Vail Valley Voices: Bigotry found in Eagle |

Vail Valley Voices: Bigotry found in Eagle

Jessica Tenner
Vail, CO, Colorado

During a recent venture to an Eagle business, I was immediately impressed by the multiple McCain/Palin signs still displayed on the exterior of the establishment.

I have many friends and family members that I love dearly who are fiscal conservatives, and proudly identify Republican. But even they have moved on now, three months after the election (as Republicans so artfully suggested Democrats do before the Florida recount had even begun in 2000).

Then, on the desk in the entrance to this business was a paper that drew my attention. While it was not posted in any official way, it was clearly important enough to have been printed out and was laying out for all to read.

It was a “joke” about the new phone number for the black house ” no longer the white house (yuk, yuk)” being “foe, foe, foe, seben, seben, etc., etc.” (444-77…) Hilarious (?).

Now, I know there is a long and venerated tradition of bigotry in our country. But apparently I’ve lived a charmed and perhaps sheltered existence, because it was really the first time I’d ever come face to face with people proud of their racism.

In my blissful ignorance, I had always imagined it to be a relic of the Deep South, and it was jarring to discover it so close to home.

But what struck me as totally bizarre was the fact that the “joke” was ridiculing urban black speech as if it somehow related to a man who is arguably one of the most articulate and well-spoken men in the world.

And of course, the even greater irony being that our current president — a Harvard Law Review editor, successful author and former law professor who displays a profound love of and facility with language — is replacing a man who I consider to be the most inarticulate person to ever hold high office, a man who willfully mangled the English language on a daily basis.

Then it occurred to me that as eloquent as our current president is, I think perhaps the most profound thing to be learned from Barack Obama is in the things he leaves unsaid.

His very actions teach us about tolerance and respect for all people. During the campaign, he never resorted to the politics of name calling and character assassination.

A very striking example came the day after his inauguration, as Vice President Biden made an attempt at levity at the expense of Chief Justice Roberts, who on the previous day had remarkably decided to “wing it” while administering the oath of office and muddled it.

Obama made it immediately apparent, without a word, that he found Biden’s remark inappropriate nd that he would not condone the cheap shot however funny (or well deserved.)

It’s a hard thing to leave the unnecessary jibe, the unkind word unsaid. It’s a difficult lesson: tolerance and mutual respect.

So, to paraphrase the famous question once posed by our previous president, “Is we learning?” I’m sorry to report Mr. President, for a large swath of our population, we are not.

Of course we are, all of us, a work in progress, and I surely am trying. And what’s more, I remain eternally hopeful.

Jessica Tenner is an Avon resident.

Support Local Journalism