Milt Hankins: It's time for us to stop avoiding the obvious
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of two parts of a column on the same subject. The second part will appear next Friday on the Opinion page.
I swore to myself I would never write this article.
I've had no problem confronting bigotry, prejudice and discrimination, but to write about racism per se has been repugnant.
The time has come, however, when I can no longer act as though the subject is taboo.
Racism is real; it must be addressed, and now is the time.
Occasionally, I catch a slip of the tongue or observe an "accidental" slight.
I overhear the "N-word" and try to pass it off as regional or what people of color were called "back then."
A friend from Mississippi frequently used the term, but he knew I disapproved. When my brother, a Floridian, uses it for shock value, I confront him.
I'll admit my gullibility. I thought when we elected an African-American president, we had turned the corner and racism had magically disappeared.
How could I have been so naïve?
Now, whenever the subject rears its ugly head (especially during campaign seasons) it's referred to as playing the "race card."
Well, so be it. Whatever it's called, it's pure and simple racism, and it's completely unacceptable!
A Republican acquaintance of mine remarked that the dress Mrs. Obama wore for her DNC speech "looked like a bathing suit top with a skirt attached.
"Has she just returned from another vacation?" she asked. The thought never entered my mind at the time, but her implication should be as clear to you as it was to me.
In social situations in this area, several people (more than I like to think) have said to me that they could never vote for Obama because he's a black man.
Generally, they did not use the polite terms "black man" or "person of color." When I called one man on it, he said, "Well, I call a spade a spade!" He didn't even realize he was using a racial slur -- or perhaps he did!
It is my humble opinion that the primary reason why West Virginia, an overwhelmingly Democratic state, and Kentucky did not support Barack Obama in the last election was strictly a matter of racist indignation -- that a black man might be elected president of the United States.
And, they've been angry about it ever since he was inaugurated.
Can we not have noticed the disrespect toward President Obama?
Bill O'Reilly interrupted the president 48 times in a 15-minute interview, and Fox wonders why the president avoids that network.
Gov. Jan Brewer shook her finger in the president's face, for goodness sakes!
Rep. Joe Wilson actually committed the unthinkable by heckling the president of the United States during a speech before Congress.
Bill Maher said, "The disrespect shown towards President Obama is rooted in racism and that 'Obama's had to be the Jackie Robinson of American politics -- never reacting to taunts from the stands.'"
Neither Richard Nixon nor Bill Clinton, for all their failings in the Oval Office, brought the disrespect that has rained down on President Obama.
Isn't it time we stopped avoiding the obvious?
Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.