ridiculous comparisons that are not based upon fact, but upon some sick fantasy of his. Obama’s character is called into question because he didn’t question his mentor until it was made into an issue.

    The fact is that there has never been a better time in the US for “racial issues.” We have a Black man and a White woman a hairsbreadth away from becoming POTUS.

    That doesn’t happen in the America that Wright tries to describe. His comment that we brough 911 down upon us has as much truth as saying that a woman wearing a mini skirt is at fault for being raped.

    Blame the victim is never cool and never acceptable.

    But people like simplicity. They like going for easy answers and so some will flock to the simple lies that Wright peddles.

    How very sad.

  24. Racism and sexism are lifestyle choices, you should let people choose them if they want.
    Where i live they are accepted.

  25. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican.

    There is only one race the Human race. Some just have more or less pigment than others.

    Neither Democrat is qualified to run this country.

  26. Myrna Minkoff says:

    Speak on it, Erin! Amen!


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