When Attorney General Eric Holder dropped the 2008 Black Panther voter intimidation case came out I was furious. The evidence had been overwhelming, including a video of club-wielding Panthers standing outside a polling place in Philadelphia threatening people as they entered.
Holder’s dropping of the case led to very reasonable accusations that the Department of Justice is perhaps ‘looking the other way’ in regards to cases involving minorities. This was bad enough to cause Bartle Bull, a DEMOCRATIC activist, to call the BP case ‘the most serious act of voter intimidation’ he had witnessed in his career. Bartle’s statement caused Attorney General Eric Holder to say this:
“Think about that,” Holder said in a subcommittee meeting. “When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, to compare what people subjected to that with what happened in Philadelphia, which was inappropriate.. ..To describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line for my people.”
That was the screaming headline following Holder’s statement from every media outlet in America. Instead of President Obama intervening and trying to pull Americans together, he was quoted soon after in a book by Kenneth T. Walsh accusing the Tea Party of racism.
All of Holder’s statements lead me to believe that the mode of operation in the Obama administration is to perpetuate an ‘us vs. them’ mentality in every aspect of life in America–and almost immediately after I became politically active, I experienced this firsthand.
When I first began reporting about the Black Panther case in 2008, I received the following e-mail from someone I had considered one of my best friends since elementary. Sadly, she fell for all the lies and unsubstantiated rumors the mainstream media had been steadily feeding her:
“It was not an accident that I dropped you from being my Facebook friend. You know that I have known you for most of your life and yours of mine. Some of your comments are almost racist. One of your posts about the Black Panther Party was interesting. Do you know why that party was started? There had to be something to help our people against the KKK and injustices we have been faced with. I understand the Black Panther Party and their fight.
The Obama administration has caused a division in this country. And yes, a lot of people do not like him because he is black. There are a lot of people who would be happy for us to remain ignorant and still be slaves. That is the truth and I know that. Reading about members of the Tea Party and how they spit on Black Congressmen as they enter buildings is different than your fight.
My mom always told me that racism is due to ignorance and uncertainty. When I saw your comments on Facebook, I was thinking do I not mean anything to you anymore. I also looked at some of your friends; scared me. One guy had a bandana around his face and a baseball cap saying something about ‘taking America back’. (He was a skin head.) Maybe you can help me out. I keep seeing signs saying “We need to take America Back”. Who has it, where did it go and who gave it away?
We can agree to disagree, but when little hints of racial comments spark, I have to step back. I am black, you know.”
Yes, I knew she was black—but I hadn’t considered her skin color one way or another until she wrote those words to me.
So what do you do when you get a letter like this? We exchanged several more soon after. I tried to convey to her that if two members of the KKK had been standing outside a polling place threatening people, I would have been just as furious and would have written just as vehemently as I did about the BP’s. I defended myself, and she defended her position that I was a racist. It ultimately ended with that killer of all friendships: Silence.
Sadly, this was the second friendship I lost due to my coming out of the ‘Conservative Closet.’ After reading another of my political articles, a former actor friend whom I had worked with and admired for many years wrote the following:
“I have endured hate and bigotry for a lot of years and I know where it comes from. Sometimes, we think we’re concluding on our own, not influenced, but we most times are being manipulated. I completely believe in the man in the Whitehouse. He’s been maligned by the best of maligners, like Glenn Beck and your Fox News people. These people are expert slanderers. What’s sickening to me is that they’ve convinced the whole Country. Something had to be done and Obama is trying to do it. I know the man, I can feel his heart. No underhandedness there. Just trying to get Republicans to work with him and what an obstacle that is.”
Before I could respond, he, too, dropped me from Facebook (and ‘real life’).
Because this was the second time I had been accused of racism, I did some major soul-searching. I re-read all my past articles, tried to see them through the eyes of my friends. But nothing I had written was based on anything other than research and facts and if anything, I had been especially careful when writing about the Black Panthers because of the volatile nature of the subject. What I assumed my friends knew about me was that as a writer/reporter I would have written and reported about anyone–of any race, creed or color–threatening innocent voters. I would have written about Tea Party groups if any of them had held racist signs or yelled racial slurs, or if they actually had spit on black Congressmen (as they were wrongly accused of). Right is right–wrong is wrong. Sometimes there are no gray areas.
I thought back on the many years of friendship I had with both my friends and I concluded that I—not they—had been the victim of racism. I had been judged because of the color of my skin (white) and because of my political leanings (Conservative/Tea Party/Republican). Neither of my friends would listen to me when I told them that I didn’t care what color Barack Hussein Obama was; I tried to tell them that I disagreed with Obama because of his policies, the content of his character and what he was doing to America, nothing more, nothing less. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t matter.
The loss of these two friendships has been devastating to me, especially my friend from elementary. She had practically been a member of my family; my mother taught her in high school, she visited me in California and I always visited her when I went home to Texas. But without even giving me the benefit of the doubt, she chose to defend Obama and extremists in the Black Panther Party instead of me, someone who had never considered her in any terms of ‘color’ whatsoever. People might say, ‘she wasn’t a friend in the first place’ but she really was—and my heart is broken to have lost her this way. I pray she’ll someday see the light.
The one thing both my friends were right about is that racism hurts; unfortunately what they don’t get is that in 2012 ‘racism’ isn’t reserved for one particular skin color over another.