Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fall of the Mighty Whities Part II: The Gift of Visibility

Mitt Romney chalked up his loss to Obama giving gifts to certain people, the 47% he infamously spoke about, effectively buying their votes. These gifts included health care coverage on parents’ plans for individuals up to age 26; amnesty for the children of illegal immigrants who call themselves the Dreamers; partial forgiveness of student loans; and access to contraceptives. It’s nothing that Republicans haven’t been saying all along in one way or another, but Romney quickly found out that his GOP peers distanced themselves as if he were a pariah.
Newt Gingrich said, “I just think it’s nuts. I mean, first of all, it's insulting. The job of a political leader in part is to understand the people. If we can't offer a better future that is believable to more people, we're not going to win.”
Was his statement a revelation or the first step to hoodwinking the populace with a different approach? I don’t consider much of what Gingrich says as even close to the truth, so, of course, I suspect the latter. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be open to the GOP changing course, but at this moment, it seems unfeasible.
I was traveling for work last week and left my red swing state to arrive in a northeast blue state, so I had some time off from politics other than tuning into MSNBC in the evening back at the hotel. One night Ronald and I watched Chris Matthews together by telephone.
Ronald, on the other hand, continued his daily trek to the golf range where the white guys on the porch also talked about how Obama stole the election. I realize that 49% of America might not be happy with the election results, but, then again, many of us spent 8 years unhappy with President Bush, and there was a good deal more evidence of a stolen election back in 2000 than the skimpy evidence Republicans are holding up as proof today that the 2012 election was stolen from them. I’m finding difficulty in believing that it is something other than racism that is causing the backlash.
One very strange accusation came from Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster a week ago. He said, “dozens [and] dozens of Black people [came] in and voted on Election Day. Everybody has a right to vote but nobody in [these] towns knows anyone who's Black. How did that happen? We’re going to find out.” 
He later issued an apology. I guess he was like a social studies teacher I worked with when I student taught in the Syracuse City Schools back in 1978.
“The invisible poor,” she exclaimed in the faculty lunchroom one day. “I’ve never met a poor person. Do they exist?”
Yes, Virginia, they exist, and a lot of them are your students. Not only do poor people exist in America, but also blacks and Hispanics and Asians and Native Americans and mixed race people and gays and lots of others of all races, ethnicities, and socio-economic status. America is not just a country full of wealthy, heterosexual, white people.
Ronald discovered once again that he does not matter the way the white guys, who hang out on the porch at the golf range, matter. They had all taken out pictures of their wives to show one another. Ronald, trying to prove that he is just another American guy despite his dark skin, wandered over to the CRV to dig into his man bag for a photo of me.
A black guy, someone Ronald has spoken to on prior occasions at the golf range, stood next to his car loading his clubs into the trunk. Ronald showed him my photo and said he was going to show it to the white guys on the porch.
“You do realize where we live,” the other black guy counseled. “It’s not accepted down here.” (Note for new readers of my blog – I’m white and Ronald is black.)
“I know where I live,” Ronald said. “That’s why I’m showing it to them.”
He stepped back up on the porch and displayed the photo, taken at work for my ID card a few years ago. Two white guys stood up and left without so much as an acknowledgment. Another said, “I’ve seen that photo already.”
True, he had. Ronald had shown it to him and a couple of the other white guys on the porch before.
“You also met my wife,” he reminded him. The white guy and his white wife were dining one evening as we entered the restaurant and were seated at the booth directly behind them. Introductions were made, and, when they finished dining, they stopped at our table for another ten minutes of small talk.
“I don’t recall that,” the white guy said. Ah, the invisible interracial couple!
Sunday night Ronald, our daughter Mackenzie, and I went out for pizza and wings at our favorite pizza shop (okay, the ONLY pizza shop we patronize down here). The young white woman, who usually works behind the counter and who always hands Ronald’s debit card back to me, was off that night. The white guy behind the counter was friendly, called Ronald “boss,” and even gave us a discount card because he knows we eat there a couple of times a month.
One of the white guys from the golf range was sitting at the counter behind us waiting for his order to be completed. Ronald turned to acknowledge him but the white guy dropped his head. He later walked by our table to go to the men’s restroom, and he dropped his head then, too. Ronald had spoken to him often over the course of three years. They had shared bowling plaques and awards they had each won, like Ronald’s 299 ring, and they had spoken about golf.
Ronald told the white owner of the golf range about being ignored by the white guy when he went Monday to hit balls.
“Well, he probably didn’t recognize you out of context,” the white golf range owner told him.
“Why not? He’s seen me for over three years, and we’ve had lengthy conversations. I recognized him,” Ronald said.
“But he’s never really looked at you,” I told Ronald when he related his conversation with the white golf range owner.
The invisible black guy!
So I agree with Romney on a certain level that Obama gave us gifts. He gave us the gift of acknowledgement, the gift of mattering, and the gift of visibility. We are not invisible. We exist. Some people just don’t see us.
Ronald and Dianne in 1976

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