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October 7th, 2008
03:05 PM ET

Don’t put me in the back of the bus, We’re not going

Editor’s note: During the New Yorker Festival, Jeffrey Toobin hosted a panel discussion with Donna Brazile, Alex Castellanos, Ed Rollins, and Joe Trippi. Below are Donna’s impassioned closing remarks. You can also watch a video of the entire discussion here .

Donna Brazile
CNN Political Contributor

I’m gonna say it and get it off my chest, because for the next thirty days, I’m gonna be the best Catholic woman ever… If Obama loses, and there’s a possibility he might lose, I would hope that people voted against him because they didn’t like his economic vision, his energy plan, they didn’t like the fact that he came out against the war so early when everyone was going with the status quo. I would hope that people decided that during the debates maybe he didn’t do as well as he possibly could and maybe that’s right. We’re at a time of trouble and maybe you want someone who’s been on the planet a lot longer. A hell of a lot longer, and God bless him...

But my friends, I have to tell you, as a child who grew up in the segregated Deep South, de facto and de jure, we’ve come so far in this country. This country, and you have to have lived as long as I’ve lived to have seen so much progress. But I remember when I used to get on the bus, and this was after segregation was so-called “over with”: my mother would tell me, “Donna, now you get on the bus, you and your brothers go all the way to the back, and don’t look at anybody.” And of course, I would get on that bus and tell my brothers go straight to the back, don’t look at anybody, because I didn’t want them to get in trouble. And I would sit there and say, let me see if everything’s okay. Is it really changed?

We have changed. This is a more tolerant, more open, more progressive society. And yet, we’re having this conversation because [Obama] is biracial. He spent nine months in the womb of a white woman. He was raised for the first 18 to 21 years by his white grandparents. He spent no time in living rooms like I spent my childhood. And yet, he got out of school, went to Harvard, and all of a sudden he’s “uppity” and there’s something wrong with him?

What is wrong with us? To suggest that some kid can’t go to Harvard if he’s earned the grades to go there…You may vote against him, but don’t ever put me in the back of the bus. I’m not going to the back of the bus! I’m not going to be afraid anymore! My black skin does not make me inferior! And might I add: being a female does not make me dumb!

Now we can relitigate all these fights on race and gender and sexual orientation until the cows come home. But at a time when we’re in crisis I want the best, I want the brightest, I want somebody to take me where we’ve never been as a country. Perhaps we’ve been too stuck in the past and that’s why we can’t go forward.

So let the next 31 days be about ideas, be about inspiration and about character. Let it be about something that brings us together, not tears us apart. I can sit on a stage with these men, and if I had time this afternoon, I’d go home and I’d cook for them. And we would all sit and drink something, but this is where we are as a country. We are comfortable with each other.

Let’s not play these games, don’t let people trick you or distract you or divide you. My mother is not here, her mother is not here, my grandfathers, everybody in my family, the men have served this country. Don’t let no one take us back, because many of us are not going back. We’re going forward. And come with us.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Donna Brazile • Raw Politics
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Nisha P.

    Love you Donna!

    You're absolutely right 🙂

    October 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  2. mary

    Donna, thank you! You are a lady, a true lady, and I have admired you for a long time. I truly admired your repsonse during the primary to the meetings to "solve the Clinton problems with counting the votes." You were truly fair and cool headed.

    You are fair and cool headed here in this piece. I am not a black woman, I am a white woman of your age. I am very upset about some people's racism and always have been. My parents wouldn't tolerate anything like it in our home when I was growing up. The bottom line is, people are going to do what they are going to do as far as voting. How a racist can call herself/himself a Christian is way beyond me. But I am standing right along side of you when it comes to where people sit on busses. Believe me, that crap isn't going to happen again without a really big fight!.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  3. Alex

    Hi Donna,
    It appears to me that as we enter this last phase of this Presidential election, I think it somewhat safe to say that the economy has taken center stage. We're starting to see alot of distractions in terms of mud-sliging on both sides which haven't really shown us a viable fiscal plan that is gonna work given the economic crisis we are all facing. To be very honest, neither Obama or McCain has impressed me with their ideas and thanks mostly to George W. Bush (and other former Presidents who started this mess) there will be no money to do anything. In fact, the nation may end up having to do more with less available money. One thing for sure, I sense that our country is more divided than before in their support of their candidates. But one common theme is that most people are pretty fed up with politicians in general. Happily, there is no divide in terms of race or gender when it comes to that anger and like it or not, we are all in this mess together. Unknowingly and perhaps unintended, it may be this common misery that will insure you will never have to face what you did as a child and we can happily live side by side and cuss at our politicans together.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  4. Helena from WA State

    Thank you so much Donna for your remarks. I have always thought of you as a intellegent and wise person who seems to have a good grasp of what is going on with the quest for presidency. Your point of view has always been clearly understandable and reasonable and rational. You have made it known that you are supporting Obama but I have never heard that you have ever been condescending to McCain or the republican party.
    Your statement clearly shows what this race for the presidency means to you and how the outcome could be the start of a change for America that you have persued, in your own way, that has always been part of your childhood hopes and dreams.

    Donna, you express the sentiments of so many Americans of all races, ethnic and religious backgrounds. You put it so plainly , and oh, so eloquantly.

    Thank you again,

    October 7, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  5. Kim

    What has Obama and McCain learned from some of these questionable associations and business dealings they've involved themselves with ? Do they recognize and would they associate differently when president from their experiences and what they've learned ?

    October 7, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  6. auldgranny

    I am a white 65 year-old grandmother who is proudly voting for Obama. Why? Because I want the rest of the world to see a new face of America, one of intelligence, thoughtful reasoning and a curiousity about the rest of the world and what our countrys role should respectivley be.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  7. Maritza

    Donna Brazile, my god women get a grip, America is not Rwanda . You are an intelligent women and I mean no disrespect, but your gushing of Obama is right out of Tiger Beat magazine, this man who you elevate is in reality by virture of merit, accomplishment, and substance not qualified to lead a nation, not by any standard , it's not the color of his skin that is a problem , it's the thinness of his skin. Please , get a grip.

    Maritza

    October 7, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  8. larry

    Donna, Obama got into Harvard either thru Affirmative Action, or as a legacy student because his dad went there; how else do you think Ted Kennedy got into Harvard?
    Secondly, to be president of harvard law review required a change in the process; it used to be the student with the highest academic standing; so that worked well for Barack
    thirdly, Jesse Jackson's deal with Dukakis to proportion delegates, thus repealing what had always been done in win the state win all the delegates. That was how obama won the primary, he owes Jesse BIGTIME.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  9. lois in NY

    Donna;
    I agree with you! Our Country is in crisis and I pray for Obama – I just know he cares and wants to help "middle" and lower class Americans – the financial problems, health care; I am 65 years old and my retirement is toast. I have never seen our country in such a state...

    October 7, 2008 at 4:22 pm |
  10. Maureen / Newman, California

    I think that America has come a long way since Donna had to worry about being harrassed on a bus. While there probably will always be ignorant people that judge by skin color or gender, I think that most Americans understand that it really is what's inside that matters the most. When I was a kid, my dad told me that the world would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same and looked the same, and I happen to agree with him. I am a white woman and I am voting for Obama because he is a smart man with intelligent plans to fix this mess that we are in. I have voted in every election since 1984. But voting for Obama will be my first Presidential vote that I can honestly feel 100% good about.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  11. Calvin

    Amen and amen!

    October 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  12. David (Costa Mesa, CA)

    Thank you, Donna Brazile for your commentary. It's time that the barriers come down. Hillary spoke of breaking the "glass ceiling" and that goes for race and gender. I, too, and Catholic and pray every day that the people in this country will have the common sense to see that Barack Obama is the right choice for this country and stop listening to John McCain and Sarah Palin with their smarmy rhetoric.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  13. okaasan3

    You got it right!! I am an American Indian, and I'm not going to the back of the bus, either!!! We've come a long way as a country, and we have a long way to go to reach equity for all. The McCain/Palin campaign is pushing us back to the days when my father had to find a water fountain that didn't say "for whites only." AMERICA don't fall for it!! Please

    October 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  14. DR

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT! Palin wants to take us backwards with her racists remarks like Joe six pack (another word for red-neck) to ignorant foolish people. She makes me very sorry that she is even on the ticket for McCain. I believe most of the American people are good people. They won't go for REACTIVE McCain-Palin. They WILL vote for Obama-Biden because they are real, true and the best choice. No one will ever have to go to the back of the bus as long as I am here to tell the truth too. I ask all of you who read this to know that those old bad days of racism are gone forever. This is a good country and has good people who know that Barack Obama is the intelligent and worthwhile choice.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  15. Marji Doughri

    It is so sad that people are still judged by the color of their skin and not their character. This is 2008 and yet, it seems as if I am still in the 50’s. The pass carried a lot of pain and suffering just because your skin was a different color. I can not believe someone would rather tell and believe lies than see a black man in the white house. I also think it is an insult to women to think that women would vote for a woman just because she is a woman. This is sad. The country is in a mess and someone really wants to change directions and just because he is a black man you don't want him in the White House. Sad, sad, sad. What is wrong with you people?

    October 7, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  16. Joyce Ball

    Donna, you couldn't have said it any better. But, it scares me & breaks my heart to think that people would not vote a certain way because of color. At this terrible economic time, they must look beyond their personal biases & do what is best for the country as a whole. Plus, the bottom line is that the US needs someone who is steady & a serious thinker & does not make decisions lightly & then change his mind so quickly. I feel Obama will be the best candidate to surround himself with the smartest people, just like himself.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  17. Rich from Delaware

    Character?? So you'd prefer to have a man who is friends with Bill Ayers....a man who bombed buildings in his own country, then a man who faught for his country and was tortured for his country? Now I know you'll say Obama isn't "Friends" with Ayers.....and Obama himself will not admit it...... But he is.

    So don't talk to me about character.....to Donna Brazile, and every other black out there, this election is about getting a black man in the White house. We all know it, it would be refreshing just to hear you finally admit it.....but you won't.

    If that's the reason you're voting for Obama, and we all know it is. That's fine, that's your right. But please have the CHARACTER to admit it. Don't look the American people in the face and lie about your reasons.

    I can tell you that I'm leaning towards not even voting this year because I believe neither candidate is right for the job. I just have enough character not to vote at all then to vote for McCain only because of his race.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  18. Brenda Harris

    Donna that was a beautiful piece. Donna there are just a few of them left, but soon the racist attitudes will fade. Things come and they go. Most People want to be fair and I appalude them.
    This is a time of urgency much like 911 or Katrina or any other catatropic time. People don't forget what time it really is. Think of the ECONOMY and the WARS
    We don't need someone who two weeks ago said the economy is fundamentally strong and that wars can be fought until we win. We did not will the Viet Nam war did we.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  19. E.Aud

    Obama is the best representation of the principles and aspirations this country offers. He represents the future, the diversity and multicultural world we now live. Racism and bigotry is born of fear, an aversion to change. Those who vote against Obama because of his color are more afraid of the change he represents. It seems so odd that we were a country founded by peoples fleeing the "old world" for the new. We were a melting pot of diversity. It was that diversity that built a nation. If we fail to embrace change we will be left behind the rest of world. We will be the "old world" our ancestors left behind.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  20. Bo Lewis

    Donna,

    Your exactly right....no more back of the bus mentality. I served in the U.S. Marine Corps. When I was in recruit training, there was only 4 of us; Afro Americans in a platoon of 74 recruits. It was difficult, but we never gave up. We never excepted the status quo and excelled. I was always proud to see my brothers and sisters that were high ranking officers and enlisted. Although, we came from different parts of the country I was proud to see them move up the ranks. We all know the history of this country concerning race; if we seek to find it, because the history books in our school systems does not expand upon our struggles. However, I beleive that what ever happens on Nov 4th, would be in line with God's plan. Just like our past generations, faith and prayer will bring us through, just like it's always done. God Bless you Donna. I've been observing you on CNN. Your very sharp and I'm proud of you.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  21. Elizabeth

    Excellent article! I'm a 57 YO Caucasian female. As a child I grew up in a mostly segregated world. My parents set a different example and taught us that we were all more alike than we are different. I went to the first integrated high school in Miami, FL. I was blessed to have the advantage of parents that were color-blind and saw good in everyone. I'm so excited about Barack Obama. He reminds me in so many ways of the JFK of my youth. He is a charismatic leader with a vision of a better future for this country. We need him now more than ever.
    All The Best,
    Elizabeth

    October 7, 2008 at 4:05 pm |
  22. DebbieM

    Donna, I'm white and I would not stand for that either. I would hope we've come to far for that. But if this country comes to that, I'm drinking the cyanide laced Kool-aid. I do not want to live in a world like that. The creator I believe in creates nothing but perfection so I could never understand us going back there. Thank you for speaking what so many of us dare not say! God bless you!

    October 7, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  23. Thomas

    I for one want the BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST !
    Regardless of Race, Creed, Color, Religion or lack of Religion.

    A man or woman with a degree from one of our countries highest ranking colleges .
    How can one not want such for there own children .

    Do we want a president that has a degree from beauty college or whatsamata U ?
    How can we lead in showing the people in say " Iraq ", or other countries, if we can't look past our own predigest mind set of fear.

    We all bleed the same.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  24. Crystal G

    This is SO true!!

    October 7, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  25. E C Bell

    Donna, I forgot to add one thing. Segregation was Wrong...I grew up in small town Alabama....I have never in my life hated a black person..not one. Sure, there will always be racist...in all cultures but once the American people realized how wrong this prejudice was they all (all races) tried to move forward.

    I never owned a slave, neither did my parents, we were not taught to hate black people. I can understand why your mother was so concerned. She was afraid that things weren't really chaging and she wanted you and your siblings to be safe.

    We have to let this go....and it has to start with me and with you and with every decent person in this country. The same God made us all and He made us each in our own special way.....our souls have no color.

    May God Bless you and may He give you peace.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  26. Kim in NY

    Thank you, Donna. I agree. If you don't want to vote for Sen. Obama because you don't agree with him politically, that's fine.
    But this needs to be a two way street. Don't vote for him because he is black. Don't not vote for him because he is black. (Or bi-racial) I think that part of the equation has been forgotten. I believe far more blacks are voting for Sen. Obama simply because he is black, then non-blacks are not voting for him because he is black.
    Either way, I hope whomever wins the election, rises above the fray, and fixes then many messes this country faces.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  27. Madeline

    I don't think Obama is "uppity" because he went to Harvard. This is not why I'm voting for McCain. Also, to suggest that people who don't vote for Obama is racist is extremely unfair. For me, Obama does not have the experience to run this country. I agree that he's eloquent and smart. However, with just roughly two years in the Senate, I'm not sure he's ready to lead. I also question his judgment. Sure, he was "right" about the Iraq war. However, he has not used the best judgment in picking his friends and mentor. If it's true that he was really oblivious to his friends' (or acquaintances as he now calls them) feelings about this country, that's an even bigger problem.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  28. Pamela

    Amen.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  29. loretta lillard

    Sarah Pallin is "racebaiting" and "hatemongering" she is creating a climate ripe for a lynch mob! I have not seen this type of behavior in many many years. McCain is not being helped by this type of behavior.

    LL

    October 7, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  30. marcus

    is it me or is the Mccain Bunch trying to remind America that "obama is black"??? calling a black man a terroist is not very smart. They dont want the "race card" pulled out on them

    October 7, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  31. Becky - Indiana

    Bravo, Donna.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  32. Lilibeth

    Way to go, Donna Brazile! You are my hero!

    October 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  33. Sandy, Arkansas

    I am of the age to remember "white" and "colored" water fountains. I always wanted to drink out of the "colored" one...what kid wouldn't rather have colored water! I remember the pay at the front but go to the back of the bus that was required of people of color. I also remember how as a teenager we all wanted the priviledge of riding in the back of the bus. It is not what you can do...it is often what you are made to do that rubs us the wrong way. I remember eating at lunch counters and seeing the black people order, stand in a corner and wait, and then go somewhere else to eat. If I had been that 8 year old little black girl who wanted to sit at the counter and have a hamburger and a cherry coke and couldn't I am sure it would still haunt me. It haunts me to know that we as a society ever made those experiences a part of our country. Race should have never had anything to do with anything and it still shouldn't. Ignorance and prejudice will eventually die out as it should but hurt and resentment from injustices last your entire lifetime. Someone will always be in the back of the bus but let's not make it an issue of anyone ever being required to be in the back. It is time for us to all go forward and quit looking back unless it is for the lessons we can learn from those mistakes.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:29 pm |
  34. Diane in St. Augustine

    God bless you, Donna Brazile!

    October 7, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  35. Michael, NC

    Do not let race stop you from voting for Obama, but at the same time, don't let it be the only reason you DO vote for him either. Its a double edged sword and it will be the deciding factor for millions.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:13 pm |