What an interesting week this has been in terms of ethnic and cultural relations in this country. As I wrote about in my last blog post, there was the crazy press conference of Marilyn Davenport, who felt it would be a hoot to send around a photo of the President as a chimpanzee. Additionally there has been the very ugly incident in the Baltimore area of the two Black girls beating the transgendered White woman almost unconscious in a McDonald’s.
Both incidents show that no matter how far we have progressed we still have a long way to go. And they also show that Whites are not the only people who can commit stupid and racist actions. No matter who commits such a despicable act, we need to call them out for it. Let me go on record and say that I am aware that the incident in Baltimore may not have been about the woman being White as much as it was about the girls finding what they saw as a man in the women’s bathroom.
But nevertheless their reaction was way over the top and completely uncalled for. People should not treat each other the way they treated this woman no matter what. And Marilyn Davenport’s action was equally painful considering the connotations of her “non-violent” act of hatred.
With both incidents happening back to back, I was beginning to feel that the dream of ever getting beyond this ethnic and cultural lunacy was just that, a dream. But then I noticed a breaking news report on local TV here in Los Angeles that changed my mood completely.
President Obama had been here in Los Angeles for a fundraising trip and was about to leave the city from LAX. The local news stations broke in to the scene at the airport as the President’s Marine helicopter was coming in from wherever he had been in L.A., as Air Force One awaited him. I turned my attention to the TV screen for this somewhat routine departure.
The helicopter landed on the tarmac. Two Marines marched up to the doors of the chopper in full dress and opened the doors, standing at attention for a moment, then raising their hands in a crisp salute as the President came through the chopper doors. President Obama saluted back and strode across the tarmac the short distance, with all the cameras, reporters, and military personnel, all transfixed on him as he walked confidently up the stairs to the open door of Air Force One. At the top, he turned, waved to the crowd, then entered the majestic jet.
It was a simple scene and one I had seen many times before. But this time it was different. For me. This time, what I saw, what made me smile in awe and gratefulness as I watched it unfold, was a brown-skinned, part Black man as the most powerful man in America and possibly the world. Those two white Marines and all the others there, were saluting the President of the United States. who happened to look like me and who got to this place because the American people chose him to be their highest representative. He represented all of us. This man had the responsibility of the whole country on his shoulders and he carried it well.
That short news report put the other two ugly incidents into perspective for me. There will always be bigots like Davenport and there will always be people, of all colors, like those two girls in McDonald’s, who represent the worst behavior possible. But what President Obama proves by his presence in the role of President, is that the American people can get beyond “race.” Not only does Obama symbolize that by the fact that he is both White and Black, but his election would not have been possible were it not the for the coalition and coming together of people of all ethnicities and colors who agreed it was time for a major change in who could run this country and what color their skin could be.
We are better than the Marilyn Davenports of America, who though they may try to belittle people of color, they cannot stop what is happening. And we are better than those two girls in Baltimore, who cannot seem to understand that violence is not the appropriate response to people we do not understand or may not like. The best that we are is symbolized by one man’s solitary walk across an L.A. tarmac, because what got him to that place was a country that can and does occasionally get beyond what divides us.