HE HAD TO TAKE THE FIRST PUNCH,By Louise Annarino, October 11,2012

13 Oct

HE HAD TO TAKE THE FIRST PUNCH, By Louise Annarino,October 11,2012

This is what DAGOS and WOPS are taught by their 1st. generation immigrant mothers: “Never start a fight. Take the first punch. After that fight back.” I cannot speak for African-American parents because I am white. But, I can speak to the innate racism of white people because I am white which means I am a recovering racist; and for white bigotry because I have experienced it as a 2d generation Italian immigrant, a woman, and a Roman Catholic. I know the anger I swallowed when seeing Nazi swastikas painted ten feet tall on the wall of my Catholic high school gymnasium, when being spit on for being a dirty fish-eater, when being ignored by store clerks who waited on everyone who came after me when I was in my school uniform, for being refused interviews for jobs unsuitable for a woman, for being paid less than male colleagues with less education and experience while  performing the same job, when being dismissed by police officers when reporting a rape. Such experiences do not simply slide off a person, even one who quietly takes punch after punch. They settle deeply in the sinew and bone, weigh heavy on the soul, and slow down our response to future acts of bigotry.

Those who routinely suffer bigotry but want to make a good life for themselves and their children do what all ambitious but good people do. They become educated, self-aware and well-mannered, They learn patience and an ability to address bigots with dignity, kindness and a sense of common humanity. Often, this creates an illusion that bigotry is acceptable, even expected. It is neither. Why, then acquiesce in the face of bigotry? Why remain silent? In the Jim Crow south, African Americans faced not only the institutionalized racism of realtors, bankers, and politicians; but, public shaming, physical violence, severe injury, and even death for not moving off a sidewalk to allow a white man to pass, for keeping one’s head up and looking a white man in the eye, for using a white-only drinking fountain, or merely for showing up at a poll to vote.

We have learned that racial bigotry and jim Crow is not just a southern thing, but persists throughout this country. It has become institutionalized within our political parties, rather forcefully within the Republican Party whose policies do not attract diverse membership, and which seems to have succumbed to Teapublican leadership. The Democratic Party’s diverse membership subdues the racial bigotry within; but we must admit it still taints every white American, despite out best efforts. This is why I call us white Americans recovering racists, resisting our innate bigotry one step at a time.

We watched president Obama take the first punch during the first debate. We watched him looking down as the white man aggressively put him in his place. We cannot know why he did not vigorously fight back. But I know that had he done so he would have been attacked far more bitterly than Vice-President Joe Biden has been attacked for his vigorous effort  to keep straight the record of the Obama-Biden administration’s policies. Biden is being derided for is behavior, He is called rude for being a happy warrior, for immediately refuting each lie as it was spoken, for laughing at the most ludicrous comments by Congressman Ryan.

Can you imagine what President Obama, whom the right-wing Republicans define as a socialist-fascist-communist,un-American devil, would have been called? I know what white men call strong, assertive African-American men with the audacity to look them in the eye and challenge them. We all do. An African-American man, too often, must take the first punch;especially, if he is seeking the votes of the  3% undecided white voters. We saw the injustice of lies directed against him for what it is, an attack on at least 47% of us.

Some of us became angry with the president for taking those punches;because, we could feel them in our own gut. But, could we have done better with a first punch? Anyone who really understands what bigotry lay behind the demeaning language and verbally intense attack,anyone who had personal experience with such attacks would have shut down an immediate response to develop a strategy to emerge unscathed. Obama did not give Romney a chance to  define his image. An angry Black thug would not appeal to that 3%.

Things have changed as a result. Americans have given our African-American president permission to fight back and to throw punches at the white candidate. It should not be necessary for him to get our permission. Racism creates ridiculous rules. He will, never the less, be attacked much more severely than Vice-President Biden has been today. However, now we white voters are ready to see such attacks for what they really are: just as unfair and dishonest as Romney’s policies and tactics for taking back the White House.

I cannot speak for the president, for what he felt, or what his response meant to him. But, I know what it meant to me. Time to fight, Mr. President. We have your back.

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2 Responses to “HE HAD TO TAKE THE FIRST PUNCH,By Louise Annarino, October 11,2012”

  1. Anne Weideman October 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Fantastic article Louise! This one is going on my own FB page!

  2. Edith Cooper October 16, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    Right on target.

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