This is a piece that was supposed to run somewhere else, but you know. Anyway, I made a few changes to it and decided to post it here.
We’re all one people, he said. Those “spin masters” and pundits: They slice and dice America into little colored pieces of red and blue, guising the truth that the country isn’t as divided as depicted. It was that type of “hope mongering” included his keynote address of the 2004 Democratic National Convention that helped a then unknown Barack Obama gain national prominence.
By not invoking the history of racial strife in America, Obama has been able to avoid marginalization as the race candidate. But while his historic campaign confirms progress, the multiracial senator’s campaign has been by blanketed by race for much of this primary season — lending credence to the suggestion that this country is still heavily divided along racial lines by the very cynics Obama has dismissed.
In fact, that division gave Hillary Clinton fodder to continue what many considered an unwinnable fight for the Democratic nomination long before she finally conceded.
Arguing why she is the stronger candidate, Clinton told USA Today: “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” The “broader base” she was referring to consisted of “working, hard-working Americans, white Americans” and whites without college degrees.
In that same interview Clinton claimed, “There’s a pattern emerging here.” Indeed, didn’t they used to call it “the southern strategy?”
Subtly has never been the Republican Party’s strong suit, which is why Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis dismissed Obama’s foreign policy credentials with, “That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button.” What did Michael Evans say about the word boy again? How long before he’s called a nigger?
Although Obama has delivered speeches on race in a nuanced fashion atypical of politicians, conservatives like Pat Buchanan have yet to deviate from the status quo, penning works such as “A Break for Whitey,” where Buchanan maintains “no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans.”
Division has not been limited to race. An internet generated rumor has led to a sizable amount of the population believing that Obama is a Muslim. A Newsweek poll released last week revealed that 1 in 3 voters either believe Barack Obama is a Muslim or they couldn’t identify his religion at all. Too bad there wasn’t an accompanying poll that asked, “So what if he was Muslim?”
For those not victims of internet hoaxes, there are plenty of conservative commentators repeating the Illinois senator’s full name of “Barack Hussein Obama” hoping to link the presidential hopeful to Islamic extremists.
Such is the case for Fox News commentator Liz Trotta, who referred to Obama as “Osama,” only to go on to joke about Obama’s assassination while discussing Hillary Clinton’s controversial comments in which she cited the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in June as a reason to stay in the race. In her “apology,” Trotta claimed that in a “colorful” political season people sometimes say things they don’t mean.
If this “colorful” commentary of this “colorful” political season is a preview of what lies ahead for the general election, then this country is not nearly as forward thinking as it imagines itself to be.
Just look at Doug Richardson, who when asked about the chances of a woman or Black person being elected President, told the Associated Press: “I don’t think we’re ready for either one yet.” On the now presumptive nominee, Richardson said Obama “just hasn’t impressed me. His middle name bothers me a lot.”
He isn’t alone. Many others have already used coded words pointing to covert racism. Some have chosen to go with the direct approach.
By fall America will see itself in all its splendor and all its ugliness — and it’s about time. We’ve largely ignored the prejudices still lingering in this country. We need to admit that xenophobia is as great an American past time as apple pie.
Not to say that we cannot deliver on the promise of America that has energized Obama’s campaign. Rather, in order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. For this nation, it won’t require that much of a backtrack.