Saturday, October 18, 2008

Responding to Hate-Speech in Senator Obama Email

The following was composed in response to a hateful email passed on by my aunt to our family, with the introductory remark, "Just thought I'd "spread the wealth" info." In the comments section, I've posted the follow up communication between my aunt and myself. To read the original email, click here.

I find this sort of thing deeply disturbing, but always an opportunity for questions and education; that is, when we take the time to address this kind of communication. I offer my response for any of you also navigating hate-speech and such fear-tactics within your families, friends, correspondents.


"A phrase that keeps ringing in my ear -'Beware of the enemy from within!'"

This is the most powerful line in this email to my spirit.

How serious are you in forwarding this?

As I read this, the fear of Senator Obama as a Muslim, whose life has been funded by people of middle-eastern upbringing, education, wealth, seems to run rampant. (Beyond "seems.")

I'm cognizant of this, and the intentional fear-tactics employed in these words...

Barry' (that was the name he used all his life)

had two roommates,
Muhammad Hasan Chandoo and Wahid Hamid,
both from Pakistan.

next Hyderabad in
three weeks in Karachi, Pakistan where he stayed with
his roommate's family,
then off to Africa

Barack - not Barry.

born in Aleppo, Syria

Nadhmi Auchi,
an Iraqi-born Billionaire
born in Pakistan

Which makes me ask questions....

What happens to you when you read this?
What stands out to you?

Are you aware of the repeated slurs against middle eastern people?

What are the fearful stereotypes of Muslims?

What are the fearful stereotypes that govern any violent and horrific action?

What does it mean for a man to travel?

What does it mean for a black man to revert to his given name, after a trip abroad?

How does any of us grow in our identities?

Is it helpful to perpetuate fear-based or fear-inspiring tactics?
Have you ever studied how Hitler was able to rise to power through such an economic and fear-based appeal?
Do you see the similarities employed here, (and recently by Hannity on Fox News)?

What is the truth of Barack Obama's life?
What is the truth of John McCain's?

What is the truth of ours?

How do any of us know anything for certain?
What responsibilities do we have to read, discern information and recognize how they inspire or move us?
What responsibilities do we have when we recognize hate and fear-based speech?
How is this hate and fear just not helpful for any of us?



Aunt in Nebraska said...


Please note: I FORWARDED this message....but even before receiving it, your uncle and I discussed our fears of having Obama become President of this country. We also have questions that will most undoubtedly remain unanswered.

Take it for what it is, (a forwarded e-mail), don't over-think it.

I did go to Wikipedia and some of the details here are embellished somewhat.


Melissa in Minnesota said...


Thank you for responding to this! Goodness. Thank you.

Having any fears or concerns around leadership - to certain extent - is healthy. As this leads us to ask questions and investigate. Critical questions. Yea! This stuff, though, auntie, that is laden in hate-speech, isn't helpful. You know what I'm saying?

My work as a teacher is to help broaden our capacities to think, engage, discern, dialogue, in the complexity that is this life, this being human business.

Fear Obama, but make sure your fear is based in things that are NOT hateful or rooted in stereotypical notions like those presented here....Fear his desire to cut taxes, but not have enough money to balance the budget, or pay for healthcare that we all so desire. Fear the money that McCain wants to spend to win a war that has no end date in sight. Fear when people don't ask questions about budgets, or about the complexity of poverty and terrorism and getting at the root of war or hate or illiteracy. But don't fear Obama because he is brown or has traveled or sought to make his way through a community organizing paradigm and has built relationships across race, class, religious lines, borders.

As far as "Overthinking"? Auntie! Haha! I can see where this response of mine might come across like this...But when you have worked to dismantle racism, sexism, and fearful-based-stereotypical hate-legislation, or practices, it's all about being really critical in examining things and compassionately inquiring about the roots of such things....

I love you. I love my Uncle. I love your kids. I love our family. I love this country. I love being a teacher, (even though my work is no longer in a formal classroom.)

I just ask that this stuff not get passed around. It's all that I work against in hoping to realize a better life for ALL of us.


Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction to this diatribe as you did. In fact I didn't even read all of it, I just deleted it. I'm really disappointed in how John McCain has run his campaign. I believe sincerely in the church's Pro Life stance and it disgusts me that the Democratic party has abandoned what once used to be respect for the most defenseless. I'll be voting for McCain but it won't be because I am scared of Obama and his roots. I see him as very bright, articulate and having his heart in the right place, with the exception of the pro-choice position he espouses.