Obama seemed quite relaxed. He was talking to someone in a way he probably rarely has a chance to do anymore. I imagined most of the time he has to be quite guarded in the words he says but with me he could say what he felt. He knew that my reach was very limited and probably understand I had no intention of making a big deal out of anything he said.
He then went on: “You understand, I assume, this superior race idea of the Anglo-Saxon was carried on beyond the shores of America.”
Without knowing exactly what he referred to I said: “Absolutely. It was picked up by the Nazis. It formed the basis for their attempt to eradicate the Jews and enslave the Slavs and others who were not part of the Aryan race. It is behind all genocides where one group feels superior to others; it was also here when we had slavery and the Jim Crow laws, the latter also being a form of genocide — rather than murdering it was taking a life by neglect.”
“Go on,” Obama said.
“I believe — more so as I aged and have had time for more study and thought — that these laws that kept blacks in America entrapped in ignorance deprived our country of a wealth of talent — who knew what gems of genius could have come out of those millions of blacks who were deprived of an opportunity to be educated and add to our national well-being. We have seen that some of the poorest whites who lived in places like the Lower East Side when provided open freedom of association and the education in public schools greatly enabled our society to advance. Keeping others down because of differences deprives all of us of the benefits some of them could give us if made as truly free as others.”
“That’s an unusual argument against racism,” he said. “It’s sort of selfish argument. You are saying racism is bad because it deprives a nation of its best talent and the nation not being given it rightful due hurts you as a member of that nation.”
“Pretty much,” I agreed, “I like to look at what America would be had one particular group of the lesser people, as the Anglo-Saxon conceived them to be, had been excluded from our shores and how much lesser of a nation we would be.”
He said: “For one thing we would have none of the present members of the Supreme Court sitting on it.”
He was right. There were no Anglo-Saxons on the court. There were only Catholics and Jews. Until the mid 1900s that court had been a pillar in holding up the Anglo-Saxon supremacy.
He went on, “But we’ve moved too far away from the original subject. You said it was my attitude toward war that most people you were in contact with objected to. I have to admit it is different from others. I think it is because of who I am. I’m not cut from the same cloth as the prior presidents. I look at the world through colored eyes. I look at the world knowing my father was a Muslim and a good man. It is only natural my perspective Marine Hymn would be different. I do not know if all of the people who voted for me understood that would be the case. Probably not. I certainly did not emphasize it but I do see the world differently than other presidents have seen it.”
He was now talking as if I was not there as if he was getting something out that had long festered inside of him.
“I see you were in the Marines — you know the Marine Hymn — did you ever pause to consider the implications of the first line “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” Who were the people who America was fighting. Do you understand that it was Mexicans in the first instance and Barbary pirates in the second, all people of color.”
I said I was quite familiar with the line and especially the derring-do of Marine Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon having worn a Marmaluke sword which commemorates his victory at Tripoli where he was the first person to raise an American flag over foreign soil during a war.
Obama nodded. He asked, “Do you understand that almost all of America’s wars have been against people of color – especially Catholics and Muslims.”
I didn’t think that applied to WWI and WWII and told him that. He said: “World war two started after an attack by Japan — but warring against it was just part of that. That’s why I said “almost” since the world wars were different from the others.But outside of that, all our wars have been against people of color.”