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Stu Bykofsky: It's time we removed our chips

IN JERUSALEM last week, Angela Merkel became the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. A handful of members stayed away, unable to stomach a German in their "house."

IN JERUSALEM last week, Angela Merkel became the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. A handful of members stayed away, unable to stomach a German in their "house."

Merkel received a standing ovation for her warm, conciliatory remarks from the members who had removed the chips from their shoulders. Most Israelis embrace today's Germany, run by Germans who were not even alive during the Nazi plague.

Do some anti-Semites remain in Germany? Like roaches and racists, they're everywhere, but you judge a nation as a whole.

If Jews and Germans can bury a horrific past, can't black and white Americans?

In his agile and revealing tightrope walk over the racial chasm last week, Barack Obama didn't absolve white Americans for past wrongs against blacks, some of which continue. Nor did he give black Americans approval to carry on as if Jim Crow were alive and well.

For black perspective, I read how the speech was analyzed by Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall and Daily News contributor Fatimah Ali. I'm not picking a fight with these women, but their columns shared one striking premise.

John-Hall made reference to "the systemic discrimination that still defines America . . . ," while Ali noted the "systematic racism so pervasive throughout the country . . ."

They used the present tense. After checking the words' definition, I would ask John-Hall: Is America still best defined as a racist system? I would ask Ali: Is racism still a coherent philosophy of America?

Yes, I am singling out one word in each column, but a word that seems to illuminate their mindset.

Obama described such thinking as understandable "for the men and women of Rev. Wright's generation," many of whom suffered severely, but John-Hall and Ali are Obama's age, not Wright's. How can they believe that is America today? (John-Hall candidly said her own children urge her to "Stop blaming it on 'the man.' Get over it.")

Had I not already known about the anger - and hate - of some black people, I would have learned it on the day after 9/11 when some callers to Mary Mason's radio show cackled about how "the chickens came home to roost" for America. Mason quickly scolded them.

In their unforgivable glee, it hadn't entered their thick skulls that black Americans died, too.

Those despicable callers schooled me. Their hateful stupidity opened a window for me to see how painfully separated they were from America, their home.

Any rational black person knows America offers more opportunity for success and safety than any country on the face of the earth, including all of Africa. If America has a system of racism, how could Oprah Winfrey be the most influential woman in the country? How could African-American Richard D. Parsons be the chairman of Time Warner? How could Obama be running for president?

At the same time, any rational white person knows there's a reason Chris Rock can say no white person would trade places with him, "and I'm rich!" Pockets of white hate and resentment remain.

The third black woman I turned to was my dear friend Jenice Armstrong, who is of John-Hall and Ali's generation, but does not share the bitters.

"Most white people are OK," Jenice said evenly. "If you have a flat tire, people will help you."

I was prepared to end this column on that note.

But Saturday morning, my hands full of purchases made at Macy's, I passed a skinny, olive-skinned African-American in his early 30s leaning against the f.y.e. store at Broad and Chestnut.

As I passed, he said, "Racist pr---."

I turned to see who he was talking to. I was the only one there.

Feeling a "column moment," I calmly asked him why he called me that.

He said, "You're a white motherf-----." He spoke matter-of-factly, without visible anger.

If my hands were free, I might have told him whose mother I was doing, but no good would come from this. I walked away.

I don't blame all blacks for this hater. Blacks must not blame all whites for our haters.

Before we can shake hands, like Israelis, we have to remove the chips from our shoulders. *

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