Sitting in a coffee shop Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a father and son, probably 4.
The young boy kept insisting his father read aloud the newspaper article the father was perusing.
“What’s that say? What about that? And that?”
“White man,” the father said, in his clipped native British accent, followed by, “White man, white man, white man.”
Since I had the same section spread out in front of me - the “Week in Review” from the Sunday New York Times, which chose to run mug shots of all our past presidents to illustrate a story about this country’s readiness to elect a woman or African-American to that office - I recognized the page and the two words he kept repeating.
I also appreciated the man’s challenge in trying to make the reading interesting.
It’s a challenge we all face, one way or another. The monotony - and blind stupidity - of the situation couldn’t have been better illustrated than choosing to list every president’s face.
So many whites. So many males. So many years - 217 to be exact.
How much longer can this continue?
I still can’t forget the remark Chris Matthews made the night of the Great Democratic Victory last month. He and others, trying to keep their cool about the overwhelming numbers in front of them, had another challenge, one they were really having trouble with. They were trying very, very hard to adjust to the gender of Speaker-of-the-House elect, Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi.
(She is the first Italian-American, by the way, to fill that post, something we didn’t hear much about - and the second in the presidential line of succession after the V.P.).
“It’s going to take a little while getting used to that voice, isn’t it?” Matthews opined. “Kind of like hearing chalk squeak the wrong way on the blackboard.”
Wha???? Did he really say that?
And here’s the kicker. As far as I know from reading numerous blogs, comments, letters and from watching too much television news, no one challenged that remark and Mr. Matthews, the last I checked, is still holding forth.
Of course, the same Neanderthals worrying about Pelosi, questioning Hillary and second-guessing Barack Obama wondered how we would ever find gravitas in hearing women read the news on radio or television. How could we trust what they say?
And now, shock of all shocks, women are down on the football field dissecting plays, analyzing strategy, second-guessing coaches, dissing quarterbacks and snagging interviews. Maybe it’s just the taverns I frequent, but as far as I’ve noticed no one is falling off their bar stools when the women hold forth.
Did Matthews and company think to mention how many other countries have either selected or elected women to posts of president or prime minister? Not that I heard. Maybe there were too many to list. Ireland, India, Israel, Argentina, Finland, England, possibly France. Maybe that’s why he didn’t mention it.
Yet we’re still having serious debates about whether or not this country can elect a woman - or an African-American - to the presidency.
Then again, I’m such a Neanderthal, I’m still trying to figure out how we can continue to call Barack Obama, with a white mother and a slew of white relatives, black. I’m so backwards, I’m still trying to figure out how we continue to employ the “one-drop theory,” the one that holds that a person with even a tiny portion of nonwhite ancestry should be classified as “colored.”
On the face of it, is this the most racist thing or what? Yes, it had a time in history. But people are still hewing to it.
Of course, it’s not just in this country. By some standards, all the British Royal Family, as I read in Wikipedia, might be of African ancestry because of descent from Margarita de Castro e Souza, a Portuguese of possibly mixed origins. Wikipedia also cites the case of Prime Minister of Sweden, Frank Reinfeldt, who, according to the one-drop rule should be classified as black since his paternal great-great-grandfather was a mulatto from New York.
But there are a lot of things I don’t understand.
Heck, I’m still reeling from Jack Kingston’s bellyache about having to work a little more for his money as this excerpt from the Washington Post says:
“Keeping us up here eats away at families,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families - that’s what this says.”
Aside from a mention by Connect editor Jim Morekis in his blog, I haven’t seen one other complaint - or guffaw - about such tripe.
The fact is, come January and the new Congress, the lawmakers will start working Monday - at 6 p.m. And will end midday on Friday. Gosh, I hope Jack can swing that.
The good news is we have a younger generation beginning to find its voting voice. One that is used to hearing women on the news and the gridiron, accustomed to seeing African-Americans in power.
But will that be enough?
We can only hope.