A Teachable Racial Moment: On Fingers Pointed in Black Faces

Usually, my blog posts deal with African American community or political issues, and I talk as one cultural insider to another cultural insider.

However, I’ve realized that sometimes, well-meaning, really nice White people (of which there are many, by the way) want Black folks to talk to them in non-angry, non-confrontational, and patient ways about Black cultural issues they don’t understand.

So I wondered if it might be useful for me to write blog posts that break racial things down for good White folks who mean no harm—and who either have Black friends or are in the midst of acquiring friendships with Black people– and are just trying to navigate these racial waters that ironically (and to me, bewilderingly) have become far more treacherous since the election of our first Black president.

Sidebar: I use “race” as a shorthand because that word usually means “Black” or “People of Color” to White people. But really, “race” is not a real, like, biological thing. It does not exist except in people’s minds. What I actually mean when I say “race” is “culture.”

I hadn’t even planned to post again this week, but I’ve noticed the online furor on Black social media concerning Governor Jan Brewer’s pointing her finger very close to President Barack Obama’s face. The response from White folks? Some are upset, but I get the impression they don’t really understand why we African Americans are so troubled. Some of us are even enraged.

So I thought that it might be time to write a Teachable Racial Moment post.

Ok, here goes: If you are wise, you will not ever put your finger–or your whole hand– in a Black person’s face, unless you know you want to immediately engage in a knock down, drag out, fight-to-the-concrete physical brawl. It’s actually a well-known signal for “let’s fight right this moment” in the Black community. When I say “ever” I mean not in this present lifetime, or even after death, if you encounter another Black angel in Heaven. Because that angel is still liable to get into it with you and risk being de-winged.

I don’t know when the finger point in the face became such a grave insult to Black folks, but it has been for at least fifty years. And what does the gesture mean anyway?  It means derision. It means disrespect. And above all, it means power to the pointer.

Sidebar: Have you ever seen a mother (of any cultural background) in the mall with her disobedient toddler? She finally gets exasperated and leans down and begins to scold the child—by pointing her finger in his or her face. And what happens? The toddler starts crying, and then gets it together and starts behaving better. Thus, the finger point in the face is not a gesture between equals. She who does the pointing is establishing herself as a superior to the person being pointed at.

Okay, and now, I’m about to reveal a Racial Secret. Are you ready? I’m going to put this in italics so you really get it.

Because the finger point gesture establishes superiority, the gesture is even worse if a White person does it to a Black person, due to the history in this country of White supremacist violence and cultural demeaning of Black folks.

Nice Non-Racist White folks, this may seem silly to y’all. And I get that. Right now, you may be saying, “Dang, Black folks got too many rules! It’s so hard to keep up with y’all!” That’s true. I won’t deny it. So many rules, even I have a hard time keeping up.

But consider that, individually, we all have rules that help create a space in which we are happy.

For example, I despise egg whites. (No racial pun intended here, I promise.) I will eat whole scrambled eggs willingly, or baked into cookies, cakes, etcetera, but if given a boiled egg, I will only eat the yolk. The thought of an egg white omelet is one that moves me almost to physical pain.  It’s so slimy and disgusting.

So one day, I was visiting my mama and she was making potato salad. And she was chopping up boiled egg whites to mix into the potato salad. Now I live to eat my mama’s potato salad. Nobody makes it better. So I was watching her chop up those egg whites and I felt tears come to my eyes, because I knew I wasn’t going to eat that potato salad with those egg whites in it. I was so disappointed and I felt really betrayed, too.

Mama looked up and saw my face and said quietly, “Honi, you know I already made your potato salad without the whites, darling. It’s sitting in the refrigerator right now.”

That’s what I mean.

Mama could have said, “Look, get over it. I’m not making two separate potato salads to please your rusty grown behind. What am I, your personal chef?” But she didn’t. And just like she knows I won’t eat egg whites, I know she despises the dark meat of chicken and I’d never try to serve a chicken thigh to her. It’s these little things that lead to understanding between two people.

And this leads us back to Governor Jan Brewer. After she pointed her finger in President Obama’s face she followed up in a media interview by saying she “felt threatened” by him. But remember when I said above that the finger point in the face was both an aggressive act and one attempting to establish superiority?

If anyone felt threatened, it would be President Obama, threatened by Governor Brewer’s attempt to not only belittle him, but also because he probably suspected that later, she’d try to flip the racial script on him. Which she most certainly did.

Here’s that flipped script:  she, the Little Helpless White Lady, felt afraid of him, a Big Ole Scary Black Man. (Refer to the film, Birth of a Nation if you aren’t familiar with this tired script. It’s only a bit more tired–and dangerous–than the Big-Breasted Loving Black Mammy Who Lives To Take Care of White Folks Kids With No Pay script in Gone With The Wind.)

So, let me get this straight.

Governor Brewer felt afraid of President ObamaShe felt threatened by him. After she poked her finger in his face and attempted to humiliate him. And let’s not forget this was going on in front of cameras.

Yeah, okay. I completely believe her.

This flipped racial script of Governor Brewer is very old, and has several versions, but it has proven useful throughout the years for the shell game of White supremacy, as when a Black man was lynched whenever a White woman accused him of looking at her funny.

I’m not playing here mentioning the funny look. It was the unofficial law of “reckless eyeballing” created by White southerners, and many a southern Black man swung at the end of a rope for committing that supposed crime. The case of Emmitt Till was a variation of “reckless eyeballing,” because he whistled at a White woman and ended up murdered.

Just because President Obama doesn’t talk about that racial script doesn’t mean he isn’t well aware of our nation’s troubled history concerning White women and Black men, which is why he walked away from Governor Brewer. I’m pretty sure that, as a Black man, he was angered by her culturally transgressive act, but he had the presence of mind to get himself together before he broke all the way fool on the tarmac with that lady and not only ended up in jail, but went down in history as 1) the first Black president and 2) the first president who physically assaulted a woman in public.

But he saved himself, because President Obama is an Old School Brother. And it is never acceptable for an Old School Brother to hit a woman, whether or not she has committed an act of aggression. And let me tell you that you don’t really want to know what would have happened if Governor Brewer had pointed her finger in the face of another Black man—not an Old School Brother but one of these Young Knuckleheads With No Sense.

Eh, Lord, it would have been so ugly. And that’s all I’m going to say.

Polite, kind, respectful, self-controlled, and full of common sense: that’s how Old School Brothers get down. And by the way, that’s why I really adore them. And that’s why, despite the fact that President Obama hasn’t been a perfect leader (at least in my opinion), as a Sister, I feel extremely proud of him. And I bet Mrs. Obama does, too.



412 thoughts on “A Teachable Racial Moment: On Fingers Pointed in Black Faces

  1. Thanks, Honoree, for once again bringing a smile to my face while helping to educate my white butt. I consider myself fairly well informed about “race” yet had NO idea about the finger-pointing thing, other than to think it aggressive and rude for an adult to do it to any other adult. Happy 2012, and thanks for keeping it coming!

      • Thanks for the post! I found that this post provided a clear explanation as to why I was so ticked off at Brewer’s posturing on the tarmac and her post-tarmac interview. I’m white but I was always told that one shouldn’t point fingers at people because it’s rude. I had temporarily forgotten that clear instruction (despite the fact that I follow that instruction regardless) and your post brought back that memory of my parents and uncle (who is black) instructing me as such. Thanks again.

  2. Your perspective and that of Professor James Peterson (Ed Schultz show)have been the most direct and honest interpretations of the finger pointing incident on the tarmac.

    I do respect Professor Melissa Perry, however, her perspective on this incident soft pedaled the incident to a certain degree. She cites on MSNBC that she was struck by the President and the governor arguing about a book on the tarmac. The latter was venting and the President was listening for a while until she got out of control and he attempted to leave.

    The example she used of youth integrating a high school in Little Rock years ago and providing a crutch for the white young woman who was finger pointing and harassing one of the youths missed the point in my opinion. This was the President of the U.S. and the context was different although the attitude that whites in general have about black men in spite of their stature was more on point in this incident. In my humble opinion she tiptoed around that by implying that the President was partly at fault because you see they were arguing about a book for God’s sake…how disingenuous was that.

    • Carolyn, I totally agree, obviously President Obama was not “arguing” and the
      disrespect to his office was downplayed.

      Had that been Mrs Obama she did that to, we would be having a very different conversation, and I for one would be loving it!

      • You’d be surprised at how many people said that had Governor Brewer shook her finger in Mrs Obama’s face, the whole world would be in shock
        about her (Mrs Obama’s) reaction. I would have been in shock had she played it “cool”. As a black woman, I was both angered and embarrassed
        about Jan Brewer’s behavior. I am also surprised at how many white people
        played down the incident; however, many in the media roundly criticized our governor. People outside this beautiful state look at its people and shake their heads about their boorish manners and lack of culture. I realize Arizona is young state but 100 years is long enough to acquire manners.


  3. I greatly appreciate your commentary / analysis! Your work has been very insightful to me as a WGST graduate student (and by that I mean a white one who has had a lot to learn in the past year!).

  4. I am one of the well-meaning, really nice White people that you mention in your post…I am also the mother of two African American sons. I have to tell you how much I love your blog. Each post I read I feel like I am listening to a girlfriend sit me down and tell me what’s what. Thank you!

    • Thank you so, so much for these good words. I must admit, I’m very moved by your comment, because you have such an important job and you are doing a mother’s necessary, important work to understand and raise those two little Black-men-in-training. I’m so glad I can offer you something you can use.

      Take care, and God bless you,

  5. I admire your respect for old school brothers like Obama. But understand this, as much as you are proud of him for displaying such class, know that his class will not be rewarded and has never been. Unfortunately for Mr. President is legitimacy and credibility as president had far too often that it has hurt him in terms of public opinion.

    The ultimate principle of respect is that one should never get to the point of disrespect. By being Mr. Nice Guy all the time, he has been labeled as weak, soft and passive. His governing strategy since taking office has lent to questions within his on party as to whether he’s a president that fully occupies the role in which he inhabits.

    The only time when he has been seen as the undisputed Alpha-male has been while campaigning; either in the period before he was president and in the period afterwards while stumping for key legislation and initiatives.

    That’s the full and complete Obama that has the heart and respect of the country. The one that NEVER had a finger pointed in his face. The one America felt confident declaring him President of the United States.

    So while you cheer Obama for “keeping his cool” just know he lost a great deal of leadership credibility amongst very influential people in this country. Make no bones about it. Only when reassuming his position of dominance will his detractors submit.

    • Good point and lends to the fact that there are different perspectives worthy of consideration. One of my favorite poets stated that “many things are true at once”.

      Losing credibility by those of power/influence and viewed as the perfect gentleman by others aren’t conflicting for we are multidimensional beings and complex in how we react or function depending on the venue or circumstance.

      It’s been my experience at times when I’ve taken the so-called high road and the person you’re offering this to doesn’t understand it or appreciate it; you might have to change your method of communicating to a level they can understand. It’s called “starting where the
      person is at” and folks in power or influence have a mindset that differs from the general public unless you of the Warren Buffet ilk!

    • I think the President is in a “no-win” situation. If he shows passion, then he’s “an angry black man.” On the other hand, if he demonstrates calm, then he’s “weak.”

      • Absolutely. There are only so many (usually two) available personality descriptions afforded black folk who live in the spotlight of the media.

    • Whether President Obama wins the admiration of many or few, he will always be the first black president of the US. A role which he plays with integrity and good taste. His opponents will always find something negative to comment on. Whatever the case, he remains a formidable role model to the US and around the world. After all is it not true that he is the only US president to receive a Nobel peace prize? Even if Jesus Christ were to be the president, He would be sorely criticized, because he did not buldoze his way around. He does not have to destroy anyone’s character to gain power. That’s a real statesman.. ER

  6. As well meaning White person, let me say thank you for the words I couldn’t quite string together without setting off all my own privilege alarms. Hope it’s OK to repost this on the FB, etc. —


  7. Excellent; well-written! I can picture Greek-Americans and Italian-Americans nodding their heads, thinking of seemingly simple gestures that would incite physical responses among their cultures.

    And “rusty grown behind”; LUV it.


    • I really loved and appreciated this comment, because you’re the first person to mention other non-Black cultures who also have specific gestures that are particularly insulting, too–which means Black folks aren’t “crazy” or “overly sensitive”!:-)

      Thank you so much for reading. I hope you return!


      • I was wondering if I was missing something. As far as I know white people, too, would respond with aggression if someone got into their faces and pointed a finger at them. And that explains it- I’m from an Italian-American background. We value our personal space. I’d also point to Southern culture- I don’t know any white men among those I’ve known while living for a few years in Texas who would respond well to a finger in the face.

      • The mention of the finger waggling in the face being extremely disrespectful to other cultures was the first thing that popped into my mind.

        Life is full of teachable moments. I’m Midwestern, and white as Casper; I’ve never taught at a predominately white high school, though, and I learned as much from my Black and Latino students as I taught them. I was schooled on CPT and hair-culture from my Black students, and on “Take a male Latino student in the hall to talk with him because schooling him in front of his peers is gonna get his back up,” among other valuable lessons.

        This was a well-written. thoughtful and funny article, and I enjoyed it. Thanks.

        (Also? Race is a cultural construct…but white or no, someone starts waggling a finger in MY face, Imma gonna bite it off.) 😉

    • This Irish-American was nodding his head. A finger in the face is an invitation to a butt-whooping, no matter the culture of the parties involved. Most of us adults are mature and restrained enough to walk away when these types of things pop up, though– better that, than end up with an assault charge.

      My gut reaction was “how could anybody disrespect the office of the president like that?” It angers me. Right-wing apologists aside, nobody *ever* disrespected GW to his face like that. And I’m inclined to say that it’s more about political affiliation than “race” or culture– if it were a white democrat president, the Republican “news”/propaganda machine (Fox News, talk radio, et al) would still be doing its darndest to sabotage him and demean him (or her).

      There are racial undertones, though– that’s undeniable. Even if Brewer didn’t intend it that way, look at that picture and then try to tell me it doesn’t recall ugly white-black power dynamics in our history…

      Anyway…despicable on her part any way you look at it. Rant over.

  8. For the record, I’m a white woman and I was totally insulted with Brewer’s behavior and even used her as an example in my First Amendment Rights class yesterday to talk about how with freedom comes responsibility, something Brewer seems to ignore.

  9. This is a bunch of baloney. President Obama is the one that is in the position of power here. I haven’t read such drivel in years.

    • Your use of the words “baloney” and “drivel” attempt to minimize this author’s position. I am a lifelong white Mississipian and I can assure you an attempt to educate regarding race is a very important issue….

  10. Thank you. Just about the only hope I see some days (as racial tensions grow worse and worse in this country) is in a moment like this, when responding to racial slurs is still, for now, allowed, and is done with such precision as yours, Honoree. Thank you.

  11. Most people react negatively to having a finger jabbed in one’s face, and often the reaction is defensive and too regrettably physical. It’s a provocation and disrespectful. Am I hopelessly naive to believe that this is not a cultural issue more than just Gov Brewer grandstanding, playing to her base by “standing up” to the head of the opposition party? I don’t see it in terms of culture, instead as political posturing by a politician who has a record of behaving erratically. (I still recall her lies about heads being found in the desert.)

    I don’t know her and don’t know if she is racist. She clearly has no respect for others. President Obama demonstrated that he is mature and knows how to handle a confrontation by walking away. It’s guaranteed that he has had many fingers jabbed in his face, that he has faced disrespect in the past solely because of his race. Is that what happened in this case? Gosh, I hope not.

    • I understand what you mean when you say “most people react negatively,” but I think it is important to remember that race, though not real, still shapes this interaction. For many people, it was a blood-curdling string of events to see yet another white woman (Hillary was another) disrespect Obama so blatantly. To add insult to injury (I don’t recall if Hillary did this), she used a well-worn, race-baiting trope to describe their interaction. Saying that most people get angry is certainly true, but doesn’t encapsulate the whole picture. It seems important to mention that she may not hate based on race (though her politics indicate otherwise), but she seems to be ignorant of how race, and class work in this country.

      • I’m sorry, I do not understand the so-called racial difference. I’ve had a finger jabbed in my girly pale face and felt instant anger, not due to anything about race whatsoever, a finger in the face is just fightin’ words, no matter what culture you are here in the good ole USA. Me thinks I am hearing generalizations. As for an Old School Brother? Again, I do not understand. I was raised that a MAN never raises his hand toward a woman, even this bony fingered politician. I will conceed that due to our history, she might have been also trying to cow the President, racially, but the MAN did not go for the bait as so many young men do these days (any culture) . Because he has healed from wounds of old and has moved on.

        To me, this has nothing to do with race, okay, let me take this back, I am sure racism threads through most of our American fabric, however, in this instant, what I saw is the continued fall-out of White Gingrich disrespecting the heck out of White President Clinton and modeling for the nation that it is okay to bad mouth and disrespect the Office Of The Presidency, to confuse that Office with the falliable individual who is running it.

        Thanks for the article. 🙂

      • I’m sure this finger-pointing moment had all the racist teabaggers out there peeing their pants with joy. If he had been a white president, she wouldn’t have dared to do such a thing. Disgusting!

      • I’m sorry but I’m just not understanding why everything done aggressively toward a black person is automatically racist or has racist undertones. I am a white woman who is the bestest of friends with a wonderful black man who happens to be the godfather of my son. But if I got angry with him and yelled at him for something does that make me a racist? Or do those actions have racist undertones simply because he’s black? I believe that her statements made after the fact were misconstrued. She never said that she pointed her finger and THEN felt threatened. She said she pointed her finger BECAUSE she felt threatened. I am not condoning finger-pointing in any way shape or form. I try not to do it even with my children because I think it is rude and degrading. However it is a completely different ball game to point as a form of self-defense, if you will, than to point aggressively.
        I do know that there are many rules and such that I will never claim to understand completely. And I am not trying to say that racism doesn’t exist – far from it actually. I know it is still alive all over the place and not specifically between white people and black people. However, are we not also feeding into the issue and fanning the fire so to speak by CREATING a difference between an action taken against someone of your own culture and that same action taken against someone of a different culture. (And I was slightly offended by the blanket statement claiming that when white people hear the word “race” they automatically think “Black” or “People of Color”) Just the simple statement “Black people have a lot of rules” makes no sense to me. You don’t want racism (culturalism?) to exist anymore but YOU have your own set of rules that WE need to follow.

        I am entirely sick of automatically being labeled a racist because I am white. Or being told that I am uneducated about these issues. Or just having my opinion on such things dismissed BECAUSE I am a white person. And is that not a sort of racism in and of itself? “White people just don’t understand.” “White people aren’t educated about our rules.” I’m sure someone somewhere will read this and sigh and say to themselves “Oh silly white girl she just doesn’t get it.” If I were to insult Obama in some way

        But I understand this: If I give my husband a little smack on the arm because he was being fresh, it’s just as normal a reaction to do it to my black best friend for the same reason. And doing so does not mean that I am a racist or that my actions have racial undertones. It is simply one person reacting to another person. And I understand this: If I were to find myself in a situation where I could speak with Obama, I would probably challenge him as well, and not because I am white and he is black. But because I do not agree with a lot of the things he has done in his run as president. And I voted for him. I would have challenged George W. in the same way. I would challenge Deval Patrick of Massachusetts the same way I would challenge Mitt Romney.

        This entire argument just doesn’t seem very logical to me. A person is a person no matter what their skin color, culture, favorite color, or shoe size. I thought that was the point of trying to educate people about racial issues? Can we stop creating the lines that we’re trying so hard to erase? Prejudice of any kind will never cease until everyone takes a collective look at themselves and instead of pointing out our differences and explaining our own cultural “rules”, celebrate them, embrace them, and focus on how no matter how different we are – we are really all the same.

      • I am white (Italian) and I am engaged to a black woman, we have been together for six years. Neither one of us ever discuss race, neither one of us feel we have ever been the victim of racism, neither of our families have ever had an issue with our relationship.

        Six years, never once felt an ounce of racism, neither one of us. How can this be? Simple, we don’t look for it, we don’t try to find it. You know what? We are incredibly happy!

        I showed her the photo and this blog and asked her what she saw. She said “A woman who is mad at the President.” She did not see an issue with race.

        Apparently, no one told her that finger wagging is a racist action when done to a black person.

        Reading this blog makes me realize why there is still racism in the world, people like you keep feeding it and pointing it out even when not there. Enjoy the world you are creating for yourself.

        My fiance and I? We are looking forward to the present catching up with our way of thinking, because from where we are standing the world is a beautiful place.

    • I think you’re right that a finger in the face is pretty universally understood to be aggressive and an assertion of dominance. It’s very generous for the author to ascribe ignorance to the Gov. about its significance. It would seem to me that Brewer felt entitled to behave in a blatantly disrespectful way b/c she was speaking to a person of color. But maybe I’m cynical.

      • I believe Brewer felt she could behave so disrespectfully because she knew a well-behaved man in a position of power is not allowed to react to a female the same way he would to a male. This allowed Brewer to act intolerably to her parties greatest political enemy in a way her male counterparts could not. Race is not the issue in this interaction – gender is. I know, I’m a female. I’ve used “the finger” in an effort to win an argument or trump a male knowing I don’t need to fear their reaction.

      • Marybeth – I’m sure you don’t mean to say that there only can be one issue at play here, but I just wanted to clarify that, and thank you for bringing up the gender dynamic as well.

  12. First time to your blog. 1) You have a beautiful smile and it radiates your beautiful spirit 2) Excellently written post and you are spot on! Keep on keeping on!

      • Well, I’ve returned. Anytime an article that’s worth reading is accompanied by an author that engages her or his readers in the comments section, I’m encouraged to return. I appreciate you!

    • No, actually, I think you are mistaken. The “race card” has been pulled in other commentaries on this incident, but not here. Nowhere in this essay is it claimed that Gov. Brewer was attempting to oppress blacks or was treating him disrespectfully because he was black and she was white and she was trying to “put him back in his rightful place.” The point of this piece is not to insinuate racially charged motives on the Governor’s part, it is to explain– and I think she does an excellent job– how the situation would be experienced from the perspective of the black man with a finger in his face. It is to show why an action which, frankly, any adult would find insulting, and which would be highly inappropriate toward the President of the United States regardless of his color, has an added perception of insult if you’ve grown up as a part of black culture, and therefore is even more inappropriate than it otherwise would have been.

      The only thing I think the author misses is that “I felt threatened” is not _purely_ a tired, race-based story as she thinks. As she astutely points out elsewhere in the comments, sometimes more than one thing is true at the same time. Any woman in close proximity to a bigger, taller man, in a situation of tense conflict, may perfectly well feel threatened regardless of race. Furthermore, well, he is the President. The political, and overall, power balance is on his side. Who wouldn’t feel intimidated by the President of the United States? So while it certainly should be pointed out that “I felt threatened” has worrisome echoes of a long historical pattern, it also wouldn’t be fair to act as though Gov. Brewer’s depiction of things can be dismissed as nonsense and can fully, and only, be explained as another example of “flipping the script”.

      • TM, the thing is though that “threatened” is a loaded word in many ways, but particularly racially. If the Governor had said that she felt intimidated, or disrespected, or anything like that it would change the tone… but she used the word threatened. Threatened, as in she felt unsafe and in danger. From the President. When a white woman says she felt threatened by a black man, there is a racial charge to it whether intentional or not. The word itself brings to mind pictures of a physical altercation. When she says she felt threatened by the President, you envision him yelling at her or getting in her face or using violent body language… which is the exact opposite of what happened.

        It would perhaps be valid for her to have felt intimidated. He is an imposing figure and he holds an imposing offer. But even then, it would be false, because her body language is certainly not that of a person who feels intimidated, let alone threatened. So I suppose what I’m getting at is that you can argue about the racial undertones of the use of the word if you’d like, but you can’t reasonably argue about it being an out and out lie regardless. And the fact of it being simply not true makes it seem as though there was some intention of turning the tide of criticism on the President instead of herself… through the simple use of a very loaded word.

      • Bethany- I just don’t see how you can determine it to be an “out and out lie”. As I said, it carries racial overtones but _also_ carries the sound of something a woman may perfectly well say when faced with a man of comparatively intimidating physical and political stature, in close proximity in the middle of an argument. He even has a bunch of armed men with him, for goodness’ sake.

        Her body language doesn’t tell us anything, really. A person feeling threatened does not necessarily cower; he or she may well turn up the aggression like a cornered animal. Some people when threatened will respond by shrinking away, others will respond by stepping up to a higher level of confrontation.

        So my point isn’t to say that there is no racial overtone here. Especially on the receiving end– regardless of how she meant her comment (which could have been worded purposely, or ignorantly, or for that matter honestly), it was certainly taken by people in a racial way. My point here is that there is no proof that the repeated historical “white woman cries ‘threatened’ about a black man” narrative is even _an_ accurate description of her response, much less the _only_ accurate description of it. If there is more than one possible explanation, we can’t just grab onto the worst one, assume it to be true dismissing all others, and accuse her of it. Even if she is a rude idiot.

      • I appreciate the opportunity this post has given readers to discuss this event. Ms. Brewer and Mr. Obama arrived at this meeting with quite a history between them. Ms. Brewer feels the federal government is not performing its constitutionally mandated responsibility to secure federal borders in her state. Mr. Obama’s attorney general is suing the state of Arizona over immigration laws the state has passed stating border security is a federal responsibility. Mrs. Brewer feels snubbed that she was not invited to a White House meeting on border security. Mr. Obama feels mischaracterized in Ms. Brewer’s book. So far nothing in this history is based on race or gender. It is based on disagreement in policy and approach. Where power is concerned, Mr. Obama trumps Ms. Brewer. Where turf is concerned, Ms. Brewer has the home court advantage, but is outgunned (no pun intended) by her guest and his entourage. It was a situation fraught with tension from the get-go. And then, we all have to judge what happened from an incomplete video clip with no sound, a few still photos and what he said or she said. All other persons within earshot have refused to be interviewed (both a repub and dem mayor among them). Ms. Brewer does talk with a great deal of hand gestures (check out some video of her). While it is unclear exactly what is going on, if you review the video, you will see that Mr. Obama’s right arm is clearly in Ms. Brewer space at the same time her finger is pointing at him. It seems like personal space is being violated by both participants. The video does not disclose a sequence of events to know if one is a response to the other, or vice versa or if they are just natural responses by both. I think the best conclusion we can draw is that both parties were involved in a situation both felt was contentious, but again race or gender seems to play no part in the uncomfortableness.

        I appreciate the lesson discussed in this post. “When in Rome, do a the Romans” is a great adage, but if you don’t know what the Romans do, or expect, it can be difficult to pick up subtle social cues. We have become a country where each group, for whatever reason, wears their proverbially heart on their sleeve. It is so easy to cause offense. At some point, if we are to move beyond the tenseness in which we all live, we must find a way to not take offense so easily, to offer fellow citizens benefit of the doubt, to turn the other cheek.

    • Yes the race card has been pulled again!! Lets get on with business at hand. What can all of us do to get our country on track?

      • It would seem to me that “pulling the race card” is much like having the Old Maid in your hand. I’ve yet to ever see anyone “win” anything but dismissal and derision when it has reportedly been ‘pulled’. So one has to wonder if ‘pulling the race card’ is an idea that is not black folks trying to “get” something by saying something that *isn’t* racist is but is instead white folks trying to shut down a conversation that makes them feel icky and like not very nice people because something that is racist is being shown to be…well…racist.

    • “Attempts” to establish superiority. This is a situation wherein if you allow yourself to be subjugated by a finger, that is your choice.

    • Hey there:

      They’re polite because I don’t allow profanity or hate speech.:-) But it’s nice, isn’t it? I find that if certain boundaries are in place, even when people vehemently disagree, it can only get so bad.

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I hope you return.


  13. What a completely backwards way of using the race card to say, “oh poor us.” FYI, just as easily as you can call Obama a “black man,” I can call him a “white man” and tell you that as a “white man,” he was upset by her using of the finger because it is disrespectful TO ANY RACE. And I can also tell you that as a MAN, (because really, if you view all races as being equal you WOULDN’T BE SO QUICK TO PULL THE RACE CARD) he saw her actions as petty, demoralizing, and rude. He walked away not because he’s an “Old School Brother,” but rather because he has basic human decency and is a respectable, sane member of society unlike Jan Brewer. What an unfair assessment of another human’s life to call Obama “black” because his skin is dark when really, he is both black and white and can JUST AS FAIRLY be called a white person. YOU are so backwards racist, it sickens me. I personal believe in fairness for all humans regardless of race, you just don’t get to claim the finger point because you are black, it is DISRESPECTFUL no matter WHAT race you are.

    • Dear Mr. Oliver
      Technically you can call President Obama
      black and white. But in the world our President cannot pass as white. The many many layers of racism, oppression, and cultural codes are so complex we cannot pretend to understand. Yes Brewer was rude, and offensive no matter to whom she was wagging her finger. She was also rude to do so to The President of the United States. As a white woman I was sickened my her behavior AND I also knew that beyond the aforementioned points there were also horrible racist implications to her act. And I am grateful to have had them so articulately outlined here. I am pulling the rude card, the disrespectful stupid woman card AND the racist card with no apology whatsoever and I am a white woman.

    • I know internet discussions do not always lend themselves to easy interpretation of tone, but, Mr. Oliver, you seemed to be incensed and I cannot understand why or on what grounds you are so angry.

      Firstly, you seem to have totally disregarded the intent of Ms. Jeffers’ post (which is not to throw a negro pity party or uniquely castigate “white” people or a “white” person). She is pointing out the racialized history of such exchanges between American Caucasians and American Negroes (while at the same time acknowledging that race is lazy and imprecise signifier. How one could even “use the race card” while pointing out that race is a weak construct is beyond me.)

      Secondly, all races are not the same. That is the point of racism. Racism–i.e. the categorization of people into “races” as we currently know them–grows out of a need to make an other less human in order to justify oppression. AND that is why exchanges like this–finger pointing, being called “boy,” and other forms of belittlement and disrespect–have a racialized history.

      I’m trying not to sound angry, but I am. I am tired of Americans whose lives are least impacted by race–“white” Americans–stepping into the conversations and critiques of ethnic minorities as the judges of when and where it is appropriate to discuss “race” as a social or historical lens. Honestly, If you are a person who understands himself as “white,” then I don’t expect you to understand race/racism. But if you don’t understand, then please say that instead. It is much more helpful to the conversation than attempting to shout down ideas that you don’t like but–based on your post above–really do not understand.

      • with all due respect Kyle, my life is impacted by race daily and has been since I was a little girl in the 50’s and 60’s. It is impacted by this dialogue. I understand the tone of anger and frustration on both sides, how many years do we have to “pay” for another’s transgressions? Is it not a form of racism to broad stroke ALL white people, all latinos, all asians? Part of what makes this country so amazing is the mix of people from all cultures. What makes me sad is the assignment of a racial meaning to a gesture in a conversation that none of us were party to. As a “white” woman…what ever that is…I have been brought up in a society that has provided preferential treatment for people of color, they have advantages that I do not, in education and employment. Before you “explain” that to me, I do understand the history behind that…it doesn’t make it any more palatable to be told that your 4.0 isn’t going to get you into the college of your choice because a kid with a 3.5 will be selected because he fits the racial “quota”. There is a level of frustration built into the social engineering that has been going on for 1/2 a century now. And where has all that “social engineering” gotten us? The unemployment rate for the black male today is staggering. What is the first black president doing about that? Well, he’s flying to Arizona to stand on the tarmac, and have a discussion with the governor about how he didn’t feel he was fairly portrayed in her book. WHAT??? Does no one but me see how absolutely absurd this is? I think the term is narcissistic. Then when he doesn’t get the response he wanted…which, what did he want her to say???? he turns on his heels. This is a guy that doesn’t give a squat about anyone but himself, he doesn’t care that the black man is unemployed…he could care less. Ask him, ask him what he’s done to help the black man. Cite me one thing. Crickets.
        I don’t look at my beautiful black daughter in law or my beautiful black grandchildren and think…beautiful black…I just see them for the amazingly wonderful people that they are. I don’t look at my girlfriend as my black girlfriend…she’s just my friend. Do you see what I’m saying? Until we move beyond these stereo types, until we quit assigning these cultural differences we will never be united, we will just continue to point out the “differences”.
        PC indoctrination…that’s what this feels like to me.

      • Is it more palatable for you to dismiss or make your daughter-in-law’s ethnicity a non-issue in order to fully accept her? Folks in denial are a problem too. I would say to you that ignoring or dismissing ALL of whom a person is in order to accept them is an insult. BTW: there are many black folks who feel this way.

        Folks have written about the President’s ethnic background but he’s viewed as a man of color. There are many black men in this country who look like the President and both their parents are African-Americans. He checked African-American on the census because that is how he is viewed and how he views himself which is a good thing and not something to be ashamed of or diminished. When folks come to the point of EMBRACING differences rather than pretending they don’t exist–we may be able to turn this around. Unfortunately, until then we will have these dialogues. Someone mentioned Tim Wise’s book ‘Colorblind’ and I recommend that you read it as well.

        I had a white colleague tell me after a presentation on social work interventions in “at risk communities” that she doesn’t see me as a black woman but someone who is talented, capable and very smart. After many years of hearing this sort of thing and trying to educate as Ms. Jeffers is doing here; I responded within the context of weariness– that it was really o.k. to acknowledge my ethnicity for there are many black people who have those qualities. What I heard and what so many of us hear when statements like that are made is that black people don’t have those characteristics as a norm so we aren’t viewed
        like THEM! Exceptionalism begs the issue and can be a very lonely place!

      • Carolyn, you are making a lot of assumptions about my relationship with my daughter in law and my view of her that are just not based in fact…that may be your experience, it certainly is not mine. I don’t parade my ethnicity, but I have one…everyone does. I don’t call myself a Ukrainian American…I don’t call myself an Irish American…I am just an American. Both of those ethnicities have experienced horrible atrocities committed against them…am I holding you responsible??? No, you are no more responsible for those atrocities than I am for the “black” experience. We are all humans, we all need to be respectful of each other, caring and charitable. Is it appropriate for the President to be dismissive of the Governor and then to be upset when she writes about her experience with him? There are always two sides to an argument or disagreement. None of us were there, it’s presumptive to interpret what went on.

      • As a black man, whenever I hear that kind of comment, Carolyn, I have to remind myself that the individual actually thinks they are paying me a compliment, when they are actually insulting all my relatives and most of my friends whilst doing so. Of course Italians and other ethnicities have been living with these kinds of back handed complements for years as well.

      • Karen, I am not good with putting my opinions into coherent wording, so I offer this excerpt that fully expresses my beliefs:

        “By not seeing color, you’re not honoring my history, you’re not honoring my culture and heritage, you’re not honoring the challenges and obstacles I have because of the color of my skin that you will never face,” she says. “For anybody raising biracial children, whether they’re adopted or naturally born, I get that it’s love and I absolutely honor that. But love is not enough.

        “In your household, you see them as a great flute player, as a great football player. You see them for all the wonderful things they are and they’re absolutely loved for who they are, but in the external world, while others may see those same things, you have to prepare them for the possibility that someone may do this or do that because of the way they look on the outside. That conversation needs to be the foundation for sending these children out into the world.” ~Tiffany Rae Reid

        I am giving this to you as a reminder. I myself have been guilty of forgetting concerning my own children.
        What I can also say honestly, I absolutely cannot stand when family members use my children as an example of why they feel a certain way or as a defense. I don’t know why and I can’t fully explain it, I may even be ‘wrong’ for it, but it makes me very angry.

      • Dear Karen from a few posts above, I actually agree with a lot of the sentiment behind what you said. I mean, as others have noted, “difference” is real–removing race will not make us any less aware of difference (especially since race is more of a political reality than an actual one). Class is the new paradigm for oppression. So if we agree that race is, as a guide of future activity, useless, what is the point of asking what Obama has done for poor “black” people. 1*) Isn’t he trying to work for jobs and tax fairness for all working-class people (which would include “black” Americans)? 2*) What could Obama do for “black” unemployment? What is the strategy and would the country stand for policy focused on serving one community? The “black” unemployment rate is a symptom of systemic challenges in African-American communities and families, not something Obama can fix with the stroke of a pen. And, funny enough, when Obama has spoken to the issue of saving the soul of the African-American family, the youth, he gets shouted down by the Civil Rights era leadership and accused of being condescending (remember Jesse Jackson wanting to “cut his [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED] off”?)

        You’re right. We do not know the exact exchange on the tarmac at this moment. But–back to what Ms. Jeffers was trying to explain–Americans who are aware of the history of belittlement, emasculation and other disrespect of negroes in this country should know that such gestures tap into the pain and frustration many African-Americans have as a result of their and their parents and their parents’ parents having lived in that racialized–in the worst way–past. That’s all.

        P.S. If you really think we live in a country, a world, that “has provided preferential treatment for people of color,” let me ask you this: would you have “preferred” to live as a negro instead of a “white” person in America at any time over the last three hundred years?

      • Karen, I thank you for your insight. I simply don’t know why we must make things so complicated. In no way did I take your comments about not seeing your daughter as “black” to mean that you were ignoring her culture or ignoring her skin color. You were simply saying that “Yes she is different but I will not classify her as such based on how dark her skin is or what her cultural history is.” I am Irish American and I certainly hope no one looks at my face full of freckles and classify me as anything with negative undertones because of them. My grandfather’s parents had to change their last name in order to be accepted as worthy of living in this country and having a job to provide for their family – something that they came to this country to do in the first place.
        Through out history there have been many instances of prejudice against many different cultures: Native Americans were all but killed off and we stole everything from them. Chased them off their land and enslaved them once we took control or simply massacred them. Many other immigrants from countries in western Europe and Russia were racially profiled while coming off the boats at Ellis Island and were sent back to their countries because they were deemed “too stupid and simple” to contribute to our society or to be “allowed” to “mix breeds” if you will. Doctors, nurses and other workers were trained too look for certain facial features or other telling things about their country of origin and they wouldn’t even be let passed the first gates before they were shipped off to a room to wait for the boat to be emptied so that they could be shuttled right back onto it. They were deemed to “simple” or stupid and this integration or mix would cause our entire society and country to decline and eventually collapse. But these and other instances of segregation and prejudice are not typically taught in schools. They are not at the forefront of our society and therefor a lot of people are completely unaware that such other issues ever even existed. When we were grade school, we were not taught that the pilgrims eventually stole everything from the Native Americans and treated them like animals. We were taught about the “first Thanksgiving” and how they were all friends and lovey dovey and the Natives brought the corm to the party while wearing their pretty headdresses and loincloths.

        I have noticed in my experience – however much I have or do not have – that “white” people (and excuse me for being offended by this blanket categorization when there are clearly so many different categorizations within that one) are always told that they do not understand or that they are uneducated, or don’t have the experiences. Why can we not instead be assumed to be empathetic, assumed to be educated, assumed to have a history of similar prejudices in our own family histories – and possibly even more directly than some black people. I am not “white.” I am American. I am Irish. I am a little Italian. My freckles do not define me any more than the color of someone’s skin should define them. I do not say to myself “Well because I have freckles and extremely pale skin and am particularly hairy for a female, I have a different set of rules that need to be followed in terms of how you treat me so as not to offend me. Because people who don’t have freckles, pale skin, and excess hair think they are better than I am.” I was teased incessantly as a child for having very hairy arms, a “mustache,” freckles, being chubby, among other things. However I do not define myself by other people’s opinions of me or what I ASSUME other people’s opinions of me to be.

        I understand that the intention of this blog posting and a lot of the comments is not offend. However, it is a little backwards to generalize all white people as having the same opinions and understandings of things. My experience is different from everyone else’s experience. But I feel that a lot of “us whites” have grown to live in a society of fear as well. Perhaps not a fear for our physical well being (at least not all the time), but a fear for our reputation if we happen to utter the wrong words or make the wrong gestures in front of someone who is of a different color than us – and especially “black” Americans. We have to choose our words very carefully, make sure that we are very careful about what opinions we express, when, and to whom. We are deemed racist by a lot of people simply because we are white. We have been raised in a society that oppressed a particular group of people for so long, that now those formerly oppressed get preferential treatment in a lot of different places because we have to meet “quotas” so as not to upset anyone. We have to be afraid of backlash everywhere we go and everything that we do is scrutinized when it is in reference to someone that is of a different skin color. Some people call this “reverse racism” and though I do not necessarily agree with the term (as reverse racism would technically mean no racism at all), I understand their intentions. Due to our constant striving to “make things better” or let people know that “we don’t see you as different anymore” it has resulted in the preferential treatment of one particular group of people and the silencing of another. Again.

        In my own life I have never been a witness to any “white” child being taught how to treat people of different cultures because we are trying to teach them that there is no difference. However I have heard many instances of people “having to teach their children to be black.” Why would you teach your child to be black and not teach your child to be themselves? Children everywhere get made fun of and teased and beat up and alienated for such a multitude of reasons, not just black people. That’s what kids do. It’s not right for anyone. But my mother didn’t look at me when I was a kid and say “Sweetheart you are kind of a nerd, you love to read, you have a lot of freckles, you’re too smart, and you don’t have a Nintendo so let me teach you how to deal with it when the kids make fun of you for those things.” Can we talk about how ridiculous that sounds right now? And why does that sound ridiculous but teaching your children how to be black sounds normal? Children only see what we allow them to see and that is where our education needs to start. If we raise them with the assumptions that people will treat them differently because of the color of their skin, they will assume this to be true of everyone because it is now ingrained in their emotional make-up. If we keep raising our “white” children with this ingrained fear of what they say or do and who it will offend, then they will forever think that their differences are negative. They will forever be looking over their shoulders or thinking that something that THEY have done or will do is wrong. My 7 year old daughter said to me the other day “Mommy, why does Uncle Clarence call himself black? Because he’s not black. He’s brown. And he called Tom (her stepfather) white. But he’s not white. I don’t know what color to call it but when I use my markers, it’s peach. Besides, who cares anyways? Tom is Tom and Clarence is Clarence. And I kinda like Clarence’s hair better than Tom’s bald head, too.” I so desperately want her to be able to keep this innocence forever, but I know that somewhere along the way I or someone will have to tell her that Clarence IS different because of his skin and, because of that “you need to be careful what you do and say around people that look like him.”

        Can we not also remember that throughout history there have also been a large amount of “white” people who have always accepted “black” people and NOT been a part of the terrible segregation and prejudice? Can we remember that some of us were raised to embrace our differences and treat each person as an individual no matter what?

        I know you are trying to educate and you have good intentions, however what I see (and excuse me for being a “white” person seeing this) is another example of how we are trying to erase prejudice by pointing out differences and creating rules for your own particular culture that another particular group needs to follow – or else. While I do understand that as a “black” person, your difference is much more in the forefront of your being (and thus your differences) because it is the first thing you see. However, put a Greek person, a Russian, and a “mix breed” (if you will) American (like me) in front of me and I can tell you which is which. And they are all “white.” The closer you look at anyone, the more physical differences you will see. Why don’t we all just take a step back and realize that we are continuing to complicate an issue that is really quite simple – we are all different, but we are also all the same. We are all made up of the same things, we are conceived in the same way, we are born in the same way (relatively), we all have blood in our veins and breath air into our lungs, we all have fingers and toes, we all need food and drink to survive, we all sleep at night. We all fall in love, we all crave relationships with other people, we all come from God who loves each and every one of us. And I’m sure that in heaven, there is no “black” or “white” or “yellow” or brown.” I’m sure there are no “black” angels up in heaven waiting for some “white” angel to point their finger in their face so they can raise Cain. I’m pretty sure that all there is…is love.

    • Mr. Olivier, you seem to be tagging onto certain words, responding to them in a “hot button” sort of way, and incorrectly characterizing a valid, cultural teaching moment as “playing the race card”. In my opinion [and I have a right to it, as you have to yours], one cannot dismiss or minimize the REAL cultural differences that exist between the various peoples right here in the U.S. of A. To brush these differences aside and label them as “playing the race card” signals [to me, anyway] that those differences aren’t valid to you just because you haven’t experienced them. Even though we are American, everyone in this country DID NOT grow up with the same values, beliefs, practices, etc. To not acknowledge this–especially after having it so carefully explained by so many different folks–demonstrates a certain disregard for other cultures [whether intentional or unintentional]…I applaud the author’s attempt to clarify the point that Brewer’s finger-pointing was universally disrespectful [does ANYONE appreciate a finger pointed in his/her face?!] but ALSO on a cultural level. That is a fact, even if you don’t understand why it is.

    • @ Frederick Oliver: You posit being able to “FAIRLY” call President Obama a “white” man. Really? Did I miss something? Or did we ratify an amendment to the US Constitution (read, Construction) which historically codified race under a “One Drop Rule?” Talk about reverse revisionist history?? Sheesh…

    • Mr. Oliver,

      What a nice observation of you to point out that President Obama “has basic human decency and is a respectable, sane member of society”, I believe you probably are too, I don’t think it’s your fault that you lack the experiences to know better. I wonder if you yourself know personally a person who is biracial, sincere relationships with any of us would have made you to aware and sensitive for you to make the post that you have. I ask you to read a article from a young biracial woman who wrote a paper for her class at Georgetown that was later published in the Washington Post to give you a “little” insight. Thanks

      Article from the Washington Post

      By Alex Bledsoe
      Friday, May 7, 2010

      I am mixed. But when I check “Black, African American, or Negro” on my U.S. census form, do not correct me. I am attesting to the struggle of all young black girls in Roseville, Minn., whose identity is pressed into them like a brand when they walk down hallways to shouts of “black trash.”

      A combination of white and black does not reflect the historical burdens I have carried in my all-white environment. Midwestern American society, of which I am a product, has unfortunately made black and white mutually exclusive.

      I have had the opportunity to travel abroad and have been exposed to the complexities of racial classification as they are confronted outside of the United States. Abroad, I have witnessed Brazilian and Dominican societies recognize the nuances of racial mixture, evident in the innumerable Portuguese and Spanish terms used to describe varying shades of skin color, including preto, moreno and colorado.

      Here, the “one drop rule” wins out. There has never been a time when I was treated like a solution — equal parts white and black. Rather, I am a mixture, one that has taken on the color of the dominant gene, and been socialized as such.

      So when you tell me which box I should check on my census form or my college application, I am unmoved. I will check “Black, African American, or Negro,” in irony. Society has treated me as such, and thus I represent the black struggle ever more ardently.

      Alex Bledsoe is a student at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. This piece was adapted from an essay published in The Fire This Time, a Georgetown newsmagazine of which she is managing editor.

    • Mr. Olivier,

      I’m not sure where you live, but in every part of the country that I’ve lived in (including FL, GA, SC, OH, WI, and IA) a biracial person is NEVER identified as white, unless they are light-skinned enough to “pass.” This isn’t by their own choice, but because society as a whole insists on identifying everyone by skin color . . . It’s nice to think that you or I can identify President Obama as a “white person,” but neither one of us has that right. Only he has the right to choose whether to identify as black, white, or biracial. Even if he identifies as white or biracial, there is a huge proportion of both the white AND black communities that will refuse to recognize his right to do so because of his skin color and will insist on calling him a “black man.”

  14. I am not one to normally take the time to read blogs but I was intrigued by the subject of this one. I was so annoyed that anyone would have he gall to point their finger in the face of the president of the United States of America. That behavior is totally un-American. In some countries Jan Brewer would have been taken out back, flogged and/or imprisoned for making such an egregious gesture to a Head of State.

    • I am with you on this one, Daryel. Where was the Secret Service in this situation? This woman should have been hauled off the premises immediately – no matter who she is. I’m concerned about the un-American behaviour/rhetoric coming from this region of our United States in general. When I first saw this photo, without even knowing the background, I thought the gesture highly improper. I believe this encounter however, in a very public way, has brought to light the bigotry that still exists in this country. Fortunately, with another term looking more certain each day, we potentially may be able to look back at this situation and see it as a turning point in the coming election as well as history. In a few more years there could be a new American norm; a conduct and standard for presidential behaviour which future politicians can aspire to, as well as a newly found respect for the Commander In Chief.

      • Good grief. The Secret Service should haul off this woman for pointing a finger at the President during a disagreement? I guess some people really advocate the police state!

      • This blog is truly something special. I need to be sleeping right now because I have to go educate a predominantly white class about African music and culture. Recently I presented to a high school AP class. I asked a question to see how well they were listening and one of the students blurted out something about “The Lion King”. I was talking about West Africa. I believe “The Lion King” is set in Kenya, which is considered by most as a part of North Africa. The teacher didn’t reprimand the student, nor correct her on her inappropriate behavior, let alone the geographical error. What that said to me was that on some level, she felt that it was o.k. to disrespect me in such a way. I also had the displeasure of having some of the neighboring teachers make comments like “Oh, I was wondering where that noise was coming from”, through the door while the presentation was still going on. I know that this is off subject and forgive me for writing so much, but it is times like that when I wish that I had this blog to refer to on demand when I am at a cross roads to either stand up and defend my personal integrity, culture, ethnicity or ideals. Its hard to hear ignorance like that come from children, let alone adults whom interact with them on a day to day basis. Its nice to know that your blog exists, because believe it or not (friendly white people), people like me who feel helpless in the moment-people like me who are still learning to have courage of conviction do exist. After all that we’ve been through as a nation we are still told that all ignorance is created equal. Those of us who are still figuring out a way to express these ideas about race relations in America and how it has shaped us ponder these events deeply. All of us do. Unless we write about them, I fear they will soon be treated like isolated events, therefore making accounts such as these banter at best. You can bet your life that insanity will soon follow. I fear that I am already there.

  15. When I saw this in the newspaper I was outraged but the President’s resolve was impressive. These things occur due to the fact that there are people who think they are superior to other people and who cannot handle a person or group of people who disagree with them and do so in a rather intelligent and decent manner.
    Thanks for the commentary Ms. Jeffers.

  16. Thank you for this great post. You’re right that there’s a complex history behind that gesture, this interaction. People do not normally wag their fingers at people they respect, and people whom they consider to have authority.

  17. Thank you for this very informative and insightful blog. As a white woman I have had the finger waging in my face and I knew right there and then what that meant. It places you in a subservient position immediately. President Obama has my highest respect for the way he handles many cultural insensitivities that have been unleashed on him as President. As Melanie said in a previous post, “People do not normally wag their fingers at people they respect, and people whom they consider to have authority.”

  18. ok, i know this wasn’t the point of your post (and I did get the points, I promise). but i have to say that the story about your mom making a separate potato salad for you without the egg whites touched my heart. that is really love – to know what your loved one wants and provide it because you care. very touching.

  19. This WAS a good read, as a white woman who saw that exchange with disgust. While unfamiliar with the particular codes, I wondered immediately whether Jan Brewer would have sunk so low to disrespect a white president in this fashion. While its meaning may be somewhat different in the white community (in full possession of white privilege, and anyone who denies it is just ignorant!), it’s not a gesture of respect, understanding, or friendship. It is aggressive, offensive, and appalling…and something no one should do to the president of the United States, whether they agree with him or not.

    Alas that our political discourse has become so pathetic.

  20. Phenomenally expressed. I applaud your attempt to reach those who can be reached. We should all try it more often.

  21. I am a white woman who has been SO upset
    by Governor Brewer’s actions. I knew it was
    rude, unbelievably out of line and also mixed up in the cultural pot. However I did not know how to articulate the racial aspects of the act in the
    way you have. I thank you for writing this. I have
    sent Governor Brewer a letter about her actions, now not only am I going to te-post your Blog
    I am going to send it to her. Thank You so much.

  22. I am so grateful that my aunt shared your blog with me. This is a wonderful, insightful read. Hopefully, everyone who is outraged by this display will, if not already registered to vote, register and show their displeasure at the polls in November. Thank you!

  23. Madame Honoree…this was a superb piece of writing…straight forward…direct and honest. Let’s this published everywhere!

  24. My sister pointed me to this post. I’m one of those well meaning white people furious at Governor Brewer’s finger pointing. I’ve always considered finger pointing as an disrespectful way of taking power in a deliberately demeaning manner. I really appreciate the additional culture context you presented.

  25. I’m not sure how this blog content has served anyone in a good way as I note that you have passed right over the important issues that are contained in this interaction. In order to draw attention to the racial distress of one culture of people you have missed the opportunity to empower many people. Mr. Obama not only has the self-control to dignify himself in this situation but he also has a wider, more graceful and courageous vision of right and wrong than your blog has given him credit for.

  26. I am a mixed-race (white and East Indian) woman who passes for white… President Obama handled himself better than I might’ve, because honestly, *I* feel insulted and disrespected when someone points their finger at me like that!

    I understand the point you’re making with this blog, at the same time – what the governor did was simply plain, flat-out rudeness, regardless of culture. Some of your post comes off (inadvertently, I’m sure) as somewhat apologetic: “poor little white woman didn’t know what a grave offense this was”. To those who might actually believe that was true, I call [EDITED BY PHILLIS REMASTERED]. Sometimes, rude is just rude, regardless of culture.

    • Hello there:

      I don’t print comments with profanity on the blog, no do I use profanity in my blog posts. I’ve edited your comment accordingly. In the future, if you choose to comment, please adhere to the “no profanity policy.”

      I’ve found that the minute profanity enters a debate, people who respond after that begin to be less polite. I know some folks view my position as censorship, but I choose to think of it as encouraging civility.:-)

      Take care, and thanks for reading! I hope you choose to visit again.


      • People use that word – censor – without really understanding what it means. This blog is yours. It’s like you have allowed us to come into your living room and we’re having a conversation. You don’t have to allow comments at all so of course you don’t have to allow profanity. If someone wants to spew a string of invective, they can start their own blog.



      • John’s comment below is perfectly correct, and you have my honest apology. This is your space, and it was my fault for not reading your rules before posting. I have no issue with adhering to the “no profanity rule”!


  27. I very much enjoyed the article and the points it makes. I agree that the finger pointing should not have happened. I also believe that this type of incident does not happen in a vacuum. I also usually think that perhaps both individuals may have had something to do with this type of reaction. For example: Review the statement Pres. Obama made about the police acting stupidly in Cambridge. Mass. How did he frame himself with that statement? And the statement he made about-…”if they bring knives we will bring guns.” Or, his statement that he could easily beat Hannity with one hand (physically-if I remember correctly). Or-when he put down the Pennsylvania farmers about their guns and religion. Or-recently when he commented about Israel’s prime minister. Or-going to Europe to apologize about the U.S. Perhaps, Pres. Obama has set the tenor somewhat for how people respond to him. If a person’s statements are going to be less that “presidential” -he might expect less than presidential responses, regardless of his race.” And NO- it does not excuse the finger-pointing behavior.

    • Ray, I understand where you are, but I think there is a better place to be. Each of those actions/statements you reference were in response to a situation. This article and this issue is more about the ” initial or instagative ” actions. If you don’t want to respect those responses, that is your right. But realize you are not in the same position; historically, culturally, or personally, as that person at that moment. This article provided some insight on an area that may be different culturally and/or historically different. While your reference to past responses by the President of the US seem to paint a sign above a door that can be used as anyone sees fit; you again are not completely correct. The Governor’s actions, and her response, were not appropriate. That doesn’t make her a racist, it means she was culturally insensitive and very rude. And her actions don’t justify any rude or insensitive responses…. While looking down from the proverbial high road, realize that there are sometimes still more true and more correct perspectives yet.

  28. Wonderful essay! But I have a disagreement about one thing:

    Is Brewer’s gesture itself any more racially coded than any other mark of disrespect? Governor Chris Christie of NJ is constantly wagging his finger in people’s faces, or at the camera, and it’s just awful. Finger-wagging conveys superiority and contempt, and “putting someone in his place” in any American cultural group, I would think.

    So maybe the finger-pointing gesture *itself* is not specifically racially coded, but any gesture of disrespect looks and feels worse when a person from a historically privileged group does it to someone from a historically oppressed group. I had a male boss who did it to female employees and the optics were not good there, either.

    I agree that President Obama came out of the confrontation a winner and Brewer a complete loser!

    • Miss Julie:

      I probably didn’t make my point well. I didn’t mean that finger-pointing was exclusively insulting to Black people–only that it is insulting to Black people, and it is usually/always perceived as racially coded when a White person makes the gesture, because of Black people’s painful history with White supremacy in this country, even if the White person may not intend to be relying on that history. I’ve found that with “race” issues, it is indeed possible for intent and effect to be two equal truths. That’s why understanding is so important between cultures, at least I think.

      Maybe I said that a little better?:-) Anyway, I hope you come back and read again!


      • Thanks, I absolutely will! I got to your blog through a friend posting a link to this piece on Facebook, and read lots of your other essays. Love your subjects, your perspective and your very stylish writing!

    • She raised her little finger to the President of the United States. Fits right in with shouting “you lie” at a public speaker. It is wrong (and shows a lack of proper ubringing) in any situation. However you take it to a diffeent pedestal when you misbehave in front of, and toward the President.

      Trying to explain her actions by comparing it with the actions of your boss is splitting hairs and misses the point. The article reveals a unique perspective on an issue that is worth reflecting on.

  29. Sticking a finger in somebody’s face isn’t just rude in black culture. It’s rude in EVERY culture. That’s the reason so many media outlets have picked up this story. Gov. Brewer has no class.

  30. Dude, I am a white woman and I know better than to jab a finger or a hand in anyone’s face, regardless of color. It’s rude and I can understand why people are pissed. I’m pissed. This woman was clearly raised by mannerless pigs. If she had a beef with the president, the professional thing would have been to bring it up in private. But like a true tea bagger, she decided to act like a two year old and throw a little tantrum on the tarmac. I commend President Obama for keeping a clear head, because I would have pulled that [EDITED BY PHILLIS REMASTERED] hair.

    • Hi there:

      I don’t print comments with profanity on the blog, no do I use profanity in my blog posts. I’ve edited your comment accordingly. In the future, if you choose to comment, please adhere to the “no profanity policy.”

      I’ve found that the minute profanity enters a debate, people who respond after that begin to be less polite. I know some folks view my position as censorship, but I choose to think of it as encouraging civility.:-)

      Take care, and thanks for reading! I hope you choose to visit again.


  31. The truth anyhow! Thanks for the very articulate yet entertaining article.

    I do hope you took the time to educate the poster, “screw racists…black, white or purple” cause the poor guy sounds a little lost. It sounds like he is a staunch supporter of the “colorblind philosophy” and views any reference to color as racist. I highly recommend for him the book, “Colorblind: The Rise of Post-racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity” by anti-racism educator Tim Wise. I recommend this book to anyone who thinks that this article was in ANY way “racist.”

    • Hey there Miss Amerilynn:

      No, I had to delete “Mr. Screw’s” comments because he had a really profane email address.:-) It was a shame. I think a dissenting voice in any debate adds a bit of spice!–as long as people are polite and civil, of course.:-)

      Thanks so much for reading! I hope you return.


  32. The blog is title, “A Teachable Racial Moment,” and it was helpful. I would love to know the sensitivities of anybody I meet, but you don’t just dive in and ask, “What are your hot spots?” But I’d want to know because, I don’t want to hurt or offend anybody. Nobody loves the pokey finger in the face, but if Black people are especially sensitive to it than others, for whatever reason, it’s plain good to know. I’m not smart, but I am not mean, and I’m an imperceptibly better person now in an important way. Two thumbs and two big toes up!

  33. I thought your comments were informative and honest and well intended and I want to thank you for sharing your insights about the context in which the incident occurred. I feel like I learned something useful from reading your blog and the comments it sparked. Thank you.

  34. Thanks for the education. I hadn’t thought of finger pointing in the context you described, but it makes sense. Then of course, I think that one adult pointing a finger into any other adult’s face has the same connotations sans the obvious historical context as you described. I would have thought it rude for any governor to put his or her finger in the face of any president.

    I think the other obvious “white vs black” issue in this story was the fact that she felt threatened. It came across to me in the same way that most whites think of black men as gang members without even consciously recognizing that thought is a racially prejudiced default.

  35. Even you say Brewer pointed “near”, not “in”, Obama’s face. If people will bother to actually look at the photo, Brewer’s pointing near, and below, Obama’s chin.

    Is it so ridiculous that a woman should feel threatened by a younger, 8″ taller, and physically stronger man leaning over in HER face, REGARDLESS of his color? Sheesh. Where are the feminists when one needs them?

    • Hi Mr. Alan:

      I’m actually a radical feminist.:-) See the post previous to this one called, “Crying Foul on the Faux: Hip Hop Feminism.”

      Thank you for reading! I hope you decide to come back.


    • As a 5’3″, kinda scrawny girl, I can honestly say that no, I do not feel threatened when a taller person (regardless of sex, age, strength, or race ) leans down to hear me better, which is what I assume the President was doing before the finger-pointing began. Unlike the finger thing, leaning down to hear what the other (shorter) person is saying is actually polite and shows that you’re interested in what the other person is saying.

  36. Thank you for making your post so welcoming and informative. You did such an eloquent (aka, non-threatening) job of outlining a rather charged and delicate subject. I am a seminary student studying for the ministry, and I have to admit that when I started my degree, I was just plain ignorant on the subject of white privilege and racism. It has taken several of my beloved Black colleagues and various professors a couple of years to persistently and (usually) gently point out my privilege as a white person, but I am finally able to see it for myself. International travel has also helped. This article is a great primer for someone who is still getting used to those ideas.

    Your writing also brought to mind an experience I had in the Philippines a year ago. Our Filipino hosts were steeped in Asian culture, and so they would never lose face by telling a guest that the guest was exhibiting rude behavior. But one of my white traveling companions had a habit of pointing her finger at people when she spoke, and our poor hosts of course were not taking kindly to this. When the situation came to my attention, I tried pulling her aside privately to suggest she strive to contain her finger. Her response was, “I’ll point my finger at whomever I please. It’s just part of the way I am.” Needless to say, relations did not improve.

    When I imagine pulling aside Gov. Brewer and having a similar conversation, I can’t help but wonder if she would have a similarly uncompromising response as my companion.

  37. Well represented, with all feelings & perspectives displayed for the taking, the tasting, the understanding. The learning. I even sampled the egg yoke ….. and it was fine. I so appreciate the time taken to illustrate what is truly important. For those able to receive, it is a matter of gifting. Thanks for being a friend.

  38. I don’t care who you are, & it doesn’t matter what he’s been able to do or not, he’s the PRESIDENT of the United States of America! Where I was raised, that means the utmost respect is required! As to the race thing, how long are we going to fall for that distraction & manipulation of the masses? As far as I can see, pretty much it has brought us to povererty, lack of education, & good health, & repersentative repersentation spread across many diverse races in our country! We have the oppurtunity to create something far beyond our imagining if we come togeather, & act from a point of humanity & quit buying into distractions we’re sold like color. It is way past being a color thing. It past being a class thing. It’s a human issue.

  39. I’m a Brazilian woman, and I’ve been offended by Jan Brewer since the whole “whoa is me” act when Arizona’s immigration bill in 2010 was dubbed unconstitutional. I bet there’s a 50% chance I’d be “carded” based on my skin tone down in Arizona, now a days (is that law still in effect?) Now, I thought her saying she felt threatened by President Obama was a bunch of bull that she only said to save face. I always thought putting your finger in someone’s face was very disrespectful, but I too never knew the connotations it held in the black community. What an eye opener. Thank you for writing this. I’m a first time reader (someone posted this on their Facebook), but I will probably be back for more 🙂

  40. I loved what you wrote. I just wanted to let you know that I’m living in Japan right now and your words made their way across the ocean. Keep up the good work!

  41. And how often do Black women call Black men “IGNORANT” to their face. I have had two Black women do it to me. And both of them were obviously younger than I was at the time. This was in public and neither of them knew a thing about me.

    • Mr. Karl,

      While you might (or might not) have a legitimate complaint regarding discourteous treatment, your comment is off-topic. This is a constructive discussion primarily about race/racism (white supremacy) (or suspected racist/white supremacist behavior), not another “Black men vs. Black women” divide and conquer rant. Besides, President Obama is married to a Black woman who does not refer to him as “ignorant,” does not dismiss or belittle him, and who obviously loves and respects him.

      Also, I think the following quote from Mr. Neely Fuller Jr. is quite appropriate for this forum:

      “If you do not understand White Supremacy (Racism) — what it is, and how it works — everything else that you understand, will only confuse you.”


      “As long as Racism (White Supremacy) exists, anything said, or done, by people, that is not intended to help eliminate Racism, and to help produce justice, is a waste of time/energy.”

      (Both quotes are from “The United Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept: A Textbook/Workbook for Thought, Speech and/or Action for Victims of Racism/White Supremacy” by Neely Fuller, Jr.)

      Thank you Ms. Jeffers for your very interesting, informative, and constructive article. Perhaps it is at least a step in encouraging ALL people to focus on producing JUSTICE.

  42. Just discovered your blog through Facebook, and I will be following avidly in the future. Thank you for creating actual dialogue around these charged topics. I run an education department (in a theater) that unfortunately currently represents the usual educational breakdown along traditional racial lines: a majority of white women teaching a majority of black and latino/hispanic boys, a situation I also see in almost every “underserved” school I enter. I know there’s cultural norms and standards that are just not known, understood, or even acknowledged between the two groups, which just furthers the already wide educational gap. As I continue to seek out resources to examine and work on this problem, I’m glad to have your voice here. Thank you so much and looking forward to future posts!

  43. Great blog, great writing, I will be back to read more. While I agree with most that the fingerpointing was out of line in any culture, and many could misinterpret the message as adding to racism, I think the problem with this whole situation is much larger. Gov Brewer was just plain wrong in her well documented encounter with Pres Obama, what stuck me as being beyond the pale was when she then went on her media blitz about feeling “threatened” by the Pres. Is it just me or was that the ultimate in race baiting?? I know you touched on it in your blog, but the media seems to be tip-toeing around that aspect of the entire incident! To me this is her ultimate offense! Thanks for writing, and thanks for understanding that there are a lot of people out here that want to be and are “teachable”

  44. I have one question. If we are all equal, why is it that the black community has “Rules” which they think apply to other races but not to themselves. That’s no different than the “Rules” which were made by the slave holders in early america. I say if you want to be treated a certain way, stop demanding it because your great great grandfather was done wrong, and start earning it by treating others and behaving how you want to be treated. As a white male who grew up with racism all around me in the south, I have experienced more than id like to have. As a grown man, I see more black on white racism and hatred for the sake of hatred than I currently see the traditional white on black hatred. In short. If people would quit bringing up the past and let it die with the older generations, along with behaving as they want to be treated, racism will eventually disappear like the Victrola… only to be found in an occasional backwoods pawn shop.

    • Your opinions are just that, – opinions, regardless of where you got them from. They are tiny, a speck compared to the immensity of God. You cannot possibly have even the faintest idea of what God commands to other people, to other lifeforms. There has been an experience in this life of how felt only by those who have gone through; an entire “Culture” has been (mis) treated like non other. And you want to say: (quit bringing up the past and let it die with older generations), With that sort of response is what this dialogue is all about something you just don’t know or want too know about. So it’s about education of a “Culture” of a people, that one will be given the “Respect” as to belonging to this “Race” and there is only one; The Human Race”

      • Dan I was all set to read through this post and enjoy the responses until I read one sentence: “quit bringing up the past and let it die with older generations”…

        Your idea to sweep it under the rug and keep moving is not going to fly. Not today, and probably not for centuries to come. I think the real issue, Dan, is not that WE should “quit bringing up the past”. I think the real issue here is that YOU just don’t want to be reminded.

        Accountability is a mother.

    • Dan, are you saying when you grew up the racism was traditional, with whites hating blacks? If that is the case, you must have watched the conversion of hearts of these white former racists. That is something most blacks haven’t seen, and thus they carry resentment, not only for the past, but the present. You and many other present day white people constantly are asking blacks to forget about the past, and as soon as we do, we get F’d up. All white people aren’t the same, and you are not as aware of racism, as those white people who actually get it. I believe the catalyst behind you writing was not the article, but something in you. You are tired, like most whites, but you haven’t been the victim of racism like blacks who live it from day one. We are tired too.

    • Dan: Who said these rules apply to other races but not themselves? I’m pretty sure the gist of this post was that the gesture of the hand or finger in the face, generally speaking in black culture in America more than in white culture in America, is a pretty insulting one, period. A middle finger is insulting in American culture but not necessarily elsewhere, or a certain “horns” gesture made with two fingers is more insulting in certain parts of Europe than it would be here. So if you go to Europe you shouldn’t be surprised if a gesture most Americans wouldn’t even recognize as offensive gets you punched in the face. That’s not a rule that applies to Americans but not Europeans, it is a rule that applies everywhere but Americans might not be aware of it. The author pointed out that because of sensitivity across racial boundaries, the offense would be felt even more strongly if a white person did it, but she never suggested that this particular cultural “rule” or way of showing respect/disrespect doesn’t apply to blacks, that somehow only white people are being disrespectful if they put a finger in someone’s face.

  45. Thank you for the blog! Things happen for a reason. This incident occurred just they way it was ordained, without “Any” of us knowing it was going to happen. It did and that’s a fact. With all that has been said, written, expressed, analyzed, judged, scrutinized, printed, surveyed, speculations, perspectives and opined, It’s is a wonder! In desperation, we make permanent decisions about temporary circumstances.
    No one has ever risen to the real stature of spiritual adulthood until one has found that it is finer to serve somebody else than it is to serve oneself. That’s exactly what Mr. Barack H. Obama, The President of The United States of America, showed through his response. “It’s not about “Color” It’s about “Character!” He displayed a (re) action that many would not have been able to do. The character of this man speaks to what he felt and only what he went through. It was between him and her. We can no longer allow our past to destroy what God has for us in the present. This was that time for the reason for “A Teachable Moment” of life.
    Again, thank you for your gift and light of giving us another perspective.

  46. Points well made. Although I have to say it No matter what race, culture or gender you are finger pointing is never a good thing.

  47. For a while now, I have noticed the erratic behavior of Gov Brewer, the odd behavior, combativeness, mental slips, blanking out, etc and concluded she might be suffering mild cognitive impairment. MCI would explain a lot. I’m just saying…

  48. I want to educate you too. Finger pointing in the face is also a threatening behavior to us “white folks” of which half of Mr. President is. But in reality, none of us really KNOW exactly what transpired during the conversation between the Arizona Govenor and the President. All we know is that at some point in their conversation, she pointed a finger at him, her index finger by the way. As a supervisor to a few black Americans, I’ve experienced that finger-pointing in my face from them. It is definitely threatening, and in my circumstances it was insubordinate behavior in our workplace. I’ve gotten very weary of the black community trying to hold me responsible for slavery and other historical abhorrent injustices. A mature person looks at others based on who they are, not on who their ancestors were. Isn’t time for the black culture to grow up?

  49. I think some people just need to use common sense. Pointing your finger in anyone’s face is completely disrespectful. It is reminiscent of a parent pointing a finger in a child’s face. It is demeaning and degrading. It gives off the impression that the finger pointer is the superior and the “victim” is the inferior. I can see why this would be especially offensive to anyone who isn’t White as well.

    As a White woman married to a Black man, I truly apologize for all the ignorance on behalf of all the White people. I wouldn’t point my finger in anyone’s face and I think someone of her age should just know better. My mother used to always say, “It’s rude to point!”

  50. Disclaimer: white boy without too many non-white friends.

    I didn’t see Brewer’s actions as race related. I saw them as power and respect related. While I have no idea of black cultural norms or expectations, I do understand basic human interaction. And regardless of whether she was black, white or purple, she behaved poorly.

    I fear, however, that tying it to race somehow diminishes the negative nature of the gesture. I fear that by saying “don’t ever put you hand in the face of a black person”, you’re somehow either saying it would’ve been ok if: a) she was black, or b) if she would’ve been ready to come to blows. I fear this because EITHER of those things would still be wrong.

    People shouldn’t make aggressive gestures towards other people. Period. People, especially ones within a particular social structure (ie: government office), should learn/respect that structure, such that even if Brewer had EVERY right to point at Obama, she would’ve refrained because he “ranks” higher than her.

    I guess I just believe that I don’t need to learn all of the various cultural differences to show a person from another culture basic respect.

    • I don’t know if my last comment went through because I just got this phone and still getting used to it. I just want to say that I love this article. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

  51. Thank you for the look into black culture and why so many are offended by the finger pointing. I certainly see where it is coming from.

    Permit me to have a teachable moment here as well. For white people, as a rule, we interpret the finger pointing a bit differently. Often it is done for emphasis, not humiliation, or superiority. It is indeed a “threatening” gesture, but (due largely to our different experiences) “White” people interpret these things differently. We don’t see it as leading to humiliation.

    As for the Gov of AZ feeling threatened, it is very possible. Regardless of race, the President, is well, the President, the most powerful person in the Nation, possibly even the world. He’s also taller than her. If you wish to speak of threatening gestures, the fact that he towers over her certainly would also count (and thus would be met with a fellow threatening gesture to “take back” power, not to emphasize the superiority of power).

    We must also look at the situation where people of all colors in AZ are asking for their state to be made a safe place to live, but the President and his government have hindered the Gov’s ability to do so. Certainly knowing that person with more power than you has set himself against you will make anyone feel threatened, regardless of gender or race.

    If I understand you correctly, “Black” people see this as a “White” Woman Humiliating the Black President. But “White” people see this as a Woman trying to Emphasize a point to a Man, or as I see it, a Governor trying to stand up to the President (I tend to not see in terms of race and gender).

    Thank you for your time.

    • Just going to chime in here that this white guy, me, saw it right away as an overt attempt at belittling, as a “You ought to know (I certainly know) better” gesture, made to signify an imbalanced position of authority like that of a parent/adult to a wayward child. It said “I’m going to teach you as this is within my rights to exercise my inherent moral stature over somebody who does not know simple right from simple wrong.” She was manipulating the moment for the potential of cynical, political gains. She was publicly acting the role of Goodly House-Mom towards the ‘bad-boy’.

      Doing so stirs a vividly ugly past, one not too far gone and incompletely at that. A past where ‘A Black Man’ was a pushy, willful, outlandish term. A scary contrivance. A thing untrue. What she wanted to do was to show that she wasn’t going to allow for someone “too big for their britches”.

      To those who ask how it is ‘that there are different rules ?’ etc …. I say, My friends, you have missed a lot of school, and your homework has seriously piled up.

  52. Thank you very much for this teachable moment. I saw what she was doing as rude and very disrespectful to The President of the United States. Learning that there is a Black cultural aspect to it as well is very enlightening. I am a white clueless one and appreciate the education. I also appreciate you taking the time to explain race=culture. That is an approach that makes sense to me and seems more workable than the genetic racial view my grandparents had that seems to get inappropriately mixed into discussions today.

    I am even more proud of my President knowing he would might have had to overcome a kneejerk reaction that I wasn’t aware of. I will be sharing this.

  53. I appreciated the cultural knowledge you shared in this blog. I do wonder though, if Obama recognized the cultural transgression committed by the governor. My understanding of his upbringing, leaves me wondering if there were any adult African-American authority figures to transmit this cultural knowledge to the young Barack (AKA Barry). I do not defend the Governor’s actions, but one cannot dismiss the power balance between the sexes in situations like these, which can weigh just as heavily as race.
    Thank you for the brain stimulation.

  54. On one hand, I like the concept of an authentic response being issued, but perhaps that’s where this fails for people like me. The interpretation is hardly “authentic” in its approach because it assumes a perspective for all black people. I’m always squeamish when such a position is taken as a voice of the collective when there is no such thing.

    Black people are people. (Gosh, it’s crazy how that fact is a simple reality that even black pundits refuse to acknowledge.) As people, we are diverse within our group. All of us have not lived a “‘honi’ child” experience. Like Obama, I have been raised in communities that have few black people. He and I have both lived on Hawaiian islands as children. I’m not saying this gives me any special insight or bridge to the POTUS, but I resent the idea that “we” think a certain way or embrace certain beliefs as a whole.

    That being said, finger-pointing is rude in any culture. Of course, it is demeaning in its intent and reception. You don’t have to claim any degree of negritude to accept that. I’m particularly offended by this concept that black people have some special code of “‘dems fightin’ words” responses. From my experience, the only difference between black people’s typical “rules” and those of many whites is in the groups’ manner of expression. Where black people are often vocal about their expectations and responses to certain behaviors, many whites have subdued, suggested codes, and their responses may be indirect but no less aggressive (passive aggressive). This article makes it seem as though every black person is liable to “open up a can of whoop ass” if a rule is violated. And, even worse, it suggests that Obama didn’t do so with Brewer simply because she is a woman.

    No, Obama is a diplomat. He walks away from direct confrontation because he is a refined, civilized man, not because he’s an “old school brother”. To suggest otherwise is plain insulting.

  55. What a great piece, oh my, you gave me laughter where I had only felt insulted seeing that photo over and over again, thank you! Arizona just banned books of Native and Mexican American authors, which brings people like us back a ways too to remembering the past. I pray we have a calm, Old School member of our community that can act so cool, because its felt like a cultural assault on top of insult. Books were torn from kids hands, boxed and taken out of classrooms and it breaks my heart.

    Oh, gotta share your piece…laughter is so important these days. And, in the process, you also gave a clear interpretation, one I felt emotionally but couldn’t say in words. Members of our tribal community were/are dark, and we were often called ‘blackies,’ and other names I won’t repeat.

    What our President has had to endure is beyond belief. The Office of the President should not be insulted, and certainly not by people who hold themselves up as the ultimate patriots.

  56. You’re a racist. I’m so disgusted with your comments that I can’t read past the first 3 paragraphs. I can’t tell from the picture whether her finger was close to President Obama’s face or was past it, but white, black, or blue, presidents get disrespect. That’s part of the territory of public office. Every president I can remember was disrespected to their face. If that finger was directly in his face rather than a gesture over his shoulder as it appears to me, then that lady’s crazy for doing that to a president, to a person. Not because he’s black. Because he is a person. Please don’t generalize about people with my skin color. Because you have not met enough white people in your life to justify what you said.

    • If I understand you correctly, you are arguing that anyone who holds a public office should expect to be disrespected. Do you really believe we should hold out so little hope for our fellow citizens—or our constituents—to behave with civility and maturity? I, for one, expect to be treated with respect, and I find that when I go out of my way to behave with respect toward all people, I generally receive the respect I expect.

      I can’t help but note that your comment is sadly lacking in respect toward the highly educated and very eloquent lady who wrote this article. Perhaps you were simply demonstrating an example of how disrespect is “part of the territory” of one who is a public figure?

      If I may offer a respectful suggestion, perhaps you should read the article in its entirety, reflect on it, and possibly count to ten before making such harsh and concrete judgements about a fellow human being.

  57. Thank you for this post. I was brought here for the first time today by a friend who knows my frustration with race relations in our country. Your sentence about rules so hard to follow made me cheer. Each ethnicity has that. Tripping over them allows for learning, but it’s so much more comfortable to learn from others first before making a buffoon of yourself, especially if you’re a peace-loving, well-meaning human being. It’s clear you come from a perspective that is sorely needed in our country. It makes me so pleased to know someone is doing work like this. Old School Brother: made me think that there are Old School People who wouldn’t disrespect anyone, let alone, the President of the United States. You can get your point (no pun intended) across without using such disrespectful body language. Your example about a mother with a misbehaving child is dead on. It makes me wonder what Gov. Brewer actually said to the President. As for her retort that she was intimidated — her body language, again says otherwise. Political posturing for sure is rather the reason. Understanding history, our American cultural history especially, should be something any of our leaders have a foundation in before seeking office. Obama surely has that, Brewer…not at all. It also made me think that someone like the former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, would be that Young Knucklehead With No Sense. Can you imagine him in such a scenario? Regardless, this is another example where my president’s clam and collective maturity makes me respect him that much more. It is exactly that presence of mind that will earn him another vote from me.

    Thank you for your powerful words. I will return to your blog again, to be sure.

  58. Sticking your finger in anyone’s face is completely wrong….but it does happen when people lose control of reason. However, we are talking about THE PRESIDENT OF THESE UNITED STATES! I don’t care if he/she is sage green or fushia…Respectful behavior is the only type to be used in the presence of the President. Any other behavior speaks to the poor character of the individual. This is not a lesson of race it is a lesson in Integrity.

  59. Thank you for reminding us that we can still get our way when we are in the seat of power. While the Governor threw a tantrum, the President, looked at her with forelorned eyes that said,,,,,, and when you are through talking, what I said I still mean….. [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED]

    • Hi there Miss Lita:

      I don’t print comments with profanity or hate speech, no do I use profanity or hate speech in my blog posts. I’ve edited your comment accordingly. In the future, please adhere to the “no profanity/no hate speech policy.”

      I know some folks view my position as censorship, but I choose to think of it as encouraging civility.:-)
      Take care, and thanks so much for reading! I hope you choose to visit again.

      Take care,

  60. Excellent essay! I had no idea that finger-pointing was considered so incendiary among African Americans, but I was perfectly clear on the fact that Governor Brewer’s gesture was disgracefully rude and disrespectful, especially to a President.

  61. I’ve never really thought about how much pointing fingers bothered me until reading this and thinking of several instances of it and how mad I got. Its up there with having fingers snapped at me or being looked at up and down.

  62. Ms. Jeffers — I’d like to pick up on a comment you made in passing in the third paragraph of this post, about “racial waters that ironically (and to me, bewilderingly) have become far more treacherous since the election of our first Black president”.

    It has always seemed to me that Barack Obama was set up to achieve the impossible, by a country desperate for someone else to fix what the people of that country have not yet faced within themselves. Including negativity and judgements that cost other people/races/countries their lives and the lives of their citizens.

    In fact, it strikes me that the reason things might have become more treacherous is because they have been elevated to a new level — the light is shining much harder and more widely on things people have to know in their souls and hearts are wrong, whether or not they are ready to admit to and change those things. The conversation we’ve needed to have has become far more visible, which is threatening to a lot of people’s comfort.

    As for Jan Brewer, she clearly was taking a golden opportunity to “spin” her actions and those of the President to gain visibility — look at how much press she’s gotten for herself over this. For some people, any visibility is good visibility, even if it reveals the depth of their ignorance.

    And, sadly, the only way out is through. We’ve needed someone strong and decent enough (I’m talking about President Obama here) to be willing to stand as the intended scapegoat of a segment of the American population and say “here, let me hold up this mirror for you to look into — what do you see?”

    Because remember, when we point a finger at someone else, there are always three pointing back at us…

  63. It means she has a problem with him and him alone. If someone wants to make it out to be anything more than that then they are the ones who have a problem with race. That person’s own predudices are so strong that they look for any way they can to make everything a race issue.

  64. >.> I’ve never understood the point of finger-pointing even amongst whites let alone cross-culturally… taking into account your perspective I’d say the white women is a [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED] and is a bad representation of white people. She needs to grow up and stop making excuses when she makes a mistake.

    Although, I disagree with your “Old-School Black” pride association. Obama knowing better than to react as he was expected is more a matter of maturity that is independent of “race”, “culture”, “ethnicity” or whatever term you wish to use. Immature white people act like [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED] just as immature black people act like [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED]. The way in which they act like a [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED] will vary slightly because of the cultural difference, but ultimately they’ll act like a [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED] either way. This is somewhat known as “professionalism”, being aware of the weight of your words as a leader is an extension of this.

    • Hello and Welcome!

      I don’t print comments with profanity or hate speech on the blog, nor do I use profanity or hate speech in my blog posts. I’ve found that the minute this kind of language enters a debate, people who respond after that begin to be less polite.

      In the future, please adhere to the comment policy, as future comments which contain profanity or hate speech will not be published but deleted. I know some folks view my position as censorship, but I choose to think of it as encouraging civility.:-)

      Take care, and thanks so much for reading!


  65. I am very grateful for this teaching, and also for the story about your mother and for many (not all ) of the comments.

    Thank you for creating & nurturing this space….

  66. President Obama never lived in the US mainland until he went to college, and his cultural influences before that were a white mother, a Kenyan father, and Indonesian schools. Might be a stretch to call him an Old School Brother.

  67. You claim that “race” has no biological basis, yet you only assign President Obama status as a black man due to his biological status of having a black father. He is utterly foreign to the cultural situation of actual african americans. Moreover, you are so fascinated by his status as the first President with an african genetic background, that you utterly overlook what an awful leader and human being he really is, being a liar, promise breaker, and the pure puppet of forces that care only for themselves and bear nothing but contempt for the weak and disenfranchised in this country. An objective assessment would result in the conclusion that Obama, like his predecessor Bush, deserves to crap his pants from a far worse a racial historical “insult” than a finger in his face. Your imagination should lead you to the stinging memory to which I allude, the answer,is blowing in the wind.

  68. Your article was very well written and interesting, but I think you missed the point about the scenario. I admit that I didn’t follow the news story much after the initial finger-pointing incident, so I won’t talk about what her excuse was and whether or not there is a race-issue there. But to say that pointing a finger at someone’s face is an insult specifically for black people is just another example of people trying to look for ways to find dramatic differences in different cultures. You even mentioned how mothers do it to kids when scolding. It is a superiority and aggressive gesture, no matter what culture you’re in- and most people would get upset no matter what race they or the finger-pointer are. I think that Obama’s reaction, decision and ability to walk away from an awkward and inappropriate confrontation is a testament to his maturity, and not necessarily because of his color. Also, if she had pointed her finger in the face of some rash, belligerent kid (whether white OR black), there could be more of a chance that that person would respond aggressively.

    There are definitely a lot of legitimate racial issues to be concerned about, but the finger-pointing is not one of them. It’s just an inappropriate action by the governor to do to anyone, especially the President of the United States.

    • But you aren’t getting the message.

      You either do not feel the burden of slavery or are not black, some black people who were not raised in this country don’t see what those who were raised here see and feel when viewing certain things. And for those who are too young to know, those black children get taught how their people were dissed and what happened and how it made them feel.

      Just like the author is trying to do here but you aren’t getting the lesson. You aren’t the little black child who is seeing how her culture got dissed all of those years and the other terrible things that befell them, ridiculous injustices. So you aren’t going to understand what some, and I think it should be more “many” think and feel when they see this picture.

      It is an emotional trigger. She is saying that due to slavery and the negative impact it had on the blacks, and you won’t know what that is because you are either not black or have not been taught about the injustices and pain the previous generations had to deal with, that a black person is triggered by this action.

      Yes, others are too, especially those who have been mistreated, and Obama has not been. (and he probably was not trained up in what Black people felt or the injustices that befell his people because in reality Obama is not a USA black man. He is a second generation black man, whose father never experienced bigotry in the USA, and his mother is White and he was raised in the White family and in other cultures as well, so he is not your USA black man.) So, this is what she means when she says that that particular “trigger” to a USA black person who is aware of the injustices of slavery will react with anger towards a finger in the face, more so than anyone else.

      To you, a white woman it is just an inappropriate action and a sign of disrespect to the President. To you, but not to a person whose mama, papa, grandma, grandpa, etc.. (people near and dear) have been stripped of dignity. So just try to learn here what someone who is not you may feel due to this trigger.

  69. 1. To say an action is more hurtful to one person over another is asinine. To attach it to a WHOLE group is the definition of prejudice.

    2. By establishing “rules” on how to treat a group of people you darken the line between the two groups instead of erasing it. This is also the definition of inequality. Rules that apply to one group but not another.

    3. When you set up these rules, you are going to get another result, avoidance. There are many white people who instead of trying to learn all the rules they will avoid an interaction all together. Not because they don’t want to put in the effort, but fear of missing one of the rules and as a result receive the label “racist”.

    If your blog was titled “A Teachable Human Moment” and you went on to discuss why finger pointing will not help you get what you want in a conversation I would believe you want to move past racism in this country.


    This statement…

    “Ok, here goes: If you are wise, you will not ever put your finger–or your whole hand– in a Black person’s face, unless you know you want to immediately engage in a knock down, drag out, fight-to-the-concrete physical brawl. It’s actually a well-known signal for “let’s fight right this moment” in the Black community. When I say “ever” I mean not in this present lifetime, or even after death, if you encounter another Black angel in Heaven. Because that angel is still liable to get into it with you and risk being de-winged.

    …just validated every person who ever thought black people were impulsive and violent. How can you blame people for judging a whole race when you carelessly write things like this as a representative of the black community?

    • 1. “To say an action is more hurtful to one person over another is asinine.” Really? Let’s see. Consider the phenomenon of the “dead baby” joke. There is a whole series of jokes where dead babies are used as fodder for comedy. Now imagine that someone says, “You really shouldn’t tell those jokes around people whose actual babies have died, you will likely make them upset and might even get a punch in the face.” Would you then come back with, “To say an action is more hurtful to one person over another is asinine”?

      Of _course_ actions can be more hurtful toward one person over another, because actions take on meaning depending on the culture they happen in and the experiences of the persons involved.

      Also, the definition of “prejudice” is not what you suggest it is– it means, literally, pre-judging.

      2. “Rules that apply to one group but not another.” Every single culture has ways of showing respect and disrespect, ways of being polite and impolite. Those things differ from one culture to another, and this has nothing to do with inequality. Black and white culture in America overlap to a large extent, but they aren’t completely the same. So?

      Your last statement is unnecessarily angry. She didn’t say black people are impulsive or violent. She said sticking your finger in a black person’s face, especially if you’re a white person and therefore you are coming off as asserting both personal and racial authority, is received as a terribly belittling and aggressive action, so utterly and completely insulting that it could easily start a fight. She is also employing hyperbole here: is it really going to start a fight with an angel? Come on, she’s just making a point about how much weight this gesture carries. There are plenty of things that start fights among white people, too, and many of those fights are started over far more stupid and lesser offenses than pointing a finger. That doesn’t mean white people are impulsive or violent. It just is the case that people sometimes get violent when severely insulted. She’s pointing out that this action is a more severe insult than you might realize. That’s all.

      • 1. You just made a huge leap. You just compared a group of people who have lost baby (which is VERY specific) to a culture of people that is so varied in experiences and background even they within the group do not agree on their definition.

        So when I am told to assume a black person will feel a specific way when I act a certain way I am being told to pre judge them and to assume this is how they will feel. Do you see the conflict here? Don’t judge a person until until you meet them, but go in assuming this set of rules. This is prejudging and unfair to the people who may not feel the way you say.

        2. Tell me some rules white people have about how we are treated by other races. I am curious, because I consider myself white, but I zero rules for how one culture should treat me in regards to race.

        3. When a statement like this is written about a whole group it can be damaging. There are black people who do not feel this way about finger wagging or are above letting anyone have control over their emotions. This statement just belittled every one of those people.

        You cannot make sweeping statements about a group of people, whether they are good or bad.

      • 1. I didn’t make any leap at all. You made a giant, universal claim: that an action can’t be more hurtful to one person than another, and that it would be “asinine” to claim otherwise. I took issue with this claim and gave you a counter-example. And there is a difference between cultural awareness and politeness on one hand and pre-judging on the other. For instance, if you were a recent immigrant, invited to a funeral of a European-descended American, and you wore red, yellow, or white, rather than black or another dark and subdued color, some people present might be upset with you. Yet these are the appropriate mourning colors in certain other cultures. When attending a burial ceremony of a person from another culture, it would be wise to recognize that the attire you perceive one way might be understood another way entirely. Will it offend 100% of the people present if you wear bright red or yellow to a funeral? No, but you have a pretty good chance of offending someone (and you almost certainly will if you also happen to be known as a beneficiary in the will– it will be taken as reacting too happily). Is it “prejudice” to recognize this and to take it into consideration when attending the funeral of a white American? I don’t think it is. There isn’t judgement, only awareness of some kind of difference in how the same action will be perceived in one setting, among one group, versus another.

        2. I just gave an example above of one culturally specific rule of showing respect or disrespect that includes whites, but here’s another: the middle finger. That would be a meaningless gesture some places, but you would probably take it as an insult if someone gave you the finger. If you are inclined to reply, “But that’s not a rule that applies only to other races/cultures/ethnicities; I would take it as an insult if another white American gave me the finger as well,” then I’ll agree entirely. Also, I will point out that the finger-pointing/hand-in-the-face rule described in this blog post is _also_ not a rule that applies only to other races/cultures/ethnicities. Her depiction suggests that a black person violating this rule is _also_ being highly insulting.

        The only difference when it happens across racial lines is that, well, there is a history there that will make the offense come across as something with added power. It’s like a scab. Maybe it is healing, but hit someone in exactly the right spot and the pain is going to feel amplified and similar to the old injury all over again. This is not some distant, long-in-the-past racial power dynamic we’re talking about here. When, as is true for millions of black people in the United States, your own father and mother (or even you yourself, if you’re old enough) were not legally allowed to attend the same schools as whites, you’re not far enough removed from this injury for the scab to be gone, for the uncertain trust across racial lines to be fully healed. That awareness of the abused power, and the heightened sensitivity when a person on the “power side” of the racial boundary does something belittling toward you, are only to be expected. This would be true even if your own personal experience of racist encounters were very small, and for some people even today, it is not small at all.

        3. What you say here is often, but not always correct. There is no way to say anything meaningful at all about many things without generalizations. What was it like to be a slave? What was it like to be a Pilgrim? What was it like to be a Jew in Germany in the 1930’s? What is it like to be a movie star, or a firefighter, or a politician, or a Polish Catholic living in Chicago in 1950? For any one of those scenarios, it is or was like lots of things; there are and were as many different experiences as people in those circumstances. And yet each one of those defined sets of people does have widespread shared experiences in common. It is not automatically and always harmful to acknowledge these tendencies or commonalities. It certainly can be harmful, because often the generalizing is done by people outside the group for purposes of casting the group in a negative light, and negative stereotypes lead to prejudice. But we still have to be able to talk about these things just to describe reality or have any kind of meaningful conversation about history or social interaction. There is a difference between making a statement carelessly and with a rigid universality (e.g., “black people are physically violent when you point at them”) and doing so more softly, with more recognition of this complexity (“if you point your finger in the face of a black person, you may find yourself in a fight”). I think the author of this piece did a remarkably good job of aiming for, and mostly hitting, the latter sort of conversation.

    • I have to agree to some extent. As a white guy, I also don’t like having a finger pointed in my face. I teach American customs to non-natives and I tell my students that it’s generally rude to point in or toward people’s faces. I understand that the author wants to bring in the historical background, but this gesture was rude to any person, and especially disrespectful to a President.

  70. From this white lady’s point of view, the rule is not silly at all. Common sense and courtesy should have kept the governor from wagging her finger in the face of any president, regardless of his skin color. An understanding of her country’s troubled history should have led her to refrain from such a crude display of disrespect toward any person of color. Thanks for writing this post, Ms. H.

  71. If she genuinely felt threatened by President Obama, then I feel genuinely sorry for her. It must be a scary world to live in, where you can be “threatened” by a former law professor when you’re surrounded by more media than most people are exposed to in one lifetime, never mind the Secret Service.

    Of course, looking at the photo, it seems to me that her body language says more about wishing to dominate than wishing to defend herself. And frankly, my wish to give her the benefit of the doubt is somewhat eroded by the fact that she has shown herself time and time again to be mean-spirited and hateful. And, not very bright.

  72. I have to be honest:
    1. I don’t like it when people respond to anyone the way that woman is responding to Obama. And I have no likes or dislikes for Obama, I have some different thoughts where politics are involved. No child should be spoken to that way either, because children respond to respect and love, not browbeating and intimidation. (not saying that when you get a rogue you can’t try to quietly instill the fear of death in him but he has to have really been trying to push buttons and know it.)
    2. White people and Black people are still at it. It is not outwardly but in a “cold war” state of mind. Just like kids in Middle School pick up on “fair” and “unfair”, both are still pinning down the points on either side for fouls committed. When truly, erase the color and respect the cultures.
    3. I appreciate the fact that you distinguished that it is indeed culture. Not color!
    4. Screaming that the “white man” started slavery boils my blood because it was the Ghanian port of call and only the black host of that call that caught, enslaved and bartered their “loot” from recent tribal wars, and that started slavery. No while man was involved in slavery getting started. The Europeans had been stopping at that port of call since 1400s to barter things, in 1700s the black host in Africa added a new “product” to the list of things to be bartered and it was something they did not want to keep, their rival tribal brothers and sisters. (so people need to learn their history vs. manipulate the white people with this fake guilt trip. Own it.)
    5. Slavery did a tremendous amount of damage, as you pointed out above, to the psyche of the black community. The damage will take centuries to over come. Kind of like emotional trauma takes a life time for a person to over come and that is only if they are in therapy and or get healings from God, which do work (not as portrayed in ridiculous manners on TV and movies but the Lord does have the power to heal and Forgiveness and Love are the methods. Oils can contribute, as can books towards increasing the power of Faith, a nec. ingredient, and to the amount of forgiveness we would otherwise not be able to muster unaided.)
    6. If a WHITE person wants to really understand the damage that slavery did to our lovely black brothers and sisters, then read GAME OVER by Azie Faison, a Harlem Drug Dealer Reformed and his story which was glamorized in a Hollywood movie, so he felt he needed to write a book to say, no this is not cool and do not do what I did. (Of course, leave it to Hollywood to twist all and change the whole idea for the author. ) In that book, (ignore the language and one scene which I felt to be TMI) one truly sees how Slavery did in the black people. It was a nec. evil to bring the black people to America, and I do not think that they were exceptions to the rule: Mexicans, Italians (this is why many changed their names!), Irish, Latinos, Catholics (who were prevented by the puritans from worshiping the way they wanted), and well the list goes on and on.
    7. I have worked with both Black and White people, I am first generation, not “Old” anything, and I have to say, the Black people embraced me with so much love and kindness, they let me share my faith, my love and my concerns. Meanwhile, with the White populations I felt love and respect also but a constant feeling that I was not expressing myself as they did, not looking at things as they did, nor quite fit in to their likes and dislikes and by being different I was less in their eyes and this is very patronizing. Being honest is a way of cutting your throat in the white culture. Trying to fix things and thus talking about them is also considered “making waves” and not liked. So, truly, the White culture also has “too many rules”.
    8. We need to stay true to the rules of one and only one Culture. And that is the Lord’s Culture. What He considers wrong is wrong and what He considers right is right. So if you want to learn and respect a culture, Respect the Culture of the Lord, or of God. They are about each other’s business and about our business too. This is the safest place to be. Respect, understand and love your brother and sister. It is the only way, guys. :]

    Thanks for letting me talk about this. I hate it when we can’t talk about culture or color, if that has to be discussed. It only keeps things from happening! (from getting closer, hopefully, and loving each other more. )

  73. You definitely have found a new reader in me. I found this article truly fascinating and enlightening. As a half-Asian woman raised in a Southern white household who is about to marry a fine, proud, kind, and strong black man, I admittedly sometimes find myself puzzled due to lack of information about our cultural differences. He is often equally confused and surprised. We have honest, open discussions about the differences in how we were raised, societal norms and expectations, and the negativity we sometimes encounter from both sides. It has been a learning experience for the both of us, and we know that there will always be things we will never completely understand. We also know we face challenges that couples from more similar cultural backgrounds do not face, but the open exchange between us has only served to bring us closer together. Thank you for your insights!

  74. I cringed when I saw that. I AM a graduate of a prestigious, used to be all white University, but I am NOT an angel. Don’t even try sticking your finger in my face. I might be tempted to hand you back a nub.

    Disrespect by any other name is still disrespect. If you have never been subjected to disrescpect, you don’t know it when you see it. Being Black, I do, and a lot of folks don’t even have a clue.

    Please learn from this and try to remember the quickest way fo find yourself on the ground is to stick your finger in a Black Person’s face. Most of us, including me, are not as gracious as the President.

    Learn from this if you do not know

  75. What nerve! So thankful to have writers like you who can put into words what so many of us are feeling right now. I have never put my finger in another persons face and I am 65 years old. I have never felt that I needed to show such disrespect to another person even when I was very angry.

    I loved your interpretation of what was really going on. These people are caught up in a campaign of hate and they think they must “keep us in our place,” as the lady told Newt Gingrich about Juan Williams, so they can “take their country back. I feel for President Obama, one of the good guys, who has to put up with so much. I noticed the smile on his face as she was ranting, and I thought he was trying so hard not to outright laugh in her face for sounding so ignorant. I also can’t believe that she actually thought she could bawl out the POTUS and expect him to do what she wanted which was to go to the desert with her so she could set him up. What nerve!

    She is getting book sales out of this. On FOX news, Candy Crowley congratulated her for getting in his grill and adding, “You go girl.” But I think she will live to regret this uncouth and unbecoming behavior.

  76. As a republican, I have to say that I that what she did was extremely disrespectful. Without even knowing what it means to black people, I think she crossed the line. You don’t treat the President of the United States like that. Then again, the more I learn about Gov. Brewer, the less I like her.

  77. I’m one of those genuinely nice white people that you mentioned, 🙂
    and although I did not know about the added threat of the pointed finger in the African American culture, I am more than outraged by the Governor’s gesture. I saw this photo before reading your blog, and every time I see it, it just outrages me. Regardless of it’s implication in the African American culture, it is HIGHLY rude and HIGHLY disrespectful to anyone, in any culture, let alone to the President of the United States. I wonder if you realize how those of us with a genuine heart feel when we have to carry the burden and shame of racists like Governor Brewer. She, and people like her, hurt all of us.

  78. One would have to be encredibly stupid to turn something like this into a cultural issue. As a black, white, indian, asian or whatever I could wave my finger in the face of any other white, black, indian, asian or whatever and risk getting punched or not punched in the face.

    You even go as far as to make it sound like an expected outcome for a black dude to smack a white woman for finger wagging.

  79. Although my lilly white butt did not know the full significance of this gesture, here’s how I interpreted it: Wagging your finger in anyone’s face is very disrespectful and condescending. Wagging it in the face of the President of the United States is UNHEARD of! The only reason Ms. Air-head-zona did this to the President is because he is African American – she never would have DARED do this to a European-American President. So, the subtext I read is “You may be the President but I’m still white and you’re still black so don’t get uppity with me.” President Obama wrote more sophisticated essays in 1st grade than President G. W. Bush wrote in his entire life, but no one, to my knowledge, ever dared to wag a finger in Dubya’s face. So even without knowing the ‘fight’ meaning, I found Governor Brewer’s action jarring and repugnant.

    As for President Obama’s response, he is way above responding in anything other than a noble and dignified way, old-school or not. He has class, one thing Brewer, for all her pretensions, will never quite grasp.

  80. When I saw that picture, I was thinking more about his office: how DARE she point her finger in the face of the President? Seriously? Dude is the leader of the free world! Do you WANT to get audited every year?

  81. Regardless of the governor’s perception of feeling threatened, her feeble attempt of bravado actually showed a lack of decorum. Her “Miss Anne” act was definitely not one of the governor’s finer moments. Who knows? Perhaps, she saw this as a good step toward getting re-elected or that maybe the Republican nominee would look to her as a potential VP. However, I believe that when people show you how they are, we must believe them, and I pray that the good citizens of Arizona keep her on that side of the Mississippi River.

    When asked about this incident in a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, President Obama responded, “What I have discovered is that it is always good publicity for a Replublican if they are (photographed) in an argument with me!” He appeared to be unfazed by Governor Brewer AND her response to the incident!

    On another note, I believe we are all here to learn lessons to help us fulfill our life’s mission and to assist each other in the process. I also consider myself a very good student. If this essay is a sample of what Professor HFJ offers in her courses, when the next roster of students is called, look to the front of the class! That is where you will find me!!

  82. When I saw the picture, I saw an extremely rude woman being disrespectful to a man who always seems like a decent, moral person. He would never lower himself to her level. Unless you could hear what was being said or possibly what was going through her head, I don’t know how you can say that it was a black/white thing. It very well could have been, but for all we know, that is only an assumption.

    Sticking your finger in anyone’s face is asking for it. Saying that you have to expect a knock down drag out fight by putting your finger in a black person’s face is just adding to a ridiculous stereotype. There are just as many trashy white people as there are trashy black people.

    If anyone’s guilty of pulling the race card, I believe it’s just the Republicans in general. I think that they put Herman Cain in just because he was black. As if somehow he was equal to President Obama and would be their best chance of beating him. What they can’t see is beyond the color of his skin, they don’t see what a great speaker he is, how intelligent he is, that he is a real family man–not just for the cameras. That he treats everyone, no matter if they are poor or rich—or rude or not–equally. He did not win because he was black, he won because truly was and is the best candidate. It seems that all that they see is that a black man won. But in reality, a great man won.

    I hate the race card. There’s nothing that bothers me more than when someone pulls the race card. Everyone needs to stop seeing colors and just see people. Black and white people are both guilty of pulling the race card.

    Not even going to tell you what color I am. Do you know why? Because it doesn’t matter.

  83. Honestly, how could anyone feel threatened by the calmest, sweetest, most level-headed, patient, steady, and compassionate president we have had in ages? It’s his race, not him, that scares her. And this racism is so deep and so unconscious it has caused unprecedented and embarrassing vitriol to spew up from people in high and low places. My fellow Americans, we have a black President and a black First Lady and young black children with their black grandmother living in the White House. It’s a whole new world. You’re just going to have to accept it. And keep your fingers to yourselves, especially if you’re a female politician; otherwise you just fulfill all the old stereotypes of hysterical women unfit to lead because they are unable to control their emotions.

  84. Just the fact that you are writing this article makes me sad. Will this country never progress beyond black and white stereo types? I look at this picture and see something entirely different, a man and a woman having a disagreement. period. nothing more. I don’t see a “black man” and a “white woman” with her getting up in his face and disrespecting him. I wasn’t privy to the conversation and I don’t think you were there, so again, it makes me sad that you choose to interpret her body language in this manner and further sad that you think that I need a “lesson” in cultural interpretation around this. Governor Brewer is an accomplished professional WOMAN. Do you think for one moment that because Mr. Obama is President, it’s okay for him to disrespect a woman? What happened to the Women of this country that they are not outraged that a man of ANY COLOR, in a position of authority and power, would choose to be so rude and disrespectful of her office and position and then stand by while people twist it into something racial. You will never grow beyond who you are because you choose to champion a position that keeps you down, rather than grow beyond it, and that is a sad commentary on our country today. In your world, we elected Barack Obama because we felt guilty for the sins of our white slave owner forefathers. I’m really sick of this type of engagement. My forefathers were immigrants…they didn’t enslave anyone, I don’t have the same “history” that you attribute to all white people and all black people. Until you elect to move beyond that premise, you are just as racists as the next guy.

    • As a woman of both African-American and Caucasian descent, I must state that ignorance is bliss. You just proved it with your statement here. If Gov. Brewer were the accomplished and professional woman you professed she is, then she would know and understand proper eticate and diplomacy. Regardless of race, you do not put your finger (in the insulting manner she chose to point it) to anyone, especially someone who is superior in rank to you. For instance, if she performed this stunt in another country (like Thailand or Qatar), I am certain that she would be whipped, caned, imprisoned or perhaps even put to death. There are consequences (including social, financial, professional, and political consequences) attached her poor action in this case. For many citizens (and perhaps peers/colleagues), she has lost potential voters and other’s respect of her in one intentional point of that bony little finger of hers.

      Now, to your comment regarding Caucasians voting for Obama out of “generational guilt”, please note that I voted for this man because I agreed with his views, not because I pitied him as some poor representative to generations of injustice, murder, slavery, strife, and pain because of actions done to the past generations of his African-American lineage. Unfortunately, you must learn that racism is an “equal opportunity phonomenon” that I hope it will become completely extinct in time. However, in order for that to happen, we need to acknowledge every position of the issue to determine where the conflicts are so that we can repair them. Regardless of whether or not your forefathers were directly or indirectly associated with slavery is not the issue, but how rather, how do you perceive/treat each racially and ethically diverse individual now. If you can honesty say that you treat everyone with equal decency and respect (as you would desire to be treated), then you will live life with no regrets. However, if you do feel that you are superior to anyone, then that is a problematic situation that may need revisiting. Unless everyone in America decided to acknowledge that there are struggles and conflicts among the residents and citizens of this country, we will never be able to unite and regain our status as one the most powerful countries on this earth. Hence, this melting pot of a nation will always have clumps in its melting pot that will never incorporate.

      • Pamela, again I ask…What has Barack Obama done for the Black Community??? Cite me something of substance. Crickets

  85. Pointing your finger at anything other than the way a person should walk or turn their card is rude! Pointing at a person is disrespectful,as if you’re chastising your dog or cat! Even if she doesn’t respect the man,she should respect the Office of the President. Even if her finger was inches lower than his chin,she was still pointing. If she was trying to make a point(s), she could have done so without negative gesture. It appears she was aware of photo op & took advantage. Instead of making her appear strong and assertive,it made her look as non-professional & not aware of when/how disagreements should be discussed. Not even raising race card. Pointing finger @ someone is just rude!

  86. Thoughtful, helpful, and funny; I got a great deal out of this piece. Thanks.

    And while race may be an artificial construct, power is not. Body language is often the first (and most insulting) manifestation of power positioning between people. I don’t care who you are, or the race of the person on either side of the interaction, you don’t talk to the President of the United States like you are scolding a bad dog.

    I believe you can be powerful by being deferential and respectful, too. Unfortunately weak people don’t understand that.

  87. I’m not playing here mentioning the funny look. It was the unofficial law of “reckless eyeballing” created by White southerners, and many a southern Black man swung at the end of a rope for committing that supposed crime. The case of Emmitt Till was a variation of “reckless eyeballing,” because he whistled at a White woman and ended up murdered.

    Thank you for making this comparison.

  88. The President is half White, half African. Pointing a finger in anger is universally innapropriate. He was evolved enough to walk away.

  89. Thank you for creating such a well-written response to this nasty incident. You are spot-on with your observations. I was so proud of our President for his response to such blatant, personalized aggression.

  90. Thank you for this article. It is really important! I was so impressed by your authenticity and honesty! As a bi-cultural Italian American white woman, daughter of an immigrant, who has been working on cross-cultural issues, I believe we need more candid articles to cross-communicate and educate each other to learn and understand each other better, our cultures, our rules, even if so many are rooted in pain, they are real! The importance of your distinction between race and culture needs to be reiterated. Your touch of humor with your own personal experience made me feel it and understand it better – not from a blame, shame or guilt perspective – but from a matter of fact, personal, human perspective. I look forward to following your blogs. Thank you. in gratitude 😉 Pilar Stella

  91. This Is the first post of yours that I have read. I have a question that’s a little off topic though not entirely. You mentioned that he hasn’t been the perfect leader. What factor or example of his leadership skills are you not a fan of? I’m not trying to get into a political debate, it’s just a question that I have. I am a 40 year old black man that is curious about how the rest of “us” feel about the presidents job performance.

  92. I agree that Gov. Brewer acted totally inappropriately & that President Obama is routinely disrespected because he is Black.

    One thing that I think is really unhelpful is the condescending tone you take towards white people. There are a lot of really nice ones? What if a white writer wrote that about Black people?! Just because Jan Brewer is a hateful stupid woman makes her no more representative of “white people” in general than Lil Wayne is of Black men. I would never point my finger at anyone & I don’t need to be told not to.

    • Hi there:

      Several other people have mentioned that the phrase I used, “there are a lot of nice white people,” was condescending. I really didn’t mean to be condescending, and please, please forgive me if I was.

      If you look at the beginning of the piece, it stated that my blog was from one “cultural insider to another cultural insiders.” “Insider(s)” mean(s) Black or African American folks. Thus, this is a blog written by an African American woman of African, Cherokee and European ancestry for African American people who are of African and sometimes, European and Native American ancestry. And yes, though most of us are multi-racial, we still proudly identify as Black or African American–because of centuries-long racial categories that were not invented by us. We figured we’d make the most of a bad situation.:-)

      I have many loyal White readers, but they know when they come to this blog, they are going to get my perspective about primarily Black culture. My content is very specific. So, when I began this particular blog post “A Teachable Racial Moment”, I was talking to Black people, and then, a few paragraphs down, I tried to broaden my approach to include my White readers specifically–because it was trying to explain a Black cultural point of view to White people.

      One of my most important missions as a writer, a teacher, a blogger, and a human being is to increase understanding, love, and kindness between the “races”–primarily White folks and Black folks. So, many times, I remind “us”–Black folks– that, despite some of the negative, ugly, hurtful, and racist actions of some mean White people, we cannot judge or distrust the entire White race by those individual actions; we have to take folks on a first come, first served basis now.

      Whether or not you agree with this distrust, it does exist among some–not all–Black people, distrust that has taken a really long time to build–nearly four hundred years–and so, I hope you will again forgive that not all of us can shake centuries of ingrained fear and hurt overnight. Some of us can. I can, for example, which is why I took this important work as my mission. And since my mission is to increase love and understanding between the “races”, sometimes, I have to remind “us”–Black folks– that loving, wonderful, kind White people do exist.

      I’m sorry if what I’ve written that seems obvious to you. I’m a teacher, but I’ve sat in a classroom, too and sometimes, when I already knew something, it seemed silly when a teacher broke it all the way down. But when I became a teacher, I realize that everyone else might not already have known it. And sometimes, some of the people sitting in my classroom now roll their eyes because they feel talked down to. But I have to tell them that all of us aren’t as advanced as others and I have to teach for all learning curves, not just for the most advanced.

      Again, I never meant to make fun of or condescend to White people–or to you. And I really appreciate your taking the time to read and to comment. I hope you decide to come back and read and comment again!:-)

      Take care and be blessed.


      • Thanks for that clarification. I, too, noted some condescension on first read-through — and it wasn’t just the “did you know that some white people are actually nice?” remark, but the way you made your main point to your white readership:

        “Okay, and now, I’m about to reveal a Racial Secret. Are you ready? I’m going to put this in italics so you really get it.”

        Now, I haven’t read your blog in the past, so I’m not familiar with your rhetorical style, but to me (a white person) that sounds really condescending. That’s how one talks to a child, or dim-witted student, or, generally, someone one regards as kind of an idiot. It’s not at all as threatening as wagging a finger in someone’s face, but it’s a little like directing someone to sit at the kids table.

        Of course, I think one could make a case that a lot of white Americans continue to have a fairly shallow understanding of how race is lived in the US by people who are not white. (I’m not talking about a shallow understanding of some abstract concept of “race,” in a vacuum–which anyone can punch holes in until it looks like the sieve it is; I mean a shallow understanding of how people continue *experience* race, regardless of whether or not a lot of white people seem to wish black people would stop talking about “the past” and just move on).

        So maybe we who are your white readership have earned being spoken to as children or idiots when it comes to this particular subject. But… maybe you and I have different pedagogical approaches, but as a strategy for communication and education, when talking to adults, isn’t it better to challenge your audience to sharpen its wits, rather than presume you are speaking to fools?

  93. For me it is also a sign of respect. I am not Black, but I wouldn’t want someone sticking their finger in my face either. I, therefore, will not do it to another person. I am married to a Black man and I understand that there are things that to Whites may seem harmless but to a Black person it takes on a whole new meaning. Thank you for helping to educate people. I enjoyed reading this post on your blog.

    • If you’re not looking for jokes, I’m not sure what you really ARE looking for. We don’t get a handbook. Sure, we are raised in “white” culture, but that culture also varies geographically, and between levels of education, income, and a host of other factors.

      I’m white, and I don’t have any rules that I am aware of for other races and how they should treat me. The thought of expecting someone from another race, or any minority or marginalized group, to treat me differently just because of my white privilege or my middle class privilege, etc. makes me pretty uncomfortable. I hope that anyone I meet treats me civilly as another human. That’s about all I ask for. The rest, like respect, understanding, and friendship have to be built.

      Now, perhaps if I had been raised in a different cultural setting, I would know some unspoken rules passed to me through my community. I have never lived in the south, but I suspect that some may exist there. I grew up in New Mexico, where the population is largely Hispanic and Catholic, and I am neither of those things,but I spent a lot of my time in a very sheltered community, and so I don’t know what “rules” may exist for those who were elsewhere.

      • Actually, the article already suggested some of these examples; in particular, how in parts of the USA, a dark-skinned man who looks lustily at a pale-skinned young woman risks some physical pain at the hands of pale-skinned white men. Yes, the geographic regions where that sort of unwritten script is in force have shrunk in the recent decades, but I would still counsel black men travelling in parts of rural West Virginia to watch their gaze.

        It’s also well known that, despite laws that forbid it, some communities still have realtors who steer whites and blacks into specific neighborhoods.

        Moreover, blacks who are shopping are routinely subject to greater scrutiny by store and mall security (I often have joked–half-seriously–that it would be easy for me to rob a jewelry store; I’d just have to wait to enter after 3 or 4 young black men). Thus, an unwritten rule for blacks is that they must be very circumspect in avoiding the appearance of shoplifting. That, incidentally, is not only true of young men; I know of a case where a university president and he wife were interrogated while mattress shopping. (!)

        As a scholar of communication (with an interest in nonverbal), I found this article to be amusing in style and instructive in content. While I understand that finger-to-the-face is generally insulting, it’s good to know that among African-Americans it’s generally likely to lead to a physical fight. Not because I’m likely to aim my finger at anyone’s nose, but rather in the same sense that I appreciate that many African-Americans have different rules for forgiveness than the dominant culture. The more we discuss explicitly these differences, the greater our understanding and ability to come together.

  94. I am 55 yrs old and African American. Ive lived thru several Presidents. I have never observed this type of behavior before to a President. I’m sorry but you do not, black or white disrespect the highest office in the land. I may not agree with all presidential policies, Republican or Democrat, but I will not disrespect my President. I worked security details for President’s Bush 1, Bush 2 and Clinton. The Governor is wrong!

  95. A teachable moment indeed, and it’s good to see that some benefitted from the lesson. Actually, the finger-in-the-face gesture is but one of a host of faux pas — others, for example, have to do with the use of the feet, the eyes, touching, forms of address, and personal space — that one would do well to avoid committing when interacting with members of African-descended populations in the U.S. and elsewhere in the New World diaspora. Thanx for edifying the masses.

  96. I’ll bet you will never see any other past photo showing such gross disrespect to the holder of the highest office in the land. Indeed, the SS should have checked her on this physically threatening gesture. I wonder what they would have done if she had spat in his face. After living with a lifetime of contempt for people of a certain complexion, many racists even in the highest and most sensitive positions, find it hard to hide the ugliness of this despicable, irrational and immature approach to life. Rep. Joe Wilson of S.Carolina, yelling out “You lie!” during the Presidents address to Congress, speaks to a similar syndrome. Such people have never truly respected a black man in their lives, beyond condescending acknowledgments of achievements.

  97. Thank you for this post. As a white mom of a black daughter, I will be back. I have a lot to learn and a lot to teach in the coming years. I appreciate this post and will definitely be looking for more and reading the archives. Thank you for your respectful writing. It was not at all condescending to white people and it was very educational, thoughtful and thought-provoking! We have to all accept that there are simply things we don’t know and once we know we can do better.

  98. Beautiful post, Honoree! But you know, the idea that anyone would publicly point her finger in the face of the President– of whatever color or gender– is at least as horrifying as the idea of any white person doing that to any black person. Not only was Mr. Obama being disrespected as a person, his office and the dignity of the whole country were being insulted by Ms. Brewer. This seems to be the state of our politics today. I’m white, but I’m taking that finger poke personally, as a poke at everything our country supposedly stands for– rule of law, respect for the rights of individuals, equality, etc. etc. (You know, all that stuff we give lip service to.)

    And what a position to put this Old School Brother in. He can’t fight back, at least he can’t beat somebody into the ground, but if he just quietly takes all the insults that adds to the accusations that he’s weak. Pretty hard to win. All he can do is keep working and try to model better behavior than these loonies.

  99. I read this and respect everything you have written it but I see it differently. First off, I think it is disrespectful for any politician to get in the face of any sitting president. As a citizen you can voice your opinion whenever you see fit. But I feel that when you are a politician he is your superior and the head of the country and when you are fortunate to be in the presence of the president have respect. That aside I feel like today’s politicians might be threatened by President Obama because he is a whole league above them, I don’t see it having to do with race. He is highly educated and much more quick minded and rational than most politicians. I watch television, I attend city council meetings and I think a great deal of politicians are portraying a vision of what they think politicians can get away with and bring home money rather than working hard with conviction to serve the people.

    Since Obama has become our president I am proud to be an American again. It seems too good to be true. I know not everything has been perfect and that’s because being in Washington DC is like the ultimate competition of opposing teams. Obama is requiring politicians to up their game. Now that the GOP is on our tvs debating and campaigning now that’s the type of politician I am used to seeing. Its people that play the game of knowing what they’re speaking about, professional pontificators. President Obama is more articulate than current politicians and that is what threatens them. Heck it threatened Trump when Obama made fun of him at the Reports dinner. Obama is just so together. If the way Obama carries himself becomes the line that Americans measure politicians against than those in office are quaking in their boots because they know they are out of a job. Republican citizens care about their money that’s why they are not omitting Obama impresses them. He is the president who potentially can hurt their pocket books. Luckily the GOP has a great number of poor and middle class religious people to back up their party via votes for the NRA and pro-life and marriage only for the straight. After watching politicians like Perry and Sarah Palin “perform” it is clear that a lot of politicians are the pretty face before the machine that props them up and feed them with words. Obama isn’t scripted he can combat a question or accusation very easily and it threatens politicians like Jan Brewer, because President Obama is the real deal and what all politicians should be like. If only we were so lucky.

    • I’ve never liked any candidate in prior elections. When Obama was running, I was up early in line to vote! Very unlikely for me, I normally would have chose to sleep in before going to work.

      I think that Obama will be the best president we will ever have. It’s pathetic that some people can not look past the color of his skin.

  100. What struck me about this interaction between Jan and Barak is how he gently grasps her arm and is obviously trying to desecalte her outburst. His head is bowed, to me this says ‘Not here, not now.’. He is a respectful and respectable man. I do have to say though that we live in a world where women still do not hold the position of power that males hold. Black men had re right to vote before women were allowed to vote in the USA so…you could have also interpreted this photograph from a gender perspective rather than a racial one and Jan would have been the underdog in the photo. That being said: adults really shouldn’t be pointing fingers in each others faces-I don’t care what you gender or race is; putting your finger in another adults face = let’s fight, I may not be physically touching you but I just poked a hole in your aura.

  101. Thank you, Honoree. I knew it was bad, just seeing the photo gave me a sort f sick feeling, but this white girl couldn’t have put it in words. I appreciate it.

  102. Race aside, no one should point their finger in the face of the President, no matter who the President is at the time or your feelings towards him (or maybe one day her) cause that is the President of the United States. She should be ashamed and should apologize.

  103. thank you so much for such an informative blog! I am going into counseling and any help and insight I can get into other cultures is a blessing. We take cultural diversity classes, but they are written and taught by whites (at least where I go to school) so I am always interested in what someone from another culture has to say.

  104. Interesting point, but are you certain that Obama would interpret “finger pointing” the same way as most other African Americans would? Here is why I say this. Obama is bi-racial and was raised mostly by his white grandparents and grew up in Hawaii which has a very small African American population and I would assume that most of his friends and the people he interacted with were not African American. Therefore, he had a much different cultural experience than the average African American person. It is true, however, that his wife Michelle had a more typical experience.

  105. Thank you for this. I’ll be back for more “teachable moments.” As someone who has spent most of her adult life living and working in almost exclusively “white” areas, the last few years have been a revelation and a huge learning experience, and the cultural differences have tripped me up several times . . . I tend to interact with everyone the same way, no matter who they are, and it took some serious observation and listening to understand how different the experience of life can be, just depending on what you LOOK like, and how what I see as “ordinary” could be interpreted as insulting by someone else. I hate the fact that ethnicity is used to belittle people, and to make some of us “less” than others; but I also understand that no matter how much I believe religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and skin color SHOULDN’T matter; the reality is that they do, and I have to live within that reality and adjust my behavior accordingly to minimize misunderstandings.

    • Wendy, I appreciate your comment because you have just reminded me that a lot of us do not know others’ experiences, which is why I can appreciate the passionate comments facilitated by this “Teachable Racial Moment.” History books cannot and do not speak to all of the diverse experiences or atrocities. (From what I gather in recent events, it appears that certain factions are attempting to remove any trace of atrocities to “re-write” the stories of the development of this nation.)

      My only suggestion would be that each of us need to constantly remind ourselves to open the eyes of our heart to truly see the beauty and diversity of others.

  106. @Brerlou: “I’ll bet you will never see any other past photo showing such gross disrespect to the holder of the highest office in the land.”

    You lose: http://tinyurl.com/7huhan4

    This is an actual, not implied or imagined, physical assault. Amazingly, no one suggested it was due to the President being white, but maybe they should have.

    • No…it was because he was American and one of the most powerful men in the world whose policy the shoe thrower disagreed with.
      The encounter with our President was a woman who showed disrespect for the office and the President and has a history of making racist comments and as governor should follow proper decorum.

    • You’re right, Alan. I was dead wrong. For a moment there got caught up, confusing what should be, with what really IS. I forgot too that I was talking about an office that has a higher mortality rate than the American armed forces, and a higher percentage of attempted murders than dwellers in any major city in America. It looked so wrong, that I wrote without due thought.

      We need to bear in mind that 3 out of 44 US presidents have been assassinated in office, and 6 others were victims of potentially deadly assaults. That’s attempts on the lives of more than 20 percent of the men who’ve held this high office. There were 131 murders in Washington DC in 2010, with a population of just under 600,000. Washington DC is a rough city. The murder rate is about 0.2%. The murder rate among US Presidents is more than 6.8%!!! Isn’t that shocking!!

  107. Great explanation. I just find it insulting in a mommy’s-angry kind of way, but the racial overlay is just over the top.
    I marvel at his grace daily and am proud to be an American under his leadership.

  108. Honoree,

    I found your thoughtful, beautifully written, blog by following a link from comments on Maureen Dowd’s column “Tension on the Tarmac”. I think it will be awhile before I bother reading Maureen Dowd again(she lost me when she referred to the President as “Barry”) but I’ve added you to my Bookmark Bar Menu. Kudos to you for gently insisting on a civil discussion!

  109. Thank you so much for your post. I truly appreciate that, on one level, pointing a finger in someone else’s face is disrespectful, rude, and meant to disempower the other person – no matter who is doing it/receiving it. And I probably do see that Brewer felt intimated – because it’s when we are feeling powerless that we seek to exert power over others. Hence, the finger-pointing. I think all of that would be true no matter what the race. But, I also think there are gestures, words, etc., that are more deeply entrenched and reacted to in some cultures vs. others. Which means there are two layers of “stuff” working here unconsciously and consciously, that are adding to people’s personal reactions. It makes things very emotionally charged. Thanks for bringing it out into the open so we can all become a little more conscious and, hopefully, stand a little more confidently in our own power so we feel less of a need to take anyone else’s power away.

  110. A friend of mine linked to this story. I learned something. So, thanks for talking to us White folk. This is a useful lesson.

  111. i am so sorry that the President had to deal with our crazed racist governor. Jan Brewer’s intelligence, attitudes and heart are as frozen as her face and hair. Though I think it is terribly rude to point like that, thank you for.letting me know the special significance this has to Blacks and probably other peoples of color.

  112. There’s nothing weak in good manners. If the governor wanted to act like a fool, our President was right to walk away. There’s no point in reacting, responding to, or negotiating with an aggressive, unmannerly, out-of-control person in that moment.

  113. Great job Honoree. Totally on point. This was one of those things I couldn’t even bother to read too much about or engage with mentally. This woman says she “felt threatened” by the president of the United States, surrounded, no doubt, by secret servicemen. Actually used the word “threatened,” with the implication of being physically threatened. By the president of the United States. Thereby following up her extremely offensive action with a word that brings a whole lot of jacked-up historical baggage with it.

    @ “I’m pretty sure that, as a Black man, he was angered by her culturally transgressive act, but he had the presence of mind to get himself together before he broke all the way fool on the tarmac with that lady…

    But he saved himself, because President Obama is an Old School Brother.”

    Yes. Exactly. Still smh @ the foolishness we endure…

  114. Thank you for this analysis. I was disgusted by the governor’s act, and the racial implications did not escape me, but I had no idea of the finger in the face being such a very insulting thing in the Black community. As some other comments have pointed out, I was angry because it is a disrespectful thing to do no matter who you do it to. I would never even behave in such a way to a child, because I remember how I felt when my mother did it to me. I felt that she would never behave in such a way to a white president, and I felt the racial charge of her language when she said she felt threatened, but the fact that the act itself was doubly disrespectful when you consider it’s cultural context is new to me. It makes sense, though, that the Black community has gestures that are uniquely offensive to them just as many other cultures do. What is simply a backwards peace sign in America is the equivalent of a stiff middle finger in England. In Disney World, where I work, we are famous for our two fingered “disney point” because to point with only the index finger is profoundly rude and disrespectful in some cultures.

    The people who are saying that “I don’t get it, to point in anyone’s face is rude” are missing an important distinction as far as I can tell. You’re not saying that to point in a Black man’s face is somehow more rude objectively, you’re simply saying that the interpretation of the action will be different and probably much more negative and that the context is completely different. I completely agree that it’s rude and aggressive no matter what, but in a society that calls itself color-blind and desperately wants to be so the racial context of such actions gets ignored or skimmed over when it really shouldn’t be. Color-blind is not something we should strive for. It makes it incredibly difficult to be culturally sensitive, which is a much better goal.

    Thank you for educating me.

  115. Why does this image have to be a narrow “race” issue. Putting your finger in anyone’s face is rude. Has nothing to do with color.

  116. This is truly brilliant! I was perplexed by this gesture too, and why it was so particularly offensive, but now I understand. Thank you!
    It really does say something about the kind of man Barack Obama is, to just keep walking and ignore this angry old white lady putting her finger in his face. This is a guy with class and finesse, and he would never be brought down to the level of the likes of Jan Brewer.
    He’s got my full support in 2012, that’s for sure!

  117. Thaaaank You for this perspective! Because I would not have been able to express this subject as eloquently as this, I’ll just share whenever now and whenever else I see and feel the need. Wonderful!

  118. Sorry, but I don’t get it. The finger pointing is plain rude, no matter if white-white, white-black, black-white, black-black, or blue-green. It is worse when an inferior, not by race but by public position, does it to a superior, again by public position. For any public figure doing it to any other public figure in public: bad. For a Governor doing it to the President: worse. I must be a dumb white guy (not American, but soon to be after having been here for a long time) that cannot see the racial issue here. Or maybe I’m too naïve. Anyways, this article got me here and I might come back from time to time.

  119. This is one of the most civil and intelligently discussed blogs, I’ve ever read (not that I read a lot). Like many others, I found it on a friend’s facebook, which I will be reposting. Reading the comments has been so enlightening of “well intentioned” folks who just want this tension to go away and for us to “all get along”. As your analogy of your dislike of egg whites, so lovingly points out, in order for there to be understanding, we must embrace all of who we all are, our likes, dislikes, sensitivities or the lack there of. A willingness to listen with an open heart and compassion, is how we unite. And “Old School Brother” just means he was reared in an era when manners, honor and integrity, were strong character traits, not signs of weakness. Seemingly for the majority of those here, it still is. Thank GOD!

  120. What a wonderful blog. My son shared on FB and I am so glad I followed.

    I have to say that if anyone wagged their finger in my face I would smack it away. That woman was rude to the man and disrespectful of the President. She should be ashamed of herself!

  121. This is the dumbest thing I’ve read in a very long time. People point, it’s offensive to everyone, not more so to black people. Get over it.

    • People point, it’s offensive to everyone, not more so to black people…true, perhaps…but I don’t think that MORE OFFENSIVE was the point the author was trying to make. It is offensive universally, but it is also offensive due to culturally-specific reasons/factors for which you appear to have no understanding or tolerance…no one is looking for “brownie points” for being ‘more offended’ or ‘more sensitive’, etc., than the next guy…but please, check your assumptions at the door when insisting that people just ‘get over it’ when it comes to the values, customs, beliefs and practices that make up a CULTURE. I might make the point that when it comes to minimizing cultural elements that make people who they are/seeing one’s own cultural worldview as the standard, you might do well to take your own advice and GET OVER IT

  122. Ms Phillisremastered,
    I reached this blog as a link that someone posted on Facebook, and I have to say, I agree that what Governer Brewer was wrong, and not just because of the cultural difference. I was always taught, from the time that I was old enough to understand, that it was very rude to point at someone. It’s just not a nice thing to do. Another thing I learned when I was older was to remember that when you’re pointing at someone else, there are 3 more fingers pointing back at yourself.
    The one thing that I have to disagree with was that President Obama walked away because he was an Old School Brother, which I will agree with to a point. But more to the point was because he was taught to be a gentleman by the people who obviously lovingly raised him. Think about it. How many young folks today, of any cultural background, aren’t taught the simplest, most basic common courtesy? Please, thank you, and simple things that those of us who were raised right don’t really think about?
    I’m the mother of 2 boys, one a year old and one 6 years old. I’ve been very proud to be told, on several occasions just how polite my 6 year old is, because my husband and I take the time to make sure that he uses his pleases and thank-yous on a regular basis. I work in a baby store, and I’m really saddened to see that not only don’t more folks teach these things to their children, but they don’t use them themselves! Think about it. When was the last time you heard someone thank the person behind the counter? Or thank the person who took time, however seemingly insignificant, to help them?
    This is something that I really do think everyone, all Americans, need to work on. Making common courtesy common again.
    Thanks for your time. I’ll get off my soapbox now. 🙂

  123. Wow. Great post, was directed here through many a FB friend. I am a white mother of a brown son and for many reasons, am so glad I found your blog. Thank you for “teaching”, it is greatly appreciated!

  124. As I read your article, I became more and more angry at the fact that anyone would stand in front of the president and, in public, point a finger in his face! I, too, know that a finger in the face would not get a positive response from many, many people – not just the black culture! I heard someone say once “If you keep pointing that finger in my face, I will bite it off!” When President Obama walked away, he showed that he was the better person in the situation. I certainly don’t feel that it showed he was weak! Could you imagine what would have been said if he had reacted negatively towards her?

  125. Loved, loved, loved your blog post. I learned so much from it. I teach ESL and want to share parts of it with my students. Aside from this gesture being loaded with Black folks and maybe some other cultural groups, how about the fact that this woman is doing this to the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES?!!! I’m sure that is the first inappropriateness that my students will pick up on. And it is that fact, that makes me believe Jan totally intended this as a way to assert her power (being white and all) over the President. Not cool Jan.

  126. I know I was raised that you do not point your finger at anyone, or put your finger in anyone’s face. I am black and raised by a black woman.

    Also, that was just disrespectful, he is the President of the United States, black or white he or she deserves respect.

    This is the first time I have read your blog, someone posted it on facebook and I am glad they did. My daughter (17) and I found it very interesting and I am sure carried the feelings of a lot of Americans, of any race and culture. Thanks and I will read again.

  127. I like what you said….but I don’t think I totally agree. I am a white male – over 50 – Proud Liberal, Democratic Party Supporter. I work in a white collar world most of the time.

    On the other hand – if you point your finger in my face – in anger – you should expect a broken finger – and possibly more. Rude and belligerent behavior is intolerable without regard to race, creed, color, religous belief or sexual preference.

    I admire the patience of the President – with this angry person.

  128. Great article. First one of yours I’ve read, and it’s enough to add you to my Google Reader.

    I wonder how many of the people complaining about “the race card” are white? When we see blindness to the dynamics of oppression and privilege, whether willful or through ignorance, it’s almost always in the privileged group.

  129. In deference to your reference of a preference for Old School Brothers (assonance unintended), I will do my best to comport myself as one. However, well intentions notwithstanding, I cannot vouchsafe that this 45 year old African-American man would not have smacked her hand away from my face!

    What nerve? To even viscerally consider it appropriate to extend your wagging index finger in the face of another adult? And the adult under discussion happens to be the leader of OUR nation & of the free world?

    For shame, Governor Brewer!
    What an abject disgrace to our nation.

    Were I President Obama, I would have politely leaned in her direction, and reprimanded her wagging little index finger with the following ultimatum: Remove your finger from my face RIGHT NOW, or be arrested for making a terroristic threat against the President of the United States!

    That’s how this Old School Brother would have carried it! Trust!!

    Pax clamantis en absurdum

  130. Jan Brewer knew exactly what she was doing and like any racist caught without their white sheet and pointy hat she played the poor little me card. I saw it growing up, I’ve seen it all my life. Plain and simple, there are parts of America where people are still as knee-jerk backward as Mississippi in the 1950s. Jan Brewer is their poster girl.

  131. I don’t always agree with his politics, but I will always be proud that my president is a first class human being. I recall him showing the same grace and restraint when someone publicly called him a liar. No matter what race or culture you belong to, a finger in the face is bad news. But I agree, as a minority, that some groups will be more sensitive to such an act. In this case, Blacks have every right to feel this way. Latinos, though they’ve never been enslaved in our country’s history, fight a stereotype today that they are nothing more than maids and gardeners and nannies to white children (subordinates). A teachable moment indeed! Thanks for providing your perspective!

  132. You might also want to look at her book sales which geometrically progressed after this finger-wagging incident. In the end, maybe it’s mostly about book sales, extremely distasteful, ignorant, racist governor not withstanding.

  133. Good point that too often “race” is confused with cultural differences. But a finger pointed in the face is considered diminutive and aggressive in EVERY culture. Black Americans are hardly unique in this regard. I am also completely dumbfounded that anyone of any race would equate Barack Obama’s cultural background and upbringing as even remotely similar to the African American cultural experience.

  134. Surely the leader of the free world should not be fazed by one finger in his face, regardless of background. Backbone and bigger things on his mind I should imagine than some quick robust talk with someone, We see too much into things sometimes because of huge historical and current injustices but if we are to be equal in our place in our country, differing rules cannot apply either side. These people are running a country not a playground, man/woman up people it was just a robust discussion between powerful people.

  135. Very interesting, but I just don’t get why you make this out to be a specifically black issue. Seems like *anyone* would be insulted by a finger shaken in their face. (I’m Asian-American and have other issues….) And what were they talking about anyway? Does anybody know?

  136. thanks so much for your post! I am a white woman with three kids — an equally ‘white’ son, a beautifully ‘brown’ daughter, and our little guy from China. My husband and I try very hard to teach our children about the realities of racial/cultural discrimination as it relates to the past, present, and future. BUT – I admit, it can be a challenge and I constantly wonder if we are doing enough. Reading your honest post has given me insight that I may never have encountered again — and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you! Michelle

  137. Hell’s bells, if she’d pointed that finger in MY face, the face of another white woman, she’d be nursing a broken finger about now. I think your point about the infantilizing of the President(!!!!) is particularly apt. For heaven’s sake! The only people I have ever seen do that finger shaking think are mother’s with errant children, or other types of scolds. I’m not sure the incident *needs* to be read racially, but doing so further emphasizes how egregious this woman’s breach was. I do believe that a significant portion of the Right’s problem with Obama is race-based. These people need to get a good lesson in etiquette, and we can start with Ms Brewer and Newt Gingrich.

  138. I was just linked to your blog. First of all, let’s get something straight: your smile is just infectious! Love the header photos.

    I didn’t read the comments so forgive if I am repeating anything. I am a white woman and I was taught it is rude to point at anyone ever. I have to say that I was not at all shocked that our president handled that situation in the manner he did. I absolutely trust his good judgement and understanding of social constructs. I was already so proud of him, that it was just another moment of head-nodding and thanking the heavens that he is such a fine man.

    I used to teach special ed to children with profound autism. One of the hallmarks of their developmental issues was an inability to point. Pointing is the beginning of language in babies. Babies first speak with cries, then with their eyes, and then with their fingers. It has gotten me to thinking about how this simple act of communication has gone so awry. Just wanted to pass that onto you, fodder for thought.

    And why couldn’t Jan Brewer just have said something conciliatory? Why be so bull-headed? It would have been far more teachable if she had shown herself as an example, to say she was wrong. Why can’t people be more human?

  139. I do not, generally, respond to a blog I happen to read UNLESS it and/or some of the comments – as in this case – touch a particular nerve. First, let me appreciate you, the writer, for making a worthy effort to educate those who may not have as much cultural awareness as they would like. It appears to have been valued by your intended audience, the open-minded “well-intending, really nice White people,” vs. the prefer to remain ignorant “Not-So” others. My commentary is primarily directed to the latter.

    While I gave props to the writer for the effort, it saddens me that in 2012 we are still having to educate folks about why something bothers “us” when in fact it would be blatantly rude and disrespectful to anyone. But see – in 2012, we (Black people) are not seen by many as “like everyone else.” If we have more rules about how to “deal” with us, it IS because of how you (and how many of you) continue to remain ignorant.

    I’d like to address a few instances of your ignorance (IMHO) from just the first 25%, maybe, of the comments (I just got too weary of that nerve twitching to read them all)

    “The race card has been pulled yet again!” What exactly is “the race card” anyway? Just a term created to deflect responsibility for racially-incited ignorant behavior. The fact that the aggrievance is one that anyone would find offensive does not make it NOT about race. Quite the opposite Rock Anthony. It is the fact that it would be commonly considered offensive but still yet done to a Black person – to this Black man, who happens to hold the highest position in the land – that makes it racist. When you produce the footage of her doing this to anyone else in a similarly authoritative position who is not Black, I’ll be the first to say…hmmm…maybe it wasn’t racist.

    “…I can call him a ‘white’ man…” Can you really Frederick Oliver? We – Black people – did not create the standards by which people are dumped into racial buckets. So you can NOT invalidate the categorization by making such an ignorant statement. Yes, YOU can call him that – you can call him anything you would like, but in fact by this country’s standards HE IS IN FACT A BLACK MAN. Furthermore, race is visual – thus by ANY standards, he is a BLACK MAN because he looks like a black man. (Oh, and thank you for flipping “the race card” again – further substantiating my first comment.)

    “…preferential treatment for people of color…” Come on, Karen… you can’t really believe that, can you? I’d laugh, but it is such a sad statement that I just can’t. I love the sense of entitlement conveyed in this ignorant statement. The “extra consideration” given to those who have been discriminated against in every way imaginable will never amount to “preferential treatment” – it has never even leveled the playing field. See – the fact that the Black student earned a 3.5 in spite of all his disadvantages was amazing in comparison to you earning 4.0 with all your inherent privileges and advantages. Now if you tell me that your 4.0 score was the top of your school’s GPA scale then either you are a liar (because the entire class admitted would have had to have consisted of “preferentially treated people of color” for your story to have been true) OR there were other factors considered that you are ignoring to make your case. I’ve heard this hogwash over and over again. The statistics would never prove it out to be true. Just look at the disproportionate % of White students admitted to college vs. their Black counterparts. Laughable.

    “…I don’t look as my girlfriend as my black girlfriend…she’s just my friend.” Karen, that’s a beautiful thing. Maybe there is hope for you. But WHAT did you mean by not thinking “beautiful black” in seeing your black daughter-in-law and black grandchildren. I don’t get it. Do you see yourself as White? I am Black and I see myself as Black. I love what I see. I want anyone who sees me to see BLACK! I am beautiful, intelligent, kind, BLACK, and more! If someone said to you “I don’t see you as White” what would you think – your very first thought? Probably, “Huh?” Exactly! You don’t have to pretend you don’t see our color. No – rephrase that – you SHOULDN’T! Instead, appreciate that it is part of our being. Learn about our experiences. In doing so, you might find an appreciation for that “preferential treatment” afforded to your Black counterparts.

    “…I don’t parade my ethnicity.” Karen…and you think WE do? Karen – maybe you and I should have a little not-Black-girlfirend to not-WHITE-girlfriend chat offline. Maybe your heart is in the right place, but your head is all screwed up by the society we live in and by the company you have kept. Either way, stay close to those little not-Black-grandbabies because you have a lot to learn about the real world Black people continue to live in. Try seeing it through those children’s eyes. It is not by OUR choice that this society is evolving at such a slow pace. And people – such as yourself – who try to wish it away are NOT helping to move it along. Only becoming aware and helping to shed light will do that.

    Thank you, Honoree, for your blog post – it really shook things up. We need that. Keep it up.

  140. Finding common ground in knowing that differently culturally categorized people find aggressive and demeaning finger-pointing to the face offensive is one (important) thing. Using this as a means of dismissing the racially charged aspect inherent in this situation, especially considering how it was framed by Brewer is very different.

    But-We-re-All-The-Same/Stop-Making-It-About-Race arguments and comments fall flat in light of the actual situation at hand. Brewer recycled a racial script that has lead to the gruesome murders of enough individuals (i.e. Black men) that we should all know better or proceed to educated.

    We cannot control for race (and thus remove it as a factor) in our culture because it is embedded in it. We can’t know how much it is impacting or creating a situation in general, so stop attempting to generalize with it not being a factor then extrapolating that it wasn’t a factor here…or succeed at looking foolish, out of touch, arrogant, and/or ignorant.

    Employing logical fallacies doesn’t actually undo the factors at work in the actual situation discussed. In this way, some of you may be trying to seem or be understanding, but in fact you are really being defensive.

    When you do this, your privilege is showing. If you want to dispute the racial implications of Brewer, fine, but don’t attempt to negate and dismiss them with poor reasoning that doesn’t directly address the situation in its entirety. Don’t recycle another racial script in attempts to absolve yourself of the first one.

  141. I am an Italian-American and never use the US history of racism against Italians as a reason why people treat me poorly. Oh, and for those of you not familiar with it…..

    Google “largest lynching in US History” you might be surprised.

    “One of the largest mass lynchings in American history involved eleven Italians in the city of New Orleans in 1891.Nine Italians, who were thought to have assassinated police chief David Hennessy, were arrested, tried, and acquitted. Subsequent to the trial, they were dragged from the jail and lynched by a mob that had stormed the jailhouse, together with two other Italians who were being held in the jail at the time on unrelated charges.Afterwards, hundreds of Italian immigrants, most of whom were not criminals, were arrested by the police.”

    • Hi there:

      Actually the largest “lynching” of Black folks was probably the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Race Riots, in which over 300 African Americans were killed. Some speculate as many as 3000, as mass graves continue to be found.

      But actually, when it comes to victims of racial violence in the US, the Native Americans trump everyone. Try googling “Wounded Knee” or “Trail of Tears.”

      Take care and be blessed.


      • I was talking about at one time, not over many days. Just showing that other races have experienced injustices in the past. I am also quite familiar with the indigenous American history.

      • I also find it a shame that you so easily look over the injustices of other races because they weren’t as bad as yours. This is exactly what you are doing with the finger wagging. I hope you find the peace you are looking for inside you, because it will never exist outside of you.

      • Hi there:

        Please forgive me if I gave the impression I was dismissing your ancestors’ pain. I was not. Actually, I was responding to your suggestion to Google “largest lynching” in US History. I’m an Historian as well as a Creative Writer, so I’m always concerned about grave historical inaccuracies being put out there about historical events.

        My correcting you was definitely not meant to diminish the transgressions committed against Italian Americans, of which I am well aware there have been many in the history of this country–unfortunately. Again, forgive me if I gave the impression your own ancestral history did not/does not matter. It did and does, definitely.

        Take care and be blessed.


  142. I personally had an immediate visceral reaction to the finger wagging,after all I doubt seriously that finger would be in the face of George Bush under the same circumstances. That takes Nobel Peace to another level,I would have seen red,someone would have had to tell me what happened. I don’t remember the last time I even raised my voice,but to invade my personal space,with the finger would innately send me into flight or fight

    I too had a visceral reaction to your other teachable moment. My mother taught me as I now teach my children”DONT EAT OTHER PEOPLES POTATO SALAD”(her words). I can tolerate a hard boiled egg(especially hood style),but if I see egg whites in any form I am done,the nausea will over take me. In addition,chicken thighs are in my top ten of nasty. Race,culture,quirky regardless I see I am not alone.

    • @ Tilii- Wow! Can it be genetic (lol)- my bi-racial son won’t eat egg yolks (maybe that’s the White Mom (me) or chicken thighs.

      On a more serious note- and I am not sure how this comment stream works, so IDK if this appears to reply just to Tilii or the the author as well- brilliant piece, congratulations!

  143. It’s rude to point a finger at anyone, period. I had a parent point at me from across the table (during a parent-teacher conference), and I was really offended. I’m white and he was Ecuadorian. I didn’t say anything, but it was still a shock.

  144. Interesting most public speakers curve their fingers if they use them at all, not to be offensive. The Arizona Governor’s actions shows she is out of touch on many levels, but as a former Arizona resident I know many of the Governors there have been out touch, self absorbed and this was no doubt a publicity moment to rally her flock uninterested with understanding their neighbors. I’ve missed the actual footage but I’m curious what would have happened had Mrs. Obama been standing there?

  145. I am concerned that anyone does not understand why a finger in the face is rude and not ok to do a grown [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED] man or women of any color they have the fortunate blessing to be. I don’t wag my finger in my child’s face and that is because I would never want to teach him that this is an effective form of communication.
    I am so happy your mom makes you special things! That made me smile!

  146. Thank you so much for this article. I’m white and old enough for this not to be all new information, but I will be extremely careful in the future to follow these guidelines!

  147. Thank you for this! I can’t believe she did that, or would do that. To anyone. Makes me embarrassed to be white! I mean, c’mon! Setting race aside, HE’S THE PRESIDENT! And, just to clarify, pointing a finger at anyone, REGARDLESS of race, is offensive. Don’t do it. The response is generally not pretty, and usually not as graceful as this one (i.e.walking away). I appreciate the advice, and a little insight into your culture. We “white folk” can always use it (sadly)!

  148. I think I’ve told people not to stick a finger into my face unless they want it bitten, but the gist of the post certainly wasn’t news to me. maybe it’s because I’ve been around long enough to know about the undertones. Meanwhile, I wish I could remember which commentator wondered how much help the people of Arizona would get from the Federal government if they have a disaster strike anytime soon.

    • I really can’t see President Obama being petty enough to punish the people of Arizona for the rude behavior of their governor, even though many of them were dumb enough to vote for the woman . . . He’s got way more class than that.

  149. If you are wise, you will not ever put your finger–or your whole hand– in a Black person’s face, unless you know you want to immediately engage in a knock down, drag out, fight-to-the-concrete physical brawl.


    …otherwise, it will be on & poppin.. No doubt about it!

  150. Thank you for writing this! It is exactly the “mother scolding a young child” image that bothered me so much. And, even though I’m not Black, it would make my blood boil to be pointed at like that under any circumstances except as a joke, so being that it’s particularly aggressive in Black culture, I can only imagine how offensive it felt to Mr. Obama.

    I had a hard time putting words together to explain why Brewer’s behavior bothered me so much. You have solved my problem. Thank you again, from a Well-meaning White Woman 🙂

  151. Our President, Obama has fully trained himself to deal with racial issues and tatics. A perfect example is the presidential race and the attacks towards him from the other party…..yes, our President remains cool and acting just like a man of his calibre should do.

  152. you are so on point. I was talking about this with a Sistafriend this weekend, and we both said, better him than us.

    as Ced the Entertainer said…Black folks live by the ‘ wish’ creed.

    I wish some old, racist White woman WOULD put her finger in my face. It’d be the last time she saw it in tact.

  153. You know what is not being mentioned when it comes to racism? Black people being shamed for dating white people.

    I have heard so many black woman shamed for liking white men or dating them. 8 years ago a black woman I was dating didn’t even want to go out in public on dates with me because she was so ashamed of being with a “white boy”. (Yes, it led to our breakup)

    She was taught and shamed into this feeling by other members of the black community.

    I am so sick of hearing how oppressed black people are by white people, most of the oppression is happening from within the black community that individuals can’t even get a sense of identity because they are being told how to be black as opposed to letting them find their own identity.

    Ease up on each other, you might find out you aren’t the person you were told to be.

    • Most? Really…MOST? Okay. And you know this how?? Another ignorant statement.

      The fact that we have intra-cultural challenges, as well, does NOT negate the fact that institutionalized racism continues to exist in this country. And as for those intra-cultural challenges – look to the “massas” behaviors, such as divide and conquer strategies of selling away pieces and parts of families and raping of our woman and bringing the lighter of those offspring to work in “the Big House,” as the catalysts for much of those issues. I do NOT understand why so many people fail to understand how, given the hundreds of years of oppression, the long-term damage to our culture’s psyche has NOT yet been eliminated.

  154. I skimmed every post, and they all refer to the socialized meaning of a symbolic act. If your finger is close enough to my eye to poke it out, THAT IS AN EXPLICIT PHYSICAL THREAT. This is specifically illegal for the POTUS, and this woman should have been knocked down by the Secret Service, jailed for a violent threat against the highest office, stripped of her position and barred from future public service regardless of race or social arguments. If she had been non-white and not identified as a high ranking politico, she could have been shot to prevent injury to the attacked President.

  155. Overall a great article, but I do have some issues.

    “However, I’ve realized that sometimes, well-meaning, really nice White people… want Black folks to talk to them in non-angry, non-confrontational, and patient ways about Black cultural issues they don’t understand.”

    I actually want all people to speak with me in that manner on all issues. I think most people do. Perhaps you didn’t mean to imply otherwise, but it came off that way.

    I also tend to agree with those who point out that Ms Brewer’s behaviour is unacceptable in mainstream culture as well. Conservatives gave her a pass on that because she is one of them and Obama is not only “other”, but their nemesis. That a black man will feel this insult cut more sharply, I have no doubt.

    And finally, the intimation of violence. Once again, I don’t doubt that many black men come from a culture where violence towards a slight is deemed acceptable. But I am disturbed that you seemed to imply that such violence might be acceptable if the insulting person is not a woman and the camera’s aren’t rolling. That may not have been your intent. I do not know what your stance is on the matter, but that’s how it came off to me. If you do not hold that position, I wish you had made it more clear.

  156. This is disrespect in any in any culture and with any race. Do unto others………. as you’d have them do to you. That is exactly what I would do if I wanted to disrespect someone. Great class and restraint was shown by our president.

  157. I am amazed at how the race card can still be brought up in the most intellectual way. I am a conservative but I still felt the Governor was rude to point her finger at the President, first because it’s rude to point at anyone and second, even more so because he’s the President. It never entered my mind that race had anything to do with it and now you’re trying to explain to me how it IS a racial issue I just don’t understand.

    I am not here to say that there are never any issues related to race but playing “the race card” no matter how well intentioned by really nice well-meaning black people (yeah, I said it) is nonetheless overused and in some cases, just overthought. In this case, why even go there? Isn’t it largely agreed by anyone but a right-wing nut job that she shouldn’t have done that to ANYONE, much less the President?

    As a Jew, I’m been subject to my fair share of blatant and more subtle discrimination and to this day, there are many who don’t understand how Anti-Semitism manifests itself. There is no doubt in my mind that racial bigotry has its share of complications as well. Fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t agree that this is one of them.

    • Friend, if someone tells you that a certain gesture has a certain meaning among a group of people, you have to believe them. It’s like that time in Louisiana when some white teens hung a noose in a tree on school grounds. That’s a threat to the black students! It would be like painting a swastika. Yet white folks in the town dismissed it as nothing. We can’t discount the experiences of others.

    • I am not sure this article was trying to play the race card. What I got from this article is the nuances involved in such an interaction and the image/messages it can send unwittingly. I am black (not american; caribbean student studying in the US) but by reading the article I also understood the gesture from an African american’s point of view. Growing up, Iwas always taught that just because you don’t understand where someone is coming from doesn’t mean their point of view is less valid than yours. Sometimes we just need to be more considerate of where other people are coming from. Sometimes we are able to gloss over things because we are not as sensitive to some issues as other people are.
      In fact, I don’t think that Jan Brewer was being racist. I think she was just being inconsiderate and downright rude. I don’t even think she did it because the President is black. But that picture fits into the narrative of what the world thinks is going on with the president (even if it is not true). This picture did not appear only in American newspapers. If your head of state was female and a man pointed the finger in her face, I am sure there would be cries of sexism. Women would probably be more offended than men although there would be no proof sexism.

    • Craig,

      Yes, it’s about race. Jan Brewer wouldn’t have ever pointed a finger in the face of Bill Clinton or George Bush. What do you think she meant when she stated respect for the office of the President? It’s the office she respects, not the man! I’m so glad the author of this post went there. The truth needed to be told. And she did it beautifully. I grew up during the Civil Rights era and witnessed the vile hatred oozing from racist people. My parents took the brunt of Jim Crow. They took it and kept hoping for a better day. But I’m not mother or daddy…I’m not turning the other cheek. If anyone sticks a finger in my face or spit on me…the fight is on.

      • I can’t agree SouthernGirl2, because it’s supposition at best. We have no way of knowing if she would have pointed a finger at Clinton – Bush, probably not because she would respect him as a Republican she agrees with much more.

        I completely understand about racist hatred – I happened to be in the middle of a dialog with some very Anti-Semitic people.

        It’s possible that Brewer has some underlying racial disrespect but the bigger overall issue that needs to be addressed is that her behavior was not OK regardless of who she was talking to. To bring in the supposition of racism – and that’s ALL it is – obscures the overall issue of how we treat anyone else and if you apply that rule, then common courtesy towards black people is included by default.

  158. Here’s the thing: I get to decide what offends me, and I’d be extremely annoyed if anyone blew it off with “You’re just playing the straight/liberal/fat/white/old lady card.” So I don’t feel that I have ANY right to decide what should or should not offend someone else. It’s like when I was a kid and my big sister slugged me in the arm. It hurt, I’d cry, and she’d say the usual sibling things: “Don’t be such a baby. I didn’t hit you that hard. It doesn’t really hurt.” But I was on the receiving end, so wasn’t I the logical choice to make that call?

  159. I might have my comment in the wrong area. Maybe its better that way. I did leave some critical details out of it due to late night reading :-). I am an African American Artist/Educator in the school system in Fayette County (Lexington), Kentucky. I’m so glad that I found this blog. I have so many things to say, i believe that I am overwhelmed. Also, I just sat down and watched a republican debate for the first time in my life and had my eyes reopened. These candidates are scary! Anyway, I just wanted to express my gratitude for you Honoree and all of the people whom had such brilliant replies! This is like food. I will return again and again. Thank you!

  160. “Thus, the finger point in the face is not a gesture between equals. She who does the pointing is establishing herself as a superior to the person being pointed at.”

    “Because the finger point gesture establishes superiority, the gesture is even worse if a White person does it to a Black person, due to the history in this country of White supremacist violence and cultural demeaning of Black folks.”

    So basically, any time a White* person is in charge of a Black* person, it’s racism?

    I would have been 100% ok with Mr. Obama slapping that finger right out of his face, but I don’t understand the race relations alchemy that turns a general act of rudeness into a specific act of racism.

    *Why are those capitalized?

  161. Hey girlfriend…. after so many postings and comments….. just wanted you to know that I shared you on FB and my Bquiltin Studio blogger…. I’m a 1970’s radical quilter! And I shared you with Julianne Malveaux! And no less….. the next day… you’re talking my natural hair…. of whom you know Angela Davis is the queen! Love ya… take care!

  162. There is always more to the story than we realize. I had already thought Brewer’s behavior was terrible, but now doubly so. Thank you for this informative reflection. I did not truly and deeply understand the struggles of black people in our country until I took a course in seminary on the Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King. I knew that people had faced discrimination and persecution, but didn’t know it in my bones until I took that course. One of my friends in the class had been best friends with one of the girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. Neither did I completely understand white privilege, which I now see all around me. President Obama has class and I don’t think he should stoop to the tactics of those without it. Thank you again! Blessings to you!

  163. Thanks for the teaching. In most Native American cultures (there is not just one) it is never okay to point your finger at a person – very aggressive and insulting. Notice your friends waving a hand in a direction towards a person to whom they are referring — never a finger point.

  164. It’s hard to imagine the amount of patience involved in explaining the obvious to us clueless White folks. One of the things we are clueless about is that Black folks must – for survival – learn, take in, and respect every sign and symbol of White culture. We, on the other hand, don’t even know how ignorant we are of Black culture, and then have the nerve to make judgmental comments and perpetrate violent actions in our ignorance.

    I am grateful for the generosity of heart that prompts you and my Black friends and co-workers to welcome me anyway.

    • Great post. We African Americans,as part of our survival in a racist world training, are taught about white folks, their ideas, attitudes & beliefs about black people, code words, culture,how to tell nice ones from rabid racists & ones who are good people but clueless because they’ve never been around blacks before & only know dumb stuff & myths.We get this training from the time we’re little kids. On the other hand whites, operating from a position of dominance, don’t get this kind of training because they don’t see a need for it. Thank heaven’s for blogs like this that correct the problem. BTW, this isn’t just a black/white issue. Wherever people of ANY race or ethnicity are put in inferior status they immediately go into the know thy enemy mode & always learn & know more about their oppressors than the oppressors know about them.

  165. Thank you for this article. At first when I saw this picture and did not hear an uproar, I thought maybe this gesture does not mean in America what it means in my country (Jamaica). It probably doesn’t mean that you are trying to belittle and show disrespect to someone. I remember, growing up the only person you could do this to was a peer, with whom you were in a very heated argument. It is such a sign of such disrespect that as kids it often lead to fights.
    I cannot even imagine what message that picture conveys to other people in other parts of the world.

  166. I agree with your sentiments; especially the concept of using culture as a way of understanding the implications for finger pointing. I would argue that there are very few people, or cultures, in which such an aggressive finger pointing is acceptable. Perhaps parent to child, but after that I think anyone would have been insulted by the manner of the gesture that Brewer used. I would have been and I am not African-American.

  167. DId anyone ever tell Michelle Obama that is was insulting for her to hug the Queen of England? I guess her advisors weren’t looking out for her. Thanks for looking out for Arizona’s Jan Brewer.

  168. What I Have Learned From This Blog Post:

    1. I was not wrong, Governor Brewer’s “finger pointing” are insulting to everyone….irrespective of race.

    2. Governor Brewer has no respect for the Office of President of the United States, she is therefore, unpatriotic.

    3. If race plays into this, we will never truly know. However, wrong is wrong, without regard to race, age, sexual preference, etc. Governor Brewer was wrong.

    Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts with me.

    All the best,


  169. Phyllis,

    I read your blog regularly. I don’t always agree with you, but it is thought provoking. I’m a 50 year old man of mixed race and can see many of the things you talk about in my every day life. That being said you just plain missed it with this one.

    Pointing a finger in anyones face is disrespectful, it is an agressive action, and it is a call for confrontation. Black, white, brown, yellow or purple with green polka dots no one wants someone else in their face, their space, or challenging their personhood.

    By taking this problem and making it a special problem for black people you are promoting a racial stereotype rather than addressing the real message of respect should be expected by and practiced by everyone. If your finger is in my brown skinned blue eyed face while you lecture me excpect my knee to land right in the vee where your legs meet be you a man or woman. I can also take a non-violent path – cutting you in half with words you will later have to look up in the OED before walking away and showing you the back of my middle finger.

    Here is my lesson for you. Ask this question before you assume something is a black thing and before you think people need to be educated about it. “Would this be a problem with non-black people?” Hella. “Am I assuming black people are different than any other person because of their personal experience and sensitivity?” Some yes, some no. But not enough for this to be a “black” thing.

    My friends color the color spectrum, the political spectrum, the age spectrum, the sexual spectrum and just about any other spectrum one wants to slice us in to so that they are comfortable in where they fall. The most racist people (cutting others up and putting us into piles) are large black. Being black to them is more than being a person, a woman or a man, young or old, gay or straight, conservative or liberal – and as others (particularly those under 60 simply don’t give a slice of Minny’s Chocolate Poo Pie about other peoples color there seems to be a desperation in the black community to prop up that part of their human difference.

    Why Phyllis are the 16 year old girls who name their children De’shequanaka Wassinafa Jones with their first baby daddy, LaShawn Quoitosima for their new son and plan of having D’Ammonia Quantika when the third one comes around? Is it racial identity? Is it Pride? Is it a need to be different and get attention? From people of other races it is just idiocy and child abuse.- putting them at a disadvantage no one else could. Always labeling them as children who came from parents who really didn’t care. Why is gangsta rap considered art and culturally significant? Have a gun, make a baby and you’re a man? Where are the values that we all need to build a better world? Why does the black community hide behind blackness and create problems from that blackness that otherwise wouldn’t exist. I honest to god don’t understand. Again, you bring up good points but you touched on a weak and not black unique problem and made it about being black…racist? Likely not, but it shows the capacity for you to be there.

    Keep up the good work girl, at least you care and you try! Maybe you can educate us on the unusual names? Don’t use “It is an African tradition” in any part of your argument…there are some tribal names that are ageless (I’ve lived in Nigeria and Mali and Kenya) and there is a lot of American Black tragic names. After that, lets talk language, I won’t Axe you wise you is firty free on your next birfday because I have the same non-American Black accent one finds in the rest of the world. Explain it so I can maybe get it. Serious as Jesus.


    • It is child abuse to give a child a beautiful name! She should call her child Susan or Mary and give her a business suit for her birthday!

      That is what the Boarding Schools tried to do Indians and wow that worked out so well.

    • You started out at least slightly reasonable, but then

      “The most racist people (cutting others up and putting us into piles)…” says someone who goes on to completely leave the point of the post far behind, defines a “pile” called blacks, and then starts ranting about them and their practices. I believe there was an old saying about a pot and a kettle, and blackness figured into that one, too.

      Seriously, you started with a slightly reasonable critique, but then it just became a laundry list of “things I don’t like about blacks.” You will severely undermine your credibility as a non-racist critic of racists when your writing goes in that direction.

      And names? Let’s just think about how much sense it makes, objectively speaking, to name someone the same thing as everyone else. If anything is weird in naming, it is the idea of taking only about 30 different names and applying each of them to 10 million people. Seems to kind of defeat the entire purpose of naming, if names aren’t even remotely unique. Coming up with a new (or at least unusual) name for a new person make way more sense. I’m a white guy, but that’s a case where it’s American white culture that’s more weird, not American black culture.

  170. You need to point that finger in your face. If I, or anyone needs a finger in our faces, then we are doing something wrong. Wake up an smell the black coffee, American leaders need a finger in their faces. You only see black, I see a rainbow. Black angels going to attack our [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED.] I guess you are gooing to need a air condition where you can go party with them. God loves all no matter your color. You are a disgrace to A America.

  171. He’s also the President of the United States. The secretary of state is required by protocol to walk behind him, for Pete’s sake. Shouldn’t the governor of a state have some sense of decorum in deference to the office itself, even if opposed to the office-holder?
    I guess a question for me is whether Brewer would have brandished that finger to a white president, given the same political issues. My guess is no.
    Brewer’s policies vis-a-vis immigration are enough for me to feel comfortable calling her a racist. This is par for her course.

  172. It’s not egg whites that concern me…it’s the eggshells that we as white folks have to walk on because there is “racial” history in this country. You’re right…get over it. It’s 2012 …move on. The finger pointing in anyone’s face is rude behavior. It just simply is not a racial issue…or shouldn’t be.

  173. Thanks, Ms. Jeffers, for posting this. I hope you don’t mind if I use some space to respond to some of the comments I read on this post.

    It’s strange. When someone says “This gesture is particularly charged for me and others because of the context in which it happens,” there are always people who react with some variation on “I’m not a racist, how dare you call me one, don’t play the race card,” etc. But I didn’t hear this writer call anyone a racist. I heard her say “This makes me feel something and this is why.” I guess there are people who expect her not to say how she feels because her feelings make them uncomfortable. As if their feelings are more important than hers.

    I did something once that offended someone, and he told me why he was offended. I didn’t mean to offend him, and part of the reason why he was offended was the context of the racist society in which we live that influenced how he heard what I said. What I said without intending a racist meaning was still heard in that way, and he wanted to tell me why. Now I will admit that I felt bad about this, really bad, because I didn’t want to be thought of as either a racist or a person who was ignorant of racial issues, and part of me wanted to defend myself. But I didn’t really need to, because he wasn’t calling me a racist, he was sharing his perspective on what I said, which he had every right to do. He even gave me the benefit of the doubt that I, a stranger, “seemed like a nice person who had good intentions” and that’s why he took the time to talk to me about it. His sharing his perspective on how what I said made him feel (a completely separate thing from what I meant by it) indicated that he thought I would want to know, that I had stepped accidentally or innocently into saying something that could be interpreted as racist. He assumed I wasn’t a racist and shared with me how comments like mine made me feel, because he didn’t believe it was my intention to be hurtful. Similarly the blogger here assumes the good intentions of people reading her blog. She assumes they would want to know how this gesture might come across, because they don’t intend to do something that makes someone feel bad. This is the opposite of calling someone a racist, isn’t it? A racist would intend to belittle someone. If the blogger thought every white person was a racist, with this post she’d only be giving them a “how-to-guide” for a good way to offend someone.

    By this comment, I do not mean to say that people should not call people racists if they want to. Some people are racist and need to be called on it – maybe I do too. But I just think it is disappointing that there are so many white people who are so defensive whenever people of other races share their perspectives. Why is it so hard to hear someone say “This is my experience of living with racism?” Why is there always this pushback?

    I guess I want to ask people who claim this author is being unfair by “playing the race card,” why do you think it is not okay for people who are hurt by racism to talk about it? Even if you believe that racism is over and done with (which it clearly isn’t, as the anonymous comments on almost any news article can demonstrate), don’t you think there would still be some lingering effects that people need to process? Don’t you think that the history of racism in this country is serious enough that it might still affect the way people see things?

    Even now I sort of want to tell the story of exactly what happened in the incident I alluded to, and how I could possibly have made this mistake innocently. But the point of the story isn’t what my intention was (though it’s probably something that is worth some introspection on my part.) The point, and I think the point of this blog post, is to explain how a particular action can take on additional meaning if it is experienced in the context of racism. Whether Gov. Brewer is a racist or had a racist intent is a separate issue – she and her apologists are perfectly free to explain what they think her intention was. I don’t see this blog post as trying to analyze her perspective at all But regardless of her intention, other people are also free to express how they perceive her actions, and yes, even how living in a racist society affects the way such actions come across.

    If you are a white person who is tired of having to be so “careful” to avoid offending people unintentionally, I think it would make more sense to try to listen and understand than to silence people who explain how and why they are offended. Yes, it can be hard, yes, it takes work, but if you are serious about not wanting to offend people, that’s the only logical thing to do. Trying to get other people to shut up about it does not really suggest that your impatience with racial issues is based in your having tried so hard already.

    I would also suggest that there might have been a time in your life when you were offended by something someone did or said, and knowing that they didn’t intend to offend you didn’t take the hurt away. Think about it. You might have given up on the person and stopped spending time with them, or you might have tried to explain how you felt about what happened. If the relationship was important to you, and you tried to deal with it, how did they respond? How good did you feel if they said not only “I didn’t mean to hurt you” but also “I understand how that must have made you feel. I’m sorry, and I’ll try not to hurt you like that again?” One course of action builds relationships, the other does not. I’m hoping more people will try to engage in conversation so we can build relationships, even if it is uncomfortable sometimes. That’s the only way we can move on to a new way of relating to each other.

    • Thank you, Marisa–thank you! You “get” it…in responding to a couple of posters here who immediately threw out “race card” accusations, I tried to explain what you already seem to understand: don’t dismiss what might be culturally offensive to someone else; just because your experience hasn’t been the same, don’t invalidate it. All the best to you.

    • Marisa,

      If the OP is just about how the author and other black people may feel in this situation, that’s not a problem. What IS a problem is any blanket accusation of racism. The race card IS played way too often and if this isn’t an example of that, there is no problem. I may not be black but I am Jewish so believe me, I do understand.

  174. I’m sure this is already in the comments above but I’ll add my two cents in…very well-written. I shared it with my friends too.

  175. We all like to point fingers. I am a 50-something white, blond female married for 27 years to a 50-something six-foot plus black male. We have disagreements. Both of us are responsible for fulfilling our duties to one another. And when we don’t we speak our minds and redress our grievances with loud voices and pointed fingers. It’s the American way.

  176. Truth is, these so called non racist good white folk know exactly what it means to speak to a black person in that manner and what it represents and I’m sure that you’re intelligent enough to know that, but you don’t want to lose any subscribers. Smart move. It’s a part of their “white privilege secret” to act like they don’t know. That “Wow! Thanks for educating us good white people about how to act towards black people now” bs doesn’t work on intelligent black people. You know [EDITED BY PHILLISREMASTERED] well you wouldn’t do that to another white person. Especially in a public and political setting. If that was done to a white president, particularly if it was done by a black person..pshh, they would’ve been stomped through the tarmac by secret service. “White privilege” in AmeriKKKa allowed her to do that.

    • Sha Be Allah your comments are incendiary and inaccurate – we get it that a black person may infer some sort of meaning beyond the obvious rudeness of anyone pointing and doing so to the POTUSA. No one is saying we’d do it to anyone else and given her particular issues with this president, who is to say where her lack of decorum originated?

      “AmerKKK?” Seriously? I think you’ve been spending to much time listening to Farrakhan and his cronies. Racism is unacceptable in any form, including hatred of whites by blacks so stop judging US by the color of our skin and embrace all the progress we’ve made.

      • Craig Berlin I’m sure that my comments are incendiary because it exposes the reality of the racism that still exists in AmeriKKKa. I say AmeriKKKa because you still have a large population within the white community that at least sympathize with “klan-like” sentiments(ever heard of the Tea Party?). As far as Farrakhan, well he’s just as much as the problem. I don’t judge any INDIVIDUAL by the color of their skin, but it is a FACT that ALL whites are familiar with the availability of “privilege”, even if there are those who refuse to admit it. I personally respect those more who do, because then we can reach a point of acceptance and move forward. As for your claim of racism, I CAN’T be guilty of racism because I can’t keep you from buying a home in my neighborhood. I can’t deny you employment because of your race. Racism is prejudice accompanying power. As I said I dont judge any individual, but this problem won’t change unless we address the real problem that has for centuries and continues to plague this country.

      • I don’t completely agree with you. There is some racism in any country – some people are just twisted that way. That being said, racism is way down and on it’s way out in this country and those who hold onto it are throwbacks to days gone by. The Tea Party has ZERO – and I mean NOTHING to do with racism. It is 100% an organization dedicated to fiscal conservatism and even any social conservatism you might attribute to be racially critical is coincidental. Allen West, Herman Cain and other black people who support the Tea Party are not racist and neither are the white people who do the same. You would be hard pressed to point on ONE single piece of evidence that indicates the Tea Party is in any way racist and I don’t mean some individual wing-nut who said something one time.

        I also don’t agree that racism has anything to do with power – a poor man can hate just as easily as a rich man. And legally, you can’t be denied a job or home because of your race so where’s the beef? I am not saying that there is no racism left in our country but it certainly is nothing like is once was and the fact that we have a black President is testament to that – not to mention Colin Powell, Condie Rice, Herman Cain, Oprah and many other influential people of color.

        I’m glad we can agree on Farrakhan – he is a very bad influence on black people and Muslims as well.

      • I’m sure we won’t completely agree because your view of racism and its existence is different because you don’t experience what I endure on a daily basis because of your white privilege. I understand that in that respect you’ll never completely agree, however, I just want you and others to just see the point and why the finger pointing was even tolerated. If, let’s say, Oprah(for lack of a better example), did that to one of our previous white presidents, she would’ve been blackballed by the media and Hollywood and you wouldn’t love her as much as I’m sure you and the rest of America does. Whether publicly or in private, there are PLENTY of white people saying ‘good for her’, even if what Brewer did was out of line.
        Racism on its way out? If that’s the case, why was Frederick Jermaine Carter LYNCHED(hung from a tree) in Mississippi in 2010? Or better yet, why was a young black male shot to death IN HIS BATHROOM by the police trying to flush marijuana down the toilet just THREE DAYS AGO in the Bronx?? If these things happened to white teens it would be a public outrage on every news channel in the country. Why? Because America wouldn’t tolerate that, but it is desensitized to the terrorizing of black people, so you probably didn’t even even hear about it. Yesterday marked the anniversary of the murder of Amadou Diallo by the NYPD, in which no one was punished. Why? Because a life of a black person still means less than that of whites just as it did 100-500 years ago.
        As for the Tea Party not being racist, well, if it wasn’t, then why didn’t they exist before we had a black president?? Yeah, ponder on that for a moment.
        I understand that a poor man can be prejudice, but because he doesn’t hold any power over housing or employment, he CANNOT be racist. One of the hardest cases to prove in any court of law are of racially discriminatory nature, especially in cases of housing and employment. Unless you go into establishments with hidden cameras and catch these bigots in action, you have little to no chance of winning.
        Speaking on the few black people that have “made it” in AmeriKKKan society has nothing to do with eradicating racism. That is just an appeasing mechanism to make our people believe that things are changing. As I said earlier, if things really were different, that young brother in Mississippi wouldn’t have died with a noose around his neck. Additionally, none of those Black people that you mentioned address ANY of the concerns that the majority of black people have with this country’s policies. The ones that do have their character assassinated by the media or outright murdered in cold blood.
        And don’t get me wrong about Farrakhan. He’s still my brother. There are some positive messages he presents to our people, including doing something for ourselves. My problem with him isn’t the same as yours, but just as with any family, you don’t discuss family business with anybody other than family.

      • Mr. Allah:

        I don’t like to censor my commenters, but at this point, I think this should be your last comment–and Mr. Berlin’s, too. Perhaps if you and Mr. Berlin want to keep debating about whatever it is you are talking about, you can do it off my blog?

        And no, this has nothing to do with my not saying certain things because I need White subscribers. I don’t really care about the race of who reads this blog, and I don’t defer to anyone except my Good God. To date, I have not made a dime for this blog, nor do I wish to or expect to. But by the way, most of the people who read my blog are African American and I irritate them all the time, too, because I’m a Radical Black Feminist and I say exactly what is on my mind. I’ve been annoying people off since I was two years old, which is when I started speaking in complete sentences.

        Frankly, right now, I’m extremely tired of talking about Jan Brewer, Mr. Allah. Now, I’d like to turn to talking about all the great Black figures in America who have contributed to this country and overcome tremendous odds while doing it. (My mother is one of those people, although unsung, of course.) I’d like to talk about why we all–White, Black, and other–should be proud of Black people in this country. The Black Community is not the community of Food Stamps, no matter what Mr. Newt Gingrich says. And history and statistics prove that. We are a great people.

        Which is to say, Mr. Allah, this is Black History Month, not The Month of Jan Brewer’s Finger.

        And may our African American ancestors look upon us with love and continue to give us strength. I know I need some after writing this comment.:-)

        Take care and be blessed.

        Amor et Pax,

  177. This CAN go on forever, and the more responses and the more personal and insider and at the molecular level they are, the more likely they are to trigger a response in somebody else. What has been established? That racism exists (we knew that), but that not all rudeness is racist rudeness. That Blacks are more sensitive than Whites realized, about things that Whites didn’t understand NOT because they’re bad people, but just naive or out of the loop. And now we know.
    It seems the discussion has degraded to the point where anything that can be heard in the worst possible light will be, and little kernels are used as launching pads for letting off steam about things that weren’t part of the original discussion. I bet everybody who reads this post is more…culturally sensitive…than a random person in a crowd, and yet there’s still bickering. At this point it seems cathartic-and-come-what-may. Hey, it could be worse, the level of discourse even in the disagreements is still pretty civil, but eventually somebody’s going to say something that’s not going to go over well, and we’ll be off track again.
    The original blogpost was meant to enlighten, and it did.

  178. Had the First Lady been present, Webster’s Dictionary would have had a new definition of the word, “tarmac!”

  179. Everyone who fails to see how this needs to be “made into a race thing,” know this: you are not representing some contrarian, groundbreaking line of thought. You are not coming from some enlightened position from inside your cushy, privileged little bubble in which you don’t even have to THINK or worry about or be directly affected by social inequality. When you think, “hey now, haven’t these people of colour been liberated long enough? What have they got to complain about?? In fact, I think THEY are infringing upon MY rights, as a member of the dominant culture, to use whatever words/hand gestures I want! STOP OPPRESSING ME,” you’re not doing anything new. You are actually just rehashing the (unfortunately popular) views that have been reinforcing the status quo for centuries. In short: you are a good, old fashioned racist. Congrats!

    To Ms Jeffers: If I have one minor qualm with this writing, it is the potato salad analogy. While I understand your point, I think that your mother was being “extra” sensitive to your views on egg whites, whereas I don’t think that white people should ever view it as “going out of their way” or doing people of colour a “favour” by understanding the relevance of culture and historical context in determining which words or actions are appropriate to use in a particular (or any) situation. I feel like this distinction should be made, because it can be a dangerous (backlash-fueling, as we’ve seen) thing when people in power start to think that they are “giving hand-outs” or being extra thoughtful and generous by bestowing (implicitly retractable) rights upon those extra lucky marginalized people, when in reality, these things SHOULD be a given.

    Although, since we know that this isn’t the way the world works, I suppose education in cultural “sensitivity” is all we have at the moment. Anyway, beautiful post; keep writing please! xo

  180. The insularity of some American Voices is incredible. There is so much obscenity in this world, so much bestial cruelty, so many insults to humanity, so many deaths, violations, indescribable atrocities visited by human against human and you have to get steamed up about someone using a forefinger to reinforce an argument. PLEASE!

    • @Saulgone Ah, another variation on the old “How dare you give me a ticket for speeding? Why aren’t you out catching murderers/rapists/drug dealers?” Putting aside the apparent absurdity of such a complaint, does it not also apply to the person having a conniption about what others choose to be upset about? To be honest, you seem a great deal more irate here than Phillisremastered.

      • @Max – Hi Max – Please do not imagine for one minute that I am irate – just mildly amused and saddened that a considerable number of people from the richest, most powerful and most influential nation on the face of the Earth should find this an issue worthy of comment. Perhaps it is the self-indulgence that prosperity begets that allows such a brouhaha about, realistically, nothing.

  181. President Obama, having been raised by a Caucasian mother and Caucasian grandmother, is very familiar with the inexplicable “ways” of a certain type of person. He even detailed that, while he loved his grandmother, how she would all of a sudden become “threatened” at the very sight of a Black man (doing nothing but minding his own business). It made him sad, but I’m also sure that it taught him a valuable lesson. When Governor Brewer found she couldn’t subjugate President Obama with her stupid finger, she panicked and initiated Plan B in another desperate attempt to subjugate President Obama to her so-called fear. We all know the game called “The Black Man Did It.” However, since Obama’s upbringing familiarized him with passive-aggression, he knew how to play it–walk away, find someone with common sense to talk to. That’s how you deal with a manipulator–YOU DON’T. And always have a witness to verify the reality of the passive-aggressive’s nasty behavior, which Obama did. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Jan Brewer really seem to take the very sight of President Obama very personally, waiting for just the right moment to run away crying fake tears claiming to have been threatened by him. That’s a nasty game, Brewer, but you played YOURSELF this time and we all saw it. EVERYONE who didn’t know your ways before knows now, you alcoholic, petty, grifting, hate-filled, shriveled, trifling liar.

  182. You know what I (a frog-belly-white, knee-jerk liberal who came up in the 60s) experienced in the last decade vis-a-vis black co-workers (OK, I hesitate to say they “reported” to me, but they did): Many were loathe to engage in discussions on race. I wanted to know everything from their experience and perspective, and they were invariably, intransigently close to the vest about racial issues. I chalked it up to age difference, i.e., they were way less than half my age, but, still, why so mum? So, now I know, there was a figurative finger in there, no matter how I might wish it not to be.

  183. Thank you so much for providing such an insightful perspective.

    As a London (UK) resident, I was shocked & appalled by the disgraceful conduct of ‘Governor’ Jan Brewer. Is she not aware that being in the role of governor has a requirement to demonstrate leadership qualities? Moreover, she is also required to demonstrate respect for everyone with whom she engages… especially the President of your good country.

    The way in which she conducted herself brought shame on her office, the presidency and the US… especially on the international stage. As citizens, you should collectively condemn her behaviour and make efforts to hold her responsible for ‘gross deriliction of office’.

    In closing, I commend you on writing such a splendid blog.

    Keep up the good work.

    W Livingston Gilchrist (London | UK)

  184. I’m one of those nice (I hope) white people trying to navigate. I grew up in an area that could only be described as “Lily White” and never met a black person until I was 18. I’ve heard a lot of racist jokes and always felt disgusted by them which is surprising given my lack of exposure to anyone not white.
    I need a little time to absorb some of what you wrote because some of what you said seemed angry and while you have reason to be angry, I don’t know that I agree with all that you wrote. I suppose that’s not surprising. I don’t consider myself a racist person, just a white woman who would like to see more diversity in the world and less prejudice. I don’t always know the right thing to say or do but I’m trying.

  185. Nice article. I am a teacher of diverse students and the lessons in this article are important to remember. I would, however, like to take note of the fact that Obama has done some finger waving himself. He waved his finger at both the Prime Minister of Canada and Israel. I remember my Israeli family members were upset when this happened. BTW, someone linked to this article many weeks ago on FB and it stuck in my head. So a very delayed response!

  186. Finger pointing can lead to an altercation in many parts of the world. It is considered downright offensive and a threat for Arabic folks. It is something you would only do to an animal. I agree with the one poster here on that no one should point at a President regardless of culture. It’s “culture”, not race, race does not exist biologically.
    While it could be this woman was trying to be emphatic she needs to be more aware.
    I live in a place where white people actually thought dressing as a “Jamaican” for a bonspiel should include brown skin. I needed to educate them. They saw it simply as dress up, no foul thoughts intended. Still, they needed to know.

    This article is very well written. Thank you for sharing it.

  187. Wow, why couldnt I have read this one day earlier. My husband is a t-ball coach and one of his players, an african american boy, threw his helmet at my husband. My husband put his finger in the boys face and calmly said if he did something like that again, he would not be allowed to play. Immediately after the game, the boys Mother confronted my husband and told him to NEVER put his finger in her son’s face again. Now I get it. I do have to side with my husband, however, the boy was being very disrespectful. But, I suppose he could of handled it better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s