Wednesday, August 26, 2009

wear their whiteness with humility

Edward Moore Kennedy
(1932 - 2009)

What do you think of The Root's (unsigned) eulogy for Ted Kennedy? The editors applaud how he and the other Kennedys carried their whitened selves: "They didn't wear their whiteness with authority -- they were big on playing the human card and left matters of race and class to be argued by the pundits."

Brother Kennedy: Good White Folk
The Root

For the longest time, besides family, black people would only put three pictures up on the wall: Jesus Christ, Nipsey Russell and John F. Kennedy. The Kennedys, in general, have always had a soft spot in the hearts of many black folks because they have always been, as old timers say, "good white folk." The kind of white person you didn't have to worry about giving you the soul handshake (WTF?), talking black jive to get along or dropping the "N" bomb by accident. They were the kind of white people who are at ease with everyone; white people you could have over to dinner. The Kennedys as Irishmen, knew how it felt to be marginalized and, despite their wealth, this marginalization seemed to inform the politics of the whole family. The passing of Edward "Ted" Kennedy last night doesn't just leave a gap in the Democratic Party. Who will bring his empathy and compassion for the rest of America? Who will take up his causes?

John, Robert and Ted were different men with seemingly the same directive: to make America's dream accessible to everyone. John, Robert and Ted Kennedy seemed not to be just pandering politicians, but officials who people of color could trust to listen and respond, to act in the interest of people struggling to grasp a hold of the American Dream; to acknowledge everyone as stakeholder and not dismiss The Others as irrelevant. The Kennedys seem to value compassion as an essential human virtue and walked the talk in ways uncommon for politicians of any stripe. They didn't wear their whiteness with authority -- they were big on playing the human card and left matters of race and class to be argued by the pundits. Ted Kennedy wanted a more perfect union and was willing to fight for it.

When he cosigned Barack Obama last year, Ted Kennedy helped assuage a lot of fears among white and black Americans: his "ups" signified to many that Obama could be trusted to uphold what was important to this country. Ted Kennedy was not a perfect man by any stretch, but he was the kind of white man you sometimes find at black barbecues and barbershops, enjoying a drink, a plate or a laugh. The only white man at your wedding, the only white person your grandparents ever let in the house because he was at ease. He was at home. He left his burden of privilege at the door. You know who I'm talking about -- Ted Kennedy was that dude.

Brother Kennedy: Good White Folk.

Now that Ted Kennedy has passed, who has the gravitas, the compassion and the credentials to take up his mantle?

I also recommend Nezua's post at The Unapologetic Mexican, which includes a formal statement of appreciation for Senator Kennedy by the United Farm Workers, and a sober assessment by Louis Proyect of some other features of his legislative work at The Unrepentant Marxist.


  1. This is true. Kennedy will be missed and he did a lot to help disadvantaged people of all kinds. And yes, he seemed like he and his family, knew how to act around black folks.

  2. Thank you for this.

    I am saddened over the loss of Senator Kennedy, who in spite of his white privilege, was a man of compassion dedicated to the helping those less fortunate, committed to making higher education accessible to lower income students. Though certainly not perfect, he was a public servant to the end.

  3. My heart was saddened by the news this morning. Although not family, he will always be "Uncle Teddy" to me. He will be missed. But, the causes he fought for will continue by those he touched in this life and beyond.


  4. I would say not to paint all the Kennedys with the same brush. Robert and Ted certainly were passionate about civil rights, but John Kennedy was slow to push a civil rights agenda for fear of alienating Dixiecrats. Remember what Malcolm X said about the chickens coming home to roost when JFK died.

  5. The death of the Last Kennedy brothers is a sad loss for all people that have a Hope for Kindness and Humanity for the Poor, the Black, the Hispanic, the Native American Indian, the Immigrant, etc ...

    Ted worked very hard for the election of Barack Obama, like Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F Kennedy.

    We will never forget the Kennedys, their Great Heart, and their rejection of Sadism and Brutality. Their fights for Civil Rights.

    With People like Obama and his Wife Michelle, with Ted and John Kerry ( What a Gentleman ! ) with Hillary and Bill, we can believe in a Beautiful Future for the USA.

    When I look at the actions of past and present Republican Incumbents, I get depressed .... and I almost think that the US is down the slope, not of a hill, but of the Himalayas ....

    I almost believed in Professor Chalmers Johnson of the University of California : The US Global Empire - The Last Days of the American Empire

    But I hope that Mr Obama ( Great Intelligence ) does not fall in the same foolish trap of Mr Bush, that believed that you can export Liberty and Freedom by killing poor illiterate peasants in Pajamas that are at the point of starving.

    All those peasants are human beings and deserve respect, they only defend their land from the invaders.

    This is my homage to Ted Kennedy - He wasn't a Jingo or Racist, he didn't enjoy raw power to kill and maim - He was a man of Humanity and Kindness.

    Vicente Duque

  6. You people are such bots. By that i mean the yessir, whatever you say because you stand for the party i'm told to love.

    I'm sure you all know about his drunken incident. But do you even know of any of his sexual crimes? None of you probably even took the time to look into his less-than-glamorous past. But that doesn't matter, 'he loved black people'.

    BTW, no he didn't. He loved donations and votes.


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