Obama's campaign is bringing out both the most hopeful and the most heinous attitudes in the world. Most people fall between those two attitude-camps. There is a full and very complex spectrum of attitudes about race in play in this election. So let me start by telling you what I am NOT saying.
I am not saying that anyone voting for McCain is racist.
I am not saying that everyone voting for Obama is NOT racist.
What was once an abhorrent racist attitude spoken only behind closed doors has emerged into whispers and innuendo. Some Americans imagine that they can say openly that they are put off by Obama's race. People actually imagine that is OK to say that as a valid reason to not vote for him. And those that think it is not OK, but who have the feelings anyway, sometimes turn to accusations about his religion or ancestry - using hatred of the Moslem religion as a proxy for race hatred.
Those who celebrate his race are largely behind closed doors, afraid to offend a vote away from him.
There are people who actually are thrilled that Obama is African-American, people who see the great good it could mean for America to have a president that was non-lily-white. They are not voting for him BECAUSE he is African American. They just celebrate the positive things that result from their candidate also being black. These folks see his presidency as the dawn of a new day, a new kind of hope, a new role model for non-white youth, someone who will witness to a brand new set of priorities. They view Obama's race as an asset to America, a good thing. They do not say it does not matter. They say that it does, and that it's about time. They imagine what it means to all the other countries with whom we deal in the world, and see the iconic nature of a brilliant, well-spoken, dignified African American president as a positive witness to the best results of democracy -- that democracy evolves a nation, from slave-holding to a place where someone who may have been a slave as little as 150 years ago, can today be president. (I'm in that group. I confess.)
Then there are those on the far other end of the spectrum. When the fury of the crowds at Obama gets so bad that McCain has to exhort his followers to be more reasonable, things are ugly. Take a look at this video (chilling) taken after a McCain/Palin rally. Click on it and you will quickly see what I mean. (And yes, I know -- am am thankful -- that is not a representation of ALL McCain supporters.)
Some white people actually laugh when Rush Limbaugh calls him "the little black man-child". They make pictures of Obama with a turban and whisper in corners about how he is not an American. How he is a terrorist. How he consorts with terrorists. They call him Barack Hussein Obma. They tell obscene jokes using the N word with him as the topic. A friend of mine in this liberal Massachusetts town, overheard two people talking over coffee at the local Duncan Donut. They were talking about how if Obama gets elected "It's back of the bus, whitey !" They spoke in low tones about how "all those other blacks" would probably think they owned us now, and about how "they wouldn't let us look at them in the same way any more". One said, "There'll be riots if he is in power. The blacks will want to take over." My friend stopped them, as she knew one of the men, and tried to talk sense. Result: They said they wouldn't talk with her any more.
Yet Kamikaziland is concerned about racism toward the African American community if Obama gets elected.
I was listening to the radio last night and the radio host was saying that after Obama wins the election racist people will be unmasking (if they are indeed masked) and taking it out on "black/African American" people. I didn't even think about that but it makes a lot of sense. He was actually talking about when O.J. Simpson got off... His co-workers actually changed their attitudes toward him until they got over it. It gave me something to think about... This is the America that we live in.
Now there are lots of people not as extreme as the guys in the Donut shop, who still object to Obama on the basis of race. The racism may be more subtle, more couched behind other phrases, but it is there. They are the ones saying that he was not "electable" with a subtext of ("because he is black"). They say the time is not right. (The age old sentence used to keep someone down....later, just wait. later will be fine, just not now.)
I'm angry and scared of the racism I see surfacing in this election year. I'm a white woman, so white people think it is more OK to say what they are really worried about around me, as though I will, by nature of race, somehow agree or at least understand. Just as a matter of my skin color, I get to hear more of the ugly stuff. (At least once, until I speak back.) And this is in flaming liberal Massachusetts.
I think about how God must be viewing this. I am a believer that God does witness what happens here. He must be shaking his head with sorrow. How many chances do we get to learn that we are all his children -- none of us are identical, but we are all part of the human family, all deserving of decent lives, all meriting the same opportunities. I don't want churches involved in politics, but I do wish more people of faith were standing up to the racism going on here.
You do not have to vote for Obama to stand up to the racism.
Anxious Black Woman recounts the "Bradley effect" where
"Two decades ago, Douglas Wilder watched as a 9% lead in the polls in the race to be Virginia's governor slipped to just one-tenth of 1% when the ballots were counted.
He still won the election - becoming the first African-American to be elected a US state governor - but the narrowness of his victory led analysts to speculate that he had been a victim of a white hesitancy to vote for a black man.
The theory goes that some white voters tell opinion pollsters they will vote for a black candidate - but then, in the privacy of the polling booth, put their cross against a white candidate's name.
And the fear among some supporters is that this could happen to Barack Obama on 4 November, when the country votes for its next president."
Michelle, in her post 'The New Racism' points out that religion may be the new substitute for race in the prejudice arena:
Colin Powell made an excellent point: Obama is definitely not a Muslim, but so what if he was? The truth is that America is one of the most pro-Christian countries in the world. Europe long ago gave up trying to integrate Christianity into the political sphere, but here in America we still have a large population that believes political dogma should be firmly held under the Christian umbrella. Although Powell makes a good point, many white Americans are not ready to accept that the Muslim faith is as pure as the Christian one."
Mata H, CE for Religion and Spirituality, blogs until her soul shakes at Time's Fool
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