Character or Color?

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”- Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

Many Americans today will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for the day that “… this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

One year after his speech, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed but not without a fight. Many Americans today would be surprised to learned that it wasn’t Republicans fighting to filibuster the Act but rather Senate Democrats.

There was a 75-day filibuster led by prominent Senate Democrats such as Senator Robert Boyd of Virginia who spoke for more than 14 consecutive hours. It was a Republican Senator from Illinois, Senator Everett Dirksen, who worked tirelessly to obtain the two-thirds votes necessary to end the filibuster.

Yet, 51 years and a black president later, Republicans are cast as bigots who hate the president merely because he is black. In other words, not for content of character but for color of skin.

In 2008, I watched the presidential campaign from afar as I was living abroad at the time. I was intrigued when then Senator Barack Obama became a serious challenger to the presumptive front runner Hillary Clinton. I was intrigued that this man, who many did not know, was winning against an entitled “It’s my turn” candidate and at first glance I liked him.

He was young, had a beautiful family, spoke well, attended elite schools, seemed well-versed in the Constitution and seemed to support the Constitution. I especially liked that as a U.S. Senator he challenged President Bush’s request to raise the debt limit as being irresponsible.

And yes, I noticed the color of his skin, just as I noticed the color of his hair and his height – just as I notice anyone’s skin color, hair color, weight size, clothing, etc. To say I am color blind is sheer stupidity as it would be for anyone who says they are color blind.

However, to say I judge a person by the color of their skin is intellectually dishonest and lazy.

So it was with dismay when I learned the content of his character did not match his rhetoric, and as such I could not cast my vote for him.

That moment came when the issue of the Born Alive Act was raised. He was challenged as having voted against it in the Illinois Senate. When asked about his vote, he reported that it was not a stand-alone bill and as such, he wasn’t voting against the Born Alive part.

Me being who I am, researched the Illinois Senate records and read the transcripts from the bill’s debate. First, it was a stand-alone bill, meaning the bill contained no other subject but the one that would require a doctor to seek medical care for a baby who survives an abortion. Second, his comments on the bill essentially were that he did not want to inconvenience the doctors by requiring they seek medical care for any baby surviving an abortion.

This told me all I needed to know about his character. If a person would vote to allow a baby to die simply because a second prior to the baby’s first breath, the intent was to abort the baby, and because it would inconvenience the doctor, how would that person value my husband’s life? His words and vote spoke volumes and that was not a man I wanted as president or commander-in-chief. If a man could so callously think of life in terms of convenience, did I really want that kind of man making decisions that would affect my then active-duty husband and my family? The answer was a simple no.

There was also his comments about Republicans and how he would deal with them. During a June 13, 2008 presidential campaign fundraiser he said, “They’re going to try to scare people. They’re going to try to say that ‘that Obama is a scary guy,’… “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” he said.

Since being elected, his policies have reflected this mentality. Instead of upholding the Constitution, he has shredded any remaining boundaries between the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch through his use of executive actions and orders. He’s apologized to the world for what he perceives as American imperialism. He released five terrorists for a deserter. He has stated many times that those who have committed acts of terrorism will be hunted down, yet none have been. He touts the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but even then, he reluctantly gave the order after many requests to do so. His rules of engagement have reduced our military to nothing more than sitting ducks. I could continue… but I’m sure it’s clear that my decision to not support President Obama has nothing to do with the color of his skin, but his policies.

Yet even now, according to many, because I didn’t and still don’t support President Obama it is because he is black; however, that is not the case.

Last week (Jan. 12) on Outnumbered, Gerald Rivera said, “I think, and this is just strictly my constitutionally-protected opinion… I think that what is clear is that the nation was not ready for a black president.”

Oprah Winfrey said in a 2013 interview that, “There is a level of disrespect for the office that occurs. And that occurs, in some cases – and maybe even many cases – because he’s African-American.”

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist said in 2014, “Sadly I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American.”

Even the President said as much in an interview with The New Yorker published January 2014, “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President.”

These are but a few examples.

Many will use the example of Rep. Joe Wilson’s shout “You lie!” at President Obama when he spoke before Congress on health care reform to prove there is a dislike for the President because he is black.

Yet, the President did lie about health care reform when he sold it to the American people. After its implementation, many Americans discovered they could not keep their doctor as the President promised, and the options they had were severely curtailed and much more expensive.

The President also lied when he stated the Benghazi attack was the result of a Youtube video: a claim repeated by his then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

However, the art of lying predates his then candidacy and now his presidency. It was discovered that he lied in the book he wrote, “Dreams from My Father.” Then there is Acton & Dystel who served as Barack Obama’s literary agency. In a 1991 publication with brief biographies of it writers, Obama is described as having been borne in Kenya. This short biography surely would’ve been approved by Obama prior to publication, yet later President Obama claimed to have been borne in Hawaii. Where the President was borne is not the issue, it is the pattern of lying and manipulation for self-serving purposes that is the issue.

Lying goes to character, not skin color.

President Bill Clinton also lied; active duty at the time, I didn’t support his policies and he is as white as they come. Was I racist then?

For all those who will read this and make the claim that there are white people who voted against Barack Obama because he is black are no doubt correct; yet, are black Americans who voted for Barack Obama simply because he is black also racist? Were not both groups guilty of voting for a man solely based on skin color?

Absolutely, but many conveniently leave this aspect out of the conversation.

And I would propose that there were far more voters who voted for him both times because he is black than there were voters who voted against him because he is black.

Which brings me back to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech.

I was raised to judge a person by the content of his or her character. My parents believe each person should be judged on the merits of his or her actions and those actions will tell the kind of person he or she is – and skin color has nothing to do with character. That is how I was raised and how I have lived my life every day.

Yet, there are many who would label me a racist because I have judged our President on the content of his character and have found his character lacking.

Now here is the moment that many people will bring up about how the President has been treated and that he’s been more harshly treated than any other president because he’s black. A short trip through time proves them wrong. I remember President George W. Bush being referred to as Hitler or Stalin more times than I can count; the number of derogatory names he was called and the caricatures of him as Hitler, Stalin or some other dictator abound.

Each president going back to the election of 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams has them being described in derogatory terms by the opposition. This isn’t new and President Obama surely isn’t experiencing anything all other presidents were sheltered from.

To describe people who oppose President Obama’s policies as racist shuts down the conversation, which is probably the point to such a claim.

What is a person to do? If the person claims he or she is not racist, that merely reinforces the label. It would be better for the person on the receiving end to ask the accuser to support the claim.

That is why I call this type of ad hominem attack intellectually dishonest and lazy.

I will leave you with my favorite part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech:

“I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

My favorite part of it is the part in bold because if that dream were to come to fruition, the rest would take care of itself and not only would all be judged on the content of their character but America would be restored.

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