Friday, October 16, 2009

Interracial couple denied marriage? What about Obama?

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As I read the unbelievable story of how Louisiana Judge Keith Bardwell showed that racism is indeed a mental illness by denying an interracial couple a marriage license because they were, well, of different skin colors, I thought about President Obama.

As Americans know, perhaps even Judge Keith Bardwell, Barack Obama is the product of an interracial marriage between a black man and a white woman. Terence McKay and his girlfriend Beth Humphrey, the victims of Judge Bardwell's racism are black male and white female.

What was the reason Judge Bardwell gave for his mindless actions? "I do it to protect the children, he reportedly said. The kids are innocent and I worry about their futures."

Ok, so Judge Bardwell's trying to prevent the creation of future Presidents of the United States, right? Because if you think about it, if laws against interracial marriage were still on the books and enforced, we would never have a President Obama.

But my concern is that folks like Judge Bardwell are allowed to practice anywhere in America. That he's active says as much for Louisiana as it does for him. Governor Bobby Jindal should be very concerned about the message of racial hostility Louisiana sends out to the World with Judge Bardwell's obvious violation of the civil rights of Americans.

What's even more frightening is Judge Bardwell doesn't think he's racist. According to the Associated Press, Bardwell said this:

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

That, folks, is the statement of one who in my view is irrational.

I totally agree with my CityBrights friend Yobie Benjamin, who writes:

This case is important as it shows the deep seated ignorance of some people in power. In the deep south, the justice of the peace is an important position of power and influence and is an elected position. From another point-of-view, the case is clearly no different from the discrimination gay couples suffer when government refuses to grant them right to marry.

But where I depart from Yobie's blog is that the case also shows how much we allow ignorant people to have power. Judge Bardwell proved this himself when he said that he had "piles of black friends". Obviously they're the kind of "friends" who are also afraid to challenge him because he's a judge.

Judge Bardwell's friends are also to blame for allowing him to serve as a law enforcement official without challenge. We as a society must take a far more agressive stance against racism than we have done to date.

I think one action should be for the NFL to relocate the 2013 Super Bowl away from New Orleans unless Judge Bardwell is removed and the sooner the better.

In fact, all bowl games planned for the Louisiana Superdome should be relocated if Judge Bardwell remains in power in any capacity in Louisiana.

And online we must take steps to stamp out racism, for good. For example, the subject for Blog Action Day 2010 should be 'racism and how to end it'.

We as Americans have to take steps to make sure there are no more people with the racist attitude that Judge Bardwell has.

Enough is enough.

Tom Hayes: Skin color? Again?

As you've probably learned, Louisiana magistrate Keith Bardwell, a Justice of the Peace, recently refused to grant a marriage license to an interracial couple out of "concern" for the effect(s) on any children born of that relationship.

“I’m not a racist,” Bardwell, told the Hammond, Louisiana, Daily Star. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.”

If denying a couple in their 30s a marriage license based on them being different colors isn't racism, I'm not entirely sure we're all using the word the same way. It's been well over a year since then-candidate Barack Obama gave a candid, frank speech of our history and how we need to move beyond the out-dated use of color that divides us and inhibits our success, and I invite Keith Bardwell to review it. His actions are unacceptable to me, and violate principles laid down by our founding fathers in establishing the basic tenets we have relied on ever since - the Constitution of the United States of America.

I’ve got many friends from diverse backgrounds, that's the marvelous opportunity of living in the world's greatest melting pot. We talk about race from time to time. We understand that we've far from overcome the lingering, emotional "not like me ism," the "stick to your own kind" mindset of those who insist they aren't racists yet continue to speak and act as though skin color is the most important way to categorize people.

I trust any U.S. magistrate would say it is, indeed, self-evident that the egalitarian principles embodied in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights are widely acknowledged as both our guiding vision and our best weapon in the “War on Terrorism.” Here's something I shouldn't have to explain: That bit about "all men are created equal" applies to skin color as well, Mr. Bardwell.

In a recent column at, Connie Schultz described a conversation she had with a non-white friend regarding race. Her column included the Jay smooth video above, from the website.
He listened patiently as I whined about how hard it is to nudge people on the issue of race.

Then he set me straight.

"Your problem," he said, "is that you want everyone to have that kumbaya moment and feel the change in their hearts. I don't need that. They can take all the time they want to drag their hearts along, but I want their words and deeds to change right now because what they do can have an impact on my children and on my grandchildren."

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and the author of two books from Random House: "Life Happens" and "… and His Lovely Wife." To find out more about Connie Schultz ( and see other columns visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

The fever of hope is contagious

Less than one year after his election as the 44th President of the U.S.A., Barack Obama's un-whiteness figures in world-wide perception of political reality in the United States. Centuries after the Constitution declared that all men are created equal, decades after the signing of the U.S. Civil Rights act, Obama's skin color highlights the potential for real change in our view of community.

President Obama's candor about skin color has elevated the conversations everywhere about our obsolete, insidious prejudices - but there are evidently parts of Louisiana where they need to be encouraged to listen harder.

Thomas Hayes is a political analyst, journalist, and entrepreneur who contributes regularly to a host of web sites on topics including economics, politics, culture, and community.

He's pro-diversity.