RABBIT RAMBLINGS: The legacy of race in politics


As my readers already know, I have strong opinions on most things, and I try to be true to my feelings when writing this column. I’m giving you a bit of a warning on what I am going to say here, because it may offend and upset some folks. But, like I say, I’m an old lady and I refuse to spend any time being nice and polite even though I sometimes have a little internal struggle over not being a nice Nisei person.

So, here is my opinion about the American political scene. No matter what your political bent, it would seem to me that there are many things that we need to settle for the benefit of the country as a whole, for our future well-being and security. We badly need more jobs, more infrastructure repairs and decent education for our children. We need to insure clean water and soil, etc. You all know what I’m talking about. And some gun control too. We need a full complement of judges and department heads and all those appointments that are being held up. We know that we are a rich country that can afford to do all these things and sometimes it seems to me that we are in danger of slowly slipping away into second tier status on many levels.

Why are things going this way? What possible reasons are there for this situation? To me, it seems that there are forces and factions in our society that are devoting all their energies and efforts to making sure that the first African American president that we’ve had fails in office. I clearly understand the divide between conservatism and liberalism, and it is real and potent. However, it is really hard to see why there is so much gridlock in our government, such polarization.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may not have succeeded in making Obama a one-term president, but he can certainly try his hardest to make his presidency a failure in terms of accomplishments. I am not looking for miracles or mass conversions to my point of view, or for the basic political structure of our nation to be changed. Our government has worked well in the past, or at least gotten things done, particularly in investment for the future in way of a great educational system and in research and development. I am the beneficiary of many of these past programs and my family is middle class as a result of the opportunities that were given to us.

It did seem like a major breakthrough when Barack Obama was elected to the presidency, and it was thrilling to see our country represented by this smart, attractive, highly educated person of color. Yes, we are an exceptional country, aren’t we? It was an affirmation of American values everyone can aspire to succeed on the highest level in spite of skin color and ethnic background. I can now imagine an Asian American president or vice president in the near future. Why not?

But there are probably a great many people out there who would not be very happy with that happening. After all, yellow people are sort of threatening, aren’t they? Japan was thought to be really economically scary back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and now, China looms large as a rival and competitor. That’s a lot of negative imagery that has to be overcome before a yellow face could be a presidential candidate.

With Obama, it’s a somewhat different story because the legacy of slavery and segregation still rests so heavily on big parts of our country. To let him achieve real success in governing our country is to admit that, given a chance, black people are just as capable as anyone else, that they are, yes, equal in all respects. When you see the polls that show that large percentages of Americans think that Obama is not a “real” American, that his birth certificate is a fake, that he is a secret Muslim, etc. etc., I sometimes feel a real despair.

So, like it or not, race is going to play a big role in our political life for a long time, or at least until a contingent of old, angry white guys (and women too) die out. It’s an ugly thing, a sad thing, and I guess it is a part of our history and heritage that we have to understand.

Chizu Omori, of Oakland, is co-producer of the award-winning film “Rabbit in the Moon.” She can be reached at chizuomori@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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