To The Editor:
As a 78 year old American of African descent, I feel compelled to
respond to all this “much ado about nothing” when it comes to the
statement that Michelle Obama made about the fact that this is the first
time in her adult life that she has been proud to be an American.
The country needs to hear this from the Black perspective.
Long before I was born, my grandfather Joseph Burleson, owned a
considerable amount of land in oil rich Texas. Because during that era,
Blacks could not vote, nor could they contest anything in the courts of
the United States, my grandfather’s land was STOLEN by his White
neighbor. My grandfather, who was literate and better educated than my
grandmother, drove to town. Seeing my grandfather leave, the covetous
neighbor asked my grandmother to show him the deed to the property. He
snatched it. She could not insist that he give it back, nor could she
have reported this THEFT to the sheriff because of the fact that Blacks
had no rights in the 1800’s. The prevailing law at that time was he who
held the deed owned the land. Do you think that is something that I am
PROUD OF? Right now I should b e living off the oil and gas royalties.
In 1934 when my dad drove us to Texas to meet his family, when he
stopped to purchase gasoline, his daughters and wife were not allowed to
use the washroom. As a man it was easier for his to relieve himself in
the bushes, but not for the females. We were, however, reduced to having
to go in the bushes, also. Do you think I am PROUD OF THAT?
In 1938 when my oldest sister went to enroll in Hyde Park High School,
she was told by t he counselor that she did not want to take college
preparatory courses, she wanted to study domestic science. Do you think
I’m PROUD OF THAT? Of course, when Beatrice Lillian Hurley-Burleson went
to school the next day, that was the last time anyone thought that the
Burleson girls wanted to study domestic science.
When in 1943 my parents attempted to buy the 2 flat at 5338 South
Kenwood, where we had lived since 1933, in Hyde Park, Chicago, IL we
were told that we could not buy it because there was a restrictive
covenant that said that the property was never to be sold to “Negroes.”
Do you think I am PROUD OF THAT?
In 1950 when I graduated from college, I was unable to get a job
because I was considered “overqualified.” the code word for they would
not hire me because of my race. All of the want ads called for Japanese
Americans or Neisis ( the word given to Japanese Americans at that
time). Do you think that was somet hing that I should have been PROUD OF?
I understood that America was trying to make up for the interring of
innocent and patriotic Americans who were our enemy by association.
My cousin’s barbershop was bombed in Mississippi in the 50’s because he
was encouraging Black people to register to vote. His wife who had
earned a Masters Degree from Northwestern University lost her position
as the principal of the local school because of the voter registration
acti vities. Is that something I should be PROUD OF?
Now we get to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of the Obama family.
Rev. Wright like so many religious zealots overstates many things, that
many of his members do not agree with. To suggest that Senator Obama
should leave the church of his choice is not only a double standard, but
it is absurd. Would any of the talking heads who are so alarmed by Rev.
Wright’s thoughts and speeches suggest that Catholics should abandon
their faith or denounce and reject the Pope because so many priests have
molested children. These children were exploited and taken advantage of
and they had no choice to even know they could resist, reject and
denounce. To me the situations are parallel, except for the fact that
the priests behavior is a physical violation of the innocence of
children who are marred for life; and the priests behavior is a crime.
Rev. Wright’s speeches are just words, that one can listen to or not,
the members have a choice. Should Governor Romney denounce and reject
the Mormon Church because some of their members practice polygamy?
As Senator Obama has previously stated, we have entered the silly
Barack Obama is an adult, and most importantly, he is an exceptionally
intelligent adult. Like most of us adults, fortunately, we do not accept
all we hear or see. If we did, the world would be more amoral, debased
and perverted than the world of today is.
I see all these “so called” ponderings an attempt to marginalize the
candidacy of Senator Barack Obama. I cannot truly call this racism
because some ignorant Blacks have also spoken disparagingly about him.
I accept this as the darker side of mankind who because of their own
inadequacies, they project their deficiencies on others. Barack Obama is
a very rare individual, the likes of whom the world seldom sees.
Like most geniuses, they are often misunderstood. They are objects of
envy and jealousy. They are suspect because they soar above the average
man who does not have the intellectual ability to understand the
greatness of special people. They are also targets to be pulled down to
the level of the mediocre who cannot stand to see an individual with
deep convictions and high standards.
We have not seen a phenomena like Barack Obama in many years and many
generations. Like Ghanda, like Jesus, l ike Einstein, like Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., like Mother Theresa, genetically, intellectually and
spiritually, these people offer the world so much, but they are often
maligned and misunderstood.
Barack Obama is a Christian in the true sense of the word. A true
Christian loves his fellow man unconditionally. A true Christian wants
the best and tries to bring out the best in his fellow man. A true
Christian wants to unite and bring the world together in peace and
harmony. This is what Senator Obama stands for; but, unfortunately, he
has had to get off point to answer these false charges, innuendoes, and
just plain lies.
We are in the presence of an angel unaware in Senator Barack Obama; and
this country needs him, more than he needs us. He is the only person at
this time in history who can restore respect for America with the
worlds’ people. Because of his family background, the influence of his
beloved mother wh o instilled great values in him, the influence of his
absent father who vicariously inspired a son to go to Harvard as the
father had done, the influence of a minister who brought him to an
understanding of the value and meaning of Christianity, the influence of
a brilliant Harvard educated wife who inspires him and keeps him
grounded; he is the epitome of a citizen of the world. He is of the
world because the world is in him; and this is what America needs to
bring us out of the abyss to which we have sunk in the eyes of the
Like, Michelle Obama, after living in this country all of my 78 years,
loving my country and not understanding why my country has not loved me,
I now for the first time in my adult life feel PROUD OF MY COUNTRY
because I sense a maturing, a recognition of talent and character, and
not color, and a field of candidates aspiring to lead this nation coming
from very diverse backgrounds of gender, r eligious beliefs, national
origin, ethnicity, age and experiences. This to me is the HOPE that
America is coming into her own and will begin to CHANGE and will embrace
the philosophy upon which this country was founded, where all men are
created equal and are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness. Now I truly believe, YES WE CAN!
For further information:
Contact: Helen L. Burleson, Doctor of Public