Ok Middle Class White Male, Let’s Talk About It Then

To My White Middle Class Friends and Acquaintances: This one is all about you.  Let me start with some words spoken by the outgoing President.  These quotes are from his last speech.

If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.

For blacks and other minority groups, it means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face — not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who, from the outside, may seem like he’s got advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change. We have to pay attention, and listen.

I’ve heard the dialogue for the last several years:

White males in this country feel left out.  The ‘left’ only care about their liberal sensibilities which include minorities and immigrants.  Since 2008 we have been neglected and our interest are no longer prioritized.  This is why I voted for Donald Trump. I may not agree with everything he says.  But he cares about the needs of me and my family. 

jjs-001

I have found these sentiments both alarming and insulting.  There are a plethora of reasons that I won’t get into as this is not about me.  Against my first thought I recently picked up and read a book called, “Hillbilly Elegy,” A Memoir of A Family and Culture In Crisis, written by J.D. Vance.  The book focused on what would seem to be the idea Trump voter.  Vance grew up in Rust Belt towns in Kentucky and Ohio.  They are the epitome of  America’s white working class America.  I was hesitant to give it the time of day initially.  I knew that Vance was going to attempt to explain a group of people who have some ideas about people who look like me that I wouldn’t find amusing.  But I kept hearing it wasn’t that simple. With that I scooped it up.

I found the book to be riveting.  I found parts of his family to be a little crazy.  I also found some of them to be endearing if not equally tragic.  Even with some ratchet behaviors that could rival any family’s, they had their principles, values and specific codes they lived by.  They are perfectly understandable codes.  I was able to understand more than I previously figured.  But that didn’t exactly allow me to understand why and what it was that promoted this mindset that they were being mistreated or disenfranchised in whole or in part because they were Caucasian.  I didn’t understand what was so attractive about a man like Donald Trump to them.  What was he telling them that endorsed these ideas of victimization and more importantly what did they believe Trump would actually offer them?

I tried to get these answers previously before the election.  But I couldn’t get a straight answer.  I got soundbites and talking points about the opposite candidate.  But I never got anything concrete that I could believe or take seriously.  I don’t even believe the people telling me these things believed them either.  But nevertheless, I write this today asking for understanding.  I ask this in all sincerity.  What is it that white males are going that’s different than what I’m dealing with?  How are your needs been neglected what are you afraid of someone else getting that you won’t because you happen to be a White male?

There is but one condition.  While it’s not mandatory to agree, the conversation must be 100% intellectually honest.  There is no reason to waste one another’s time.

You talk, I’ll listen, then we shall see if there is a an opportunity for more dialogue.  I am seriously and honestly wanting to get this.

But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.  If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. – President Barack Obama

 

 

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Obama vs Errbody! Part 1 “Am I Dreaming? In my Lifetime?”

Obama vs. Errbody is a series of short post summarizing my personal view of the 44th President of the United States…who happens to be Black.

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009.
(Photo by Pete Souza)

Mentally I comprehended the victory of Barack Hussein Obama II on November 4, 2008.  All the votes were in.  His 332 electoral votes were official.  All the networks had confirmed this victory. Social media was abuzz all over the world. As he stood in Chicago’s, Grant Park on November 4, 2008 in front of some 240,000 excited citizens, it had all the makings of a historical moment.  The Illinois senator was to be known as the first African-American president.  Still it was a surreal moment for me.  Through the election season he was drawing record crowds whenever he appeared onstage.  A multitude of people would gather as if he was a rock star of epic proportions.  Now, in spite of my disbelief, the reality was that I witnessed something that I never thought I would during my lifetime; if ever!

On January 20, 2009 President Obama was inaugurated.  This too was a monumental moment filled with hundreds of thousands of people flooding Washington D.C.  This despite the rather blustery and frigid weather.  A who’s who of performing artist, movie stars such as Spike Lee, Kerry Washington, Hill Harper and Bradley Cooper just to name a few joined a multitude of American idealist looking to witness and embrace; something they could tell their grandchildren.  It started to dawn on me just a little bit more.  A man that looks like me, is the President of the United States!  But it wasn’t 100!  I kept believing that someone would snatch the moment from me, from us.  There would be some legal technicality revealed just for this occasion.  There would be a Supreme Court decision led by Scalia and Thomas in order to thwart this moment.  Surprisingly, and at least publicly, no such diabolical plan surfaced.  But I still wasn’t 100% convinced in the reality that my country pulled this off.

A month or so later I went to the social security office.  I don’t remember what for.  Perhaps because the most significant moment for me during that visit had nothing to do with why I went there in the first place.  All I remember is that after getting my number, while waiting in a chair for my number to be called, I saw a photo on the wall.  It was the photo that changed the game for me. Where I recall seeing Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and then another Bush in my public schools, the United States Air Force, and then state and federal governments offices, including the DMV and now the social security office, was a photo of Barack Obama.  Striking a rather benign pose, in a blue suite, with the flag behind his right shoulder looking presidentially astute, was indeed… The President.  This was the moment that I was fully persuaded that the man of Kenyan descent, by way of Hawaii, Harvard, then Chicago’ a man with cocoa skin, was the President of the United States. It was legitimate. It was real.

The Politics of Race, Religion, and the Person of Jesus

This is a serious question for my Evangelical Christian friends who are hoping that Mitt Romney is the next president of the United States. I am not being flippant at all but wanting to understand a question central to your faith in Jesus and the way you generally express that faith as it relates to local and national politics.

My question is how do you justify supporting Mitt Romney for president when he is a Mormon?

My personal experience in church, evangelical churches in particular focuses on the central personhood/divinity of Jesus Christ as not only the Son of God but being God Himself.

Matthew 16:13-18

13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

This has been the litmus test for a ‘legitimate Christian’. And truth be told regardless of the denomination, this central core of the identity of Jesus at the very least united the fold.

Romney_2012_04285Mitt Romney

This is slightly different than Catholics.  Even the hard right ones tend to vote for the political persuasion of candidates rather than looking for them to specifically be Catholics.  JFK is the one Catholic president we’ve had.  Therefore, being Catholic is not a deal breaker when voting for president.

Evangelicals don’t share that same standard.  For instance, George W Bush’s conversion to Christianity after alcoholism was a really big deal to White and Black Conservative Christians.  In addition to his alignment with the pro-life, anti-gay, anti-stem cell stances, he was an easy choice religiously; so much so that the rest of his politics were automatically supported.

The subject of Mormonism had come up earlier in the primaries.  Initially the Evangelical community were tremendously reticent on supporting Romney for this reason.  It was only after the likes of Perry and Santorum were dismissed that the litmus test was rescinded.  

In the Christianpost.com, a potential conflict played out between the views of mega preacher Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston and Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas differed.  Osteen who many would consider a less controversial and less confrontational preacher said he accepted Romney as a ‘believer’ in Christ.

Said Osteen, “What I see about Gov. Romney is that he says ‘I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He’s raised from the dead and he’s my savior.’ I see him as being a believer in Christ like me.”

Contrast this with Robert Jeffress, who said, “Rick Perry’s a Christian. (Former presidential candidate) He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity, it has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

Jeffress-copy-264x200Robert Jeffress

This certainly fits with what I understood Christians to believe for many years now.  I was taught this about Mormons in my own church experience.  More specifically, the differences centered on several scriptural beliefs that including the one aforementioned regarding the person of Christ.  Here are more from an article also posted in Christianpost.com.

Other differences that Mormons don’t believe that are key to Christian doctrine are items such as the Trinity.  Mormons don’t believe in it. Nor do they believe in original sin of Adam, salvation through grace and faith in Jesus Christ, and among other things that the Book of Mormon is equal to the bible.  Further study of Mormonism would reveal a lot more than that Christians would find strange and rather off beat in comparison to their own beliefs.  I won’t get into those specifics here but I wanted to focus on core doctrinal differences in posing my original curiosity.

Ironically enough, since Romney became the Republican nominee Jeffress has now changed his tune saying that he endorsed Romney all along.  He goes on further to say that President Obama ‘opposes biblical principals.’

Lets just see now… Barack Obama, Christian man who has been married to one woman, father of two, the quintessential family guy, claims Jesus Christ as his savior,  church going and former community organizer opposes biblical principals.  This president even targets his policies and campaign partially on issues that Jesus Himself found important according to scripture, i.e. the poor, the downtrodden, the sick and so forth.  But the Mormon whose religion Christians have been calling a ‘cult’ for decades, who has not done anything to show forth the works and concerns of Jesus in the marketplace should now get the vote over Obama?  It doesn’t add up!

First Family 2President Obama & Family

Strangely enough, Jeffress believes Romney and other Mormons are going to hell.  He also says that he believes that President Obama is a Christian.  But yet he will vote for the man he believes is going to hell not the one he believes serves the same lord and savior he claims to serve himself.

Now in hoping that my friends on the right are willing to give me honest and sincere answers, let me first offer two answers that won’t cut it.

A) Obama is not pro-life.

I have yet to meet anyone who is pro-abortion.  The ability for a woman to choose whether to carry pregnancy to term has several complicated factors within it.  They range from poverty, rape, incest, life of the mother and so forth.  Church denominations have always differed in the level of importance they’ve held to this topic.  Most do not see this as a central theme of faith but a personal choice whose merits will ultimately be decided by God’s providence.  Even former Vice President Dan Quayle said that if his wife were raped and became pregnant she would have a DNC.  This is clearly a distinction without a difference.  The truth is that rich women have and always will be able to obtain the safest care in terminating a pregnancy regardless of the laws or what they claim to believe in public.  With all of these factors, surely one cannot with a straight face make a presidential choice based on an opinion that he has that is already the law of the land anyway.

B) Obama’s faith is not ‘like ours.’  Look at his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Christians cannot legitimately rail on Wright as an excuse to say bad things about Obama’s faith.  Not when they have their own pool of radical preachers who’ve said controversial things like Pat Robertson, who said of the US State Department in Washington DC, "Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up."  Then there’s Jerry Falwell who said, "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh’s charioteers … AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."  I can only imagine what would happen if Wright had said something encouraging terrorism and violence against American citizens.

Obama  has had one wife and two children.  He’s never had any family scandal, and his wife and kids are a reflection of the American dream.  They show what one can do when starting with little and making the very best of what they have.  They were not born into wealth.  They are both highly accomplished people in large part because they worked their asses off and on top of that, they used those talents to help others not just themselves.  Till this day.  President Obama’s biggest income generators has been the books he’s written.  This is more of an example of Jesus than any other candidate that has run for president in several decades in the least.

So I am asking for real answers.  It seems to me even when it comes to Christianity, many Christians are willing to compromise when it comes to the politics of race.  I can only imagine if President Obama were claiming some other religion where there was a history of polygamy, an unwillingness to ordain white men in ministry as recently as less than 40 years ago, there is no doubt to me that this religious thing would be a much bigger issue than it is now among White and Black evangelical Christians.  He would be perceived as having an un-American womanizing anti-Christ belief system. Right leaning Christians would easily be comfortable rallying against him all the way through November on faith principals alone.  Instead, right wing Christians have totally given Mormonism a free pass, while turning their backs on the Christian already in the White House.  I’m merely curious as to how it is justified.

Things I Will Remember Regarding the Inauguration

President Barack Obama told a crowd at the National Mall that America's challenges are real.

* Michelle Obama was CLEAN!  She will definitely be a who’s who of setting a precedence for fashion at an affordable rate.  Her J-Crew outfit she wore the other evening on Letterman for instance says a lot about how a woman can look her finest without spending huge amounts of money.  (Are you paying attention Sarah Palin?)

* Both Rick Warren’s and Joseph Lowery’s prayers were special and timely for different reasons.  They were also heartfelt and sincere.

* Those armored protected Caddy’s were hot!  I would love to ride in one of those!

* The crowd!  OHHHHHH the crowd!  The American people were IN THE HOUSE!  Watching it on TV I could still feel the energy.  It was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen. 

* President Obama’s speech was awesome and truly inspiring.  He optimizes for me having the presence of walk softly while carrying a big stick.  Make no mistake about it he IS the president.  And he made it clear that there is a new direction.  But he did it in a way that embraces our friends, opens the door for new friends, while letting enemies know not to sleep on the United States.  In other words, to quote an old African proverb… “Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya.”

* The Obama girls are beautiful and it will be a pleasure to see them grow up. 

* It is no coincidence that President Obama was the first president to take office the day after Martin Luther King Day. 

* They got to be lying when they said that Dick Cheney hurt his back carrying boxes.  What the heck?  Dick Cheney moves his own boxes?  I just can’t wrap my brain around that.   

* “Air And Simple Gifts” is an awesomely beautiful piece.  And if they managed to actually play it in those temperatures with cold wooden instruments, that’s even more amazing.   Regardless I need a copy of that!

* The whole process of transferring power from one administration to the other is a most majestic thing.  Former President Bush was also a gracious host – it was a first class event and something I will never forget.

Things I Hope Black Youth Learn from the Obama Presidency

Sen. Barack Obama will take a break from campaigning so he can visit his ailing grandmother.

Things I hope will inspire black youth regarding an Obama’s presidency: 

 

1. It’ts cool to be smart.  (I don’t want to ever again hear that to be smart is to “act white.” We come from a history of brilliant people!)

 

2. You can be both smart and cool at the same time.  (Look at the picture above!  Tell me who looks cooler than this cat?)  Plus he balls too like many of us.  The point is he balances his ball and his business!)

3. You can keep a calm demeanor when your haters come at you.  (Notice he didn’t say anything about Hillary, Palin, or McCain “disrespecting” him in the campaign. Even as some of his opponent’s supporters were calling for his life, < remember when Hillary went with the assisination comment earlier this year> he still kept his cool. )

4. Who you choose as a life partner is a vital decision, and he is all about home.  (For a man, women can either be king makers or dream killers.  Michelle is a real winner and she’s obviously his backbone.  Speaking of home, want to know what the Pres. Elect did the morning after the election?  He took his girls to school.  He understands his role as a father!  He even read books to his younger daughter consistently, even if he meant doing it from the campaign trail over the phone.)

5. You may or may not ever be president, but you can make something of yourself if you set goals and work towards them without quitting!  (There is a difference between reasons and excuses. Reasons may be stumbling blocks or circumstancs that cause delays.  But they can be oversome with the right game plan, hard work and perseverance. Excuses are just that.  They are the beginning of a lifetime of failure and demise.)

 

Pick One

Barack and Michelle or Will and Jada (Coolest couple to hang with for a night)

Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles

Denzel Washington or Billy D Williams (heart throbs in their prime)

Denzel or Sidney Portier (acting skills only)

Dianne Carroll or Ruby Dee 

The Grammys or the AMA’s

Bird or Miles

Venus or Serena

Cracker Barrell or IHOP

The Pope or the Dalai Lama (to dine & have have an open and honest dialogue with about religion & world affairs)

Malcolm or Martin (one conversation…why)

OJ or Clarence Thomas (black folks that black folk don’t care about the most)

OJ or Osama (person of color Whites hate the most)

Rush or Hannity (most ignorant racist in media)

The Five Heartbeats or The Temptations

Hannible Lecter or Kevin Spacey in Se7en (coldest criminal)