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That’s what the kid up the street told my mother. “Your car window was shattered.”

I thought about the word. I was a little girl in the 60’s and it was new word with some interesting sounds. But what did it mean? I found out a few minutes later when the driver’s side window of my mother’s red Chevelle lay in tiny pieces on the ground, like little glass drops of rain, frozen in time the minute they hit the pavement.


We lived in San Pedro, CA, my dad’s home base while he was out cruising the Gulf of Tonkin and it was a turbulent year. There were riots and marches and speeches and even though our mixed and ethnically diverse neighborhood was for the most part quiet and safe, every once in awhile, windows would be broken as the anger and frustration spread.

My mother had grown up in a WASP town. She didn’t know prejudice because there just weren’t any black people there. It wasn’t until she went to a desegregated high school in her aunt’s neighboring town that she knew what racism was. She broke her wrist on a slating rink and her black girlfriend helped her up and walked her to her aunt’s house. Her aunt refused to let the my mother into her house until her black friend left, chased away with nasty words. My mother’s eyes were opened. But *she* was never racist. In all my life, I can not recall my mother treating *anyone* differently or disrespectfully. Use of the N word would be met with an immediate soap sandwich and we watched MLK’s appearances on TV with the interest of his devoted followers.

I can honestly say that if my mother hadn’t married young and had kids, I could have seen her working for civil rights like so many people I saw on TV at sit ins and marches and getting arrested. She briefly studied sociology and criminology in the Cal State system and was elected president of her freshman class but had to give up college because of my Dad’s military service. My mother never had to give up prejudice because she was born without it. My Dad had to work at it but over time, he too became enlightened. Maybe the tight quarters of a Navy ship gave him a new perspective on that. When we lived in South Carolina, I never wondered where the black kids were in my elementary school until my Dad walked me down the road to a fenced playground and the black kids were playing baseball on a dusty diamond. This, he explained, was *their* school. What did I think about that? I didn’t think it was right somehow, I said.

The shattered window was a symptom. It could be fixed. And anyhow, any violence my mother had experienced in her life was not at the hands of black people. She didn’t get overwrought about it.

Earlier this year, she told me how intrigued she was about Barack Obama. My mom got weird over the years. She was always a very religious person and the Republicans had worked their magic on her. She had left her Democratic roots and voted for Bush twice. My Dad died years ago but he was an independent who voted once for Anderson and probably would have been a Clarkie. But anyway, without my Dad’s moderating influence, she drifted right, lured there by the anti-abortion and terror ism crowd. But this year, she was ready to put that aside and consider Obama. (It took some work on my part to convince her that Hillary was the better choice but I digress). She liked him, she was inspired by him. She thought his african-american heritage was an asset. Obama could have had her-easily.

But then the Obama’s camp started smearing the Clinton’s with accusations of racism. Even my mother knew that wasn’t true. Then came the Wright videos and she saw a man who was still living in those turbulent 60’s, who couldn’t move on, who was disrespectful of Hillary and America, who was questioning my mom’s patriotism and that was that. You can’t be that close to a man for 20 years without sharing some common philosophy. Wright was a friend and Obama is being judged by the company he keeps. It’s fair.

But now, this person without prejudice is being called a “typical white person”. Her rejection of Obama is being called a racist response. In an attempt to guilt people into supporting him again, he has managed to paint all Democrats that do not support him with the same brush.

I don’t think Obama understands the Democratic party. Yes, there are still some people who cling to outdated notions of race. But we’re Democrats for a reason. And people my mother’s age knew what that meant when they picked a party on their voter’s registration card. We fight our natural tendencies, we strive to be open to differences, we work hard for the voiceless and labor and children. That’s who we are. To use the words “typical white person” demeans the effort of Democrats for decades to bring people together. It’s divisive. It separates us into little pieces.

It shatters.

33 Responses

  1. Just awesome…great post.


    The only thing I’d change is the “you’re” in favor of “your” in the beginning line.

    Those damn contractions get me all the time…:)

  2. Thanks. Those suckers are so easy to miss.

  3. Thank you, this is a brilliant analysis.
    I have never been a typical anything, and to be called one
    by the uniter is a bitter pill!

  4. Where have you been hiding? This is the best new blog I’ve seen in years.

  5. Excellent post. Thank you.

  6. riverdaughter: It well may true that Obama doesn’t understand the Democratic Party, but I have been tempted to believe he simply doesn’t care about it. I think Barack Obama is on a mission to augment his reputation and increase his prestige. What it takes to get there, he’s willing to do it.

  7. DCDem: I think you’re right. He seems to be targeting certain groups that he thinks he must win like AA’s, college age and pretentious progressive DINKS. The Democratic BASE, which is made up of a lot of women, elderly, GBLT and working class stiffs, he doesn’t give a toffee for. (I’ve always wanted to say that)
    So, why is he writing us off?

  8. Wonderful post, riverdaughter.

    You sound like you are close in age to me. Did you grow up in NJ, or move there later in life?

  9. riverdaughter – I don’t understand why he’s shunning the groups you mention. He thinks that these people will automatically vote for him once he knocks Hillary out of the running. He has even said so.

    I think Obama will start his own party if he doesn’t get the nom. It’s all about him.

  10. Litigatormom: Moved here in 1988. Lived all around the country from coast to coast and Hawaii. Went to 14 schools before I graduated. I calculated my odds of graduation based on some statistic and it’s amazing I didn’t drop out.

  11. Nice article. Below one of my favorite songs

  12. Poignant writing Riverdaughter, Funny, we lived near each other then.
    I was in Pasadena as a little girl. I think I was 5 when Kennedy…I can remember my mother sobbing–just stricken. Watching TV…

    It seems as if all the good things we’ve known are being stripped away, sometimes. Things we thought about the world. There is a post up at Dem Underground today on the vote, by a woman.


    I don’t like him, and his tactics on things. It’s like Florida all over again, somehow…He co-opts everyone for his own gain in speeches. And, he’ll turn me into a Republican. Something I never thought I’d ever say. My grandparents were wealthy Chicagoans who moved west during the crash of ’29 — as the Dustbowl was also getting underway. We are in those times again on Wall Street, I think. So very sad. Big business and what it has done to our country. I’ll try to find some good news today…

  13. pretentious progressive DINKS.


  14. riverdaughter,

    So you’re ;not a homegrown Jersey Girl. I moved to NJ before I was three (via the Bronx), and my parents and one of my sisters still in the state. Couldn’t wait to grow up and move to NYC — but never allow people to make NJ jokes in my presence.

  15. I’ve been lurking for about a month, but finally had to leave a reply just to say “WOW”. Best part…”That’s who we are”…made me feel proud.

  16. I am so glad to have discovered you! Your writing is poetry.

  17. Great piece. I am a little unsure, though, about the importance of the “typical white person” line. I haven’t heard it in context, and these Philadelphia sports-talk personalities–and that’s where Angelo Cataldi’s roots are, even if this show was about politics–definitely want things to be lively. So it struck me that Obama was doing a deadpan joke, a black man razzing his white hosts about what a “typical white person” would do. But I haven’t heard the actual clip, just read the transcripts. Is this plausible?

  18. Excellent post, Riverdaughter. Posts like this and others on your site remind me that, no matter what happens, I can be proud both of my continued support for Hillary and of the company I am keeping there.

  19. http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/03/obamas_problem_with_white_vote.html
    March 21, 2008
    Obama’s Problem with White Voters
    By James Pennington
    The racial dimension of Barack Obama’s electability problem is now apparent, but no prominent Democrat dares discuss it openly. Similarly expect no discussion of the subject in the major media.

    I found this last night, and it might be an anonymous post. James Pennington is both a former slave and a record producer from Detroit.
    But it does prevent a profoundly disturbing point of view of Obama’s wins and our country’s losses. We have had Reagan the racist, and the Bush the oblivious and misguided, and now Bush the dumb WASP Katrina responder.
    If we have made no more racial progress than this, it is a heavy indictment, but still not enough to put an inexperienced neophyte in charge of our immediate, perilous future……

  20. I may not have the giant intellect of the likes of Chris Matthews, Andrew Sullivan, Peggy Noonan and all these Big “progressive” bloggers who were drooling all over themselves after the “greatest speech ever given”, but I think I have a decent grasp of the English language. I have to say I re-read the speech and it didn’t impress me that much. To the contrary, I found the speech in many parts disturbingly self-serving. It is probably because I took the speech in its whole context, specifically what led to the speech and Obama’s entire attitude throughout this campaign.

    Channelling my inner Rumsfeld, I would start by saying:

    – “Was the speech well written? Yes”

    – “Was it well delivered? Yes”

    – “Did it have strong moments? Yes”

    – “Did it show how complex the race issue could be? Yes”

    I just took a part of the speech to make some of my points:

    For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism (*by not voting for Obama). We can tackle race only as spectacle (*which we certainly will if Obama is not made POTUS) – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina (*We didn’t treat Katrina as a spectacle, to the contrary people made donations, volunteered turned their back to George Bush for good. There is still a lot of private initiative going on today. The government failed b/c the Bush admin. is dysfunctional and incompetent but “we” were in amazing, in fairness) – or as fodder for the nightly news (*Actually the press kinda did it job on Katrina, for once. Our real problem is that we didn’t have Barack Obama as POTUS, nevermind that he was a highly visible national figure) We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election (*don’t do it because it would hurt Obama’s chances, but keep showing Rev Wright next to Bill Clinton), and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words (*we don’t have to wonder why he hung around those sometimes vicious sermons for 20 yrs). We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card (nevermind that Obama’s own campaign sent out a 4 page memo to the press, asking them to turn anything Hillary Clinton or any of her surrogates say into racism, nevermind that Michelle Obama told an AA audience in SC that Bill Clinton called Obama a “fairy tale”, nevermind Doug Wilder, McCaskill and John Kerry, nevermind Obama himself telling and AA audience in MS that Hillary Clinton leaked his picture in Somali garb) or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies (*those racist bastards! Maybe some of them don’t find him ready in matters of national security, maybe some of them don find him appealing, but you happen to be a white man and don’t vote for Obama…)

    We can do that (*by not voting for Obama)

    But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change (*but if we make Obama POTUS, we will move on to more important stuff)

    That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” (*And how do we do it, you ask? Well by making Barack Obama POTUS, you dummies!)

  21. MABlue, “disturbingly self-serving” indeed. That pretty much sums up the entire Obama campaign, perhaps his entire life.

    RD, excellent and thought-provoking post, as usual. Although this is somewhat off topic, I am curious about what your mother might have thought concerning the Obama campaign’s on-going attitude (I’m trying to keep this fairly civil, but I really wanted to say “hate campaign” rather than “attitude”) toward older white women. At least his latest, although inspired by his grandmother, is gender neutral on its face.

  22. Riverdaughter – what a great story. It was kind of you to share. Good for you that you didnt give up on school and have done so well.

  23. riverdaughter–

    What a brilliant and beautiful essay. I’m so sorry you lost your dad. Your mom sounds nice, and I’m glad she’s returning to her Democratic roots. And so many thoughtful comments. You have created a wonderful space for us here at The Confluence. Thank you.

  24. riverdaughter: yes.

    I don’t know if anyone saw Charles Krauthammer’s column in the WAPost online (sorry, no url) on Sen. Obama’s speech from early this week. He nailed it on several key issues, first, that Sen. Obama asked and answered his own questions, without every answering ours:

    “Why did you go back?”

    And mine: Why didn’t you confront your friend and pastor on his bullshit?

    Anyway…I am trying really really hard to not be resentful of being called stupid, racist, and bitter. I’m not bitter—I am cynical. There’s a difference, starting with the spelling.

    But how does the senator from Illinois expect me to take getting slapped repeatedly in the face and then vote for him? Or give him money? Or put his sign in my front yard?

    The mind wobbles.

    Gov Richardson was just on, endorsing Sen. Obama. Gov. Richardson is a smart and accomplished man. While I don’t agree with his decision, I am sort of relieved he’ll be on the ticket as VP if Sen. Obama gains the nomination.

    Was I not supposed to say that?

  25. Um, Ohio? Richardson certainly has done it all. But smart? No. Clever, savvy, intuitive, maybe. But he’s no braintrust. But you’re right about one thing, Obama needs him because he’s got the experience and the connections that Obama doesn’t have. It looks like Richardson is going to be Obama’s VP unless Obama is forced onto a Hillary ticket. But if Obama thinks he can win back the Hispanic vote in Florida with Richardson after having nullified their primary choice, I think it’s going to backfire.

  26. riverdaughter, well, I may be giving him the benefit of the doubt, then. Though savvy, intuitve and a clever clever goattee add up to something good, no?

    I wanted to let loose a little joke here, but I just read the DAILY MAIL fact-check of Sen. Obama’s bio.

    I really really hoped that at least the bio was authentic. I should’ve known it was all too good to be true—it’s all way too Hollywood/Horatio Alger. I expected things to be dressed up a bit, but–

    Hang on. What’s that? I know this feeling—it’s my righteous indignation that none of this came out before we got a party on the verge of a meltdown.

    Oh, bad language coming on. Must. Go. Outside. And. Crush. Something.

    What a feeling. (Used without permission of Boston.)

  27. MABlue — Good eye for subtext. Obama never goes anywhere without a phalanx of straw men. Lighting them up so everyone can see them is the name of the game.

  28. riverdaughter, I’m especially impressed about how you talk about your parents with respect even as your mom and you disagreed. You gave us reasons (issues) and an emotional context:

    She was always a very religious person and the Republicans had worked their magic on her. She had left her Democratic roots and voted for Bush twice. My Dad died years ago but he was an independent who voted once for Anderson and probably would have been a Clarkie. But anyway, without my Dad’s moderating influence, she drifted right, lured there by the anti-abortion and terror ism crowd. But this year, she was ready to put that aside and consider Obama.

    And you make it seem easy and obvious. But it’s a talent some of us can only envy.

    Thank you.

  29. This is one of the greatest posts I’ve read. Thank you!

    “We fight our natural tendencies, we strive to be open to differences, we work hard for the voiceless and labor and children. That’s who we are. To use the words “typical white person” demeans the effort of Democrats for decades to bring people together. It’s divisive. It separates us into little pieces.

    It shatters.”

    Your words so resonate with me.

  30. I just did a google search of feminists for hillary (no quotes)–we could all “tag” that? or title that? type that in and see what you get on page one, RD.

    I am really hating today. I can’t tell if it’s the moon, or the uncertainty that my old friends were all secretly harboring racist thoughts or Wright style hate all these years. It really hurts.

    He will do nothing to help the homeless.

    His agenda doesn’t include women. At all.

    I think that hurts the most about what O has done. He has shattered the Democratic Party with his own agenda.

    Should I feel bad that I helped the poor most of my life? Now I ask myself why? Why wasn’t I like a Michelle. Because I’m a feminist, and I’m white. The tension in the air is palpable out here–people are driving eratically and there are murders all over LA, every day– it’s the economy and it can only get worse.

    Only Hillary will look to the homefront–that is what is so sad. And think, all these guys were little kids who grew up during peaceful and prosperous years under the Clintons…now turning on them.

    Nobody is going to save them. I worry for the veterans coming back to nothing, and I worry that he is a neocon of the worst kind. I think what he has done is going to make a huge rift in the country–it feels scary, and considering the psyche of the nation right now, he is bad news. We need something safe. Of the three Hillary is the safest, then McCain, then him. Signing off a “typical white person”–

    a saddened typical white feminist person…

  31. What an absolutely fantastic post. I feel so at home here. I made a respectfully-disagree-with-you post on an Obama site (and this is not the first time) and got called names that were hateful. You captured just what I have been feeling since I heard the “typical white people” remark, and many Obama people are saying that if you take offense at that it shows you’re a racist. No, it doesn’t. Thank you for this terrific essay that goes right to the heart of the matter.

  32. riverdaughter, great essay, I’m also an army brat, born in Europe to Canadian father in the armed forces & German mother, moved to Canada in the early 90’s & been here ever since . Now i live in Edmonton, Alberta in my mid 20’s & i can honestly say that race has been used constantly as a means to divide people by engaging their fears of the unknown my whole life, and from i can tell from my exploration of history, all of co-called civilised human history. Now, if we have learned anything it’s that no matter what race we are, we all bleed red. So worrying about the race factor in these presidential campaigns seems like a waste of time, since their are human lives at risk no matter what decision we make. We need to wake up & realize that we affect each other every step of the way. As an American, i hope you have notice how much your elections influence world events. Now not to say that me, as a Canadian, i have no role to play, that would be absurd. But i can only do things in my own country, and as neighbours we do affect each other. Now there is an issue that, no matter if a republican or democrat wins, concerns me more than anything , the Security & Prosperity Partnership. This has been in the works since about 2005, with both our countries & Mexico having talks about how they make trade easier. They ask ceo’s, from every major multinational corporations that does business in North America, to come up with recommendations on how to proceed. Corporations don’t have our best interest in mind & never will. If you haven’t heard about the SPP, there is good reason. These proposal undermine every democratic right we have fought for in all 3 countries, and gives all control over natural resources, public health & “security” to entities who only care about greed. And it’s my opinion that is of utmost importance for all our sakes. I hope that by working together we can make sure that we keep the possibilities open to shape our countries the way that we, as citizens of them, want them to be AND not some group of power hungry lowlifes that have forgotten what it’s like be human. To all Americans citizens, may peace be with you …

    a friend from up north

  33. Wow this blog really died fast !!!! hello anyone

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