Perception of Obama float worth conversation

 

The man in the above video, on The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, began by talking about the children immigrating into the United States from from Honduras and Guatemala. These are children who are being sent by their parents — on a trek through strange, often dangerous regions to a destination with no familiarity or level of comfort — in hopes of offering protection from the violence at home.

But as he continued talking, it was obvious his comments had nothing to do with these children. But that sentiment had to come from an island. Surely a vast majority of those involved in a protest in Murrieta, Calif., on July 4, had to understand that those being bussed in were children — scared, confused children who had no idea where they were or why they were there.

Well, maybe they’re simply misinformed. That sort of thing happens all the time, you know, with the liberal media twisting everything before we hear it.

Let’s give this guy a shot.

OK, three strikes. I’m done.

Perhaps racism does still exist. Perhaps people still ignorantly hate others based upon the difference of their skin color.

So, perhaps it’s not hard to understand why Glory Kathurima’s gut reaction to a float (below) in the 4th of July Parade in Norfolk, Neb., was that the float was rooted in racism.

Obama2

Wait, drop the perhaps. It’s not hard to understand at all.

I, myself, work in Norfolk. I’ve lived in the area my entire life.

Diversity isn’t exactly one of the selling points.

The 2010 census listed 88 percent of the city’s population as white, with just 1.6 percent of the population being African American.  And that 1.6 percent was up from the 1.16 percent as of the 2000 census.

Leave Norfolk, and diversity becomes even more hard to find.

For that white majority, it’s easy to say racism isn’t an issue. After all, when 990 of the people in a room look like you, there’s not much discomfort.

But if you’re one of the 10 who look a little different, eyes are likely to be drawn your way. That’s human nature, not racism.

But that’s not to say racism doesn’t exist in Northeast Nebraska.

Largely aimed at a growing Hispanic population while I was growing up, comments aimed at the growing minority weren’t uncommon among those my age. But they weren’t uncommon among the adults around us either. And it was certainly rare that an adult would put a stop to the comments being made, even if that adult didn’t agree with what was being said.

But the comments didn’t stop with Hispanics.

After all, when your entire audience is white, you’re not going to offend anyone.

But we should all be offended when skin color is looked at as the defining point of a person.

If someone starts a story with, “I was at Target this morning, and there were these two black ladies there,” stop them. Ask them why the ladies’ skin color is of any significance in the story.

Why?

Because it’s not. It never is.

Chances are, if that person would have been at Target an hour later, the same story that followed the race-dropping opening line could have begun  with, “I was at Target this morning, and there were these two white ladies there.”

Yeah, I know it’s subtle. It’s not telling a legal immigrant to go back to Mexico simply because we’ve heard others say the same. It’s not assuming the black man on the other side of the street has a gun because Tupac was shot.

But the comments — whether blatant or subtle — create perceptions, and those perceptions lead to tension — especially when the glances of perception aren’t coming from your eyes but are directed toward your presence.

Again, when you’re one of those 10 in a room of 1,000, whether your discomfort is real or perceived, it’s there.

That’s why the float in Saturday’s parade was easily perceived as a racial shot at President Obama, especially before the float’s creator — Dale Remmich — claimed three days later that the zombie-like figure attached to the outhouse was a depiction of himself rather than our president.

Like Kathurima, my initial reaction was that the figure on the float represented President Obama. The zombie-like figure on the float, when I saw it, reminded me of the old “cotton picker” caricatures.

And, even having read what Remmich said, it’s hard to deny the resemblance.

Having said that, Remmich should be taken at his word. After all, if a man makes a claim, it should be taken at face value until proven otherwise.

But the growing social-media sentiment that the float shouldn’t even have been perceived as racist is ridiculous — regardless of one’s political views.

The divisive political state of our country, which seems to expand on a daily basis, is impossible to deny. And while many of those who disagree with President Obama do so because of his political views and/or presidential record, a larger number than are willing to admit still haven’t come to terms with the idea of a black president with a Muslim-sounding name.

For example, the guy in the anti-America, anti-Christian, anti-white video above.

Like him or not, our American-born Christian president with a white mother and black father is none of those.

But the drum has been beaten long enough that perception, to some, has become reality.

So discounting a perception based on the initial reaction of another to a moment filled with the elements of the perception while simultaneously living in a reality based on a perception that has been factually discounted seems a bit insensitive.

And maybe that’s the point.

Hey, #Belding, go shoot your hopes and dreams . . .

You’ll have to excuse Nebraskans for terrible bracket performances this year.

See, we’ve been through the lifetime of a first-time driver since the last time Nebraska’s basketball team reached the NCAA tournament. That’s 16 years.

The last time the Huskers played in the tournament, diapers were made of cloth and the only way to get a close shave was to go to the barber.

OK, it hasn’t been that long. But cellular telephones were a luxury that only the likes of Zack Morris could afford. That blond Tom Cruise.

So pardon Nebraskans for pinning their hopes and dreams on the reconciliation of 16-consecutive hopeless springs. It’s not our fault that we didn’t understand Mr. Belding’s call for us to shoot our hopes and dreams had nothing to do with making our picks.

Or anything in the real world, for that matter.

But not only were the Cubs fans of NCAA basketball given a reason to come out of our basements for the first time since Y2K scared us downstairs, we were lured in even further by the Creighton trap.

Yep, our little brother — the one with the good job, the pretty girl, the sweet cars, the cool neck tattoo and the vacation home in the Ozarks (because, you know, the Ozarks are the coolest place in the world to Nebraskans) — was going to be waiting for us in round two (Oops, it’s the third round now). And, if we played our cards (or basketball) right, we’d be able to steal his cars, sweep his pretty girl off her feet and laugh at his stupid neck tattoo.

We never thought they were cool to begin with.

Of course we were going to pick Nebraska to beat Baylor. Asking us not to would’ve been like asking Jem not to be truly outrageous.

Nobody would dare do that.

So we all picked the Huskers, thinking that — despite the ghosts of tournaments past that fueled losses to Pennsylvania and Xavier and one of those stupid New Mexico teams — the idea of a Nebraska-Creighton matchup in the NCAA tournament was not truly outrageous.

Going a step further, even if our brains told us otherwise, how could we pick Nebraska to lose to Creighton? Even if they did meet, and Doug McDermott scored 137 points to lead Creighton to a win, the mirror would have served as a haunting reminder of that our image bears more of a resemblance to Benedict Arnold than Jason Priestley.

Oh, right, it’s not the ’90s anymore. Priestley isn’t America’s heartthrob.

Sixteen years, man, give me a break. I don’t even know what a Justin Bieber is or if I really need Miley Cyrus detection for my computer. I am — we are — stuck.

But after Nebraska beat Creighton and then topped the same Wisconsin team it got past in the season finale to secure a tournament berth, we’d no longer be stuck. We’d be in the Elite Eight — where anything is possible.

But, as Nebraska coach Tim Miles slowly exited the arena following the oddest ejection in the history of Nebraska basketball, we realized our bar was too high. We had forgotten that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Yep, we got ahead of ourselves. We put Facebook before MySpace. MySpace before Hotmail.

We jumped on Twitter, told the world of our greatness and forgot to use a hashtag. Didn’t even know what hashtags were, most of us thinking they were the cards used  by customers at herbal medical outlets in neighboring Colorado.

And here we are now, staring at a bracket was shattered when Nebraska was penciled into the Elite Eight but could still be saved by the fact that Mercer is written into the Sweet 16.

It’s kind of like that new Alanis Morrisette song. What’s that called?

Oh yeah, Ironic. That one.

Yep, kind of like that.

Not really, but kind of.