If you’re voting for the re-election of President Barack Obama then you’re either black; an unthreatened/progressive white; or a minority who’s been offended, discounted or demonized by Gov. Mitt Romney, Republicans and/or the Tea Party.
And if you’re voting for Romney then you’re either a wealthy minority whose money blinds you to and shields you from your own race; a poor white who’s therefore afraid; or just plain white and wealthy.
There’s a reason why the “Americans” featured in Obama’s campaign commercials more closely resemble America in toto and why those in Romney’s just look like him (sans his ironic spray-on tan).
Elections and the politicking accompanying them aren’t about candidates and their plan.
They’re about groupthink.
They’re about mob rule (we call this the Electoral College if you win, the general election if you lose).
They’re about choosing the man (I’m ready for you now, Hillary!) who makes us feel most comfortable where we are.
And when I talk about our individual stations, I don’t mean economic ones. I mean where we are stationed in our thinking.
Obama makes racists and bigots so uncomfortable because his intelligence and indefatigable cool-head are rendered by them in coded language as liabilities.
Further baffling, they have confused the time it takes to detangle the mess left by two white men’s regimes — 16 years — with, say, how quickly some black men still stereotypically dip out on their responsibilities or how fast other black men run around on an athletic field.
Regardless of our political affiliation, black Americans know about this newfangled racism and white Americans dedicated to the re-election of Obama know and feel this, too. But we cannot comfortably speak about it publicly — sadly, not even amongst ourselves — because it makes us feel like racial lepidopterists.
It is as though racism is better left examined under protective glass where we’ve pinned down its tiny, fragile, delicate butterfly-like wings without decimating them.
I am here to tell you race, racism and bigotry are an indelicate triumvirate.
Yet, we lightly tap dance.
Even the most fearless and intelligent white political commentators who could take the nation to school on the subject (talkin’ to you, Rachel Maddow) will not call bullshit on the racism being flung during this election cycle.
Maybe some whites overlook race when a black man’s achievements outshine his skin.
That’s fine. Understand it’s a luxury no person of color in this country can afford. Our achievements are still perceived as byproducts of racial set-aside programs.
To counter this perception, some high-achieving blacks get in to fit in; some recklessly play the race card.
Some of this political race baiting I lay at the president’s door.
He’s taught whites how to treat him.
Here’s a secret: It’s something all blacks do, to differing degrees and with varying success and failure. Obama learned to be a non-threatening Negro when he was lumped into tokenism at Punahou School — where he’s pictured with other students of color beneath the words “worthless minorities” and where a teacher admonished him for touching a bulletin board because “Barry” would get it “dirty” — and later at Harvard Law.
I don’t think he has it in him to call a spade a spade even when he’s been called everything but a child of God.
Being black in rarefied American air means choosing your battles and Obama may have let too many racial ones get past him.
When race was the elephant in the room at the start of his first term, he published an elegant treatise on race in the New York Times that revealed little about himself as the first black disrespected president. He denied the existence of “two Americas” — one white, one black. They do exist and to say so is neither an admission of defeat nor a reflection on him.
Racism is a gimmick and its peddlers are smart.
Used to be in America hardcore racists wore their racism on their sleeves or, even, as their sleeves. We knew them by their sheets, burning crosses, hangman’s ropes and nocturnal horseback rides. However, 21st century racists have traded in all that nonsense for Congressional seats, private jets with their names and corporations emblazoned on the sides and millions in contributions to the campaigns of the politicians who look, think and sound like them.
I knew four years ago those robes would come off.
I like loving America with information.
Progress as serious as the election of a black man for president during my lifetime brings with it regression as stupefying as Donald Trump demanding the verification of Obama’s birth certificate and his college transcripts and racism as bare-boned as Sarah Palin accusing Obama of shucking and jiving around a response to terrorist attacks in Libya.
Does Trump know the papers free blacks had to produce before the Emancipation Proclamation and in order to vote before the Voting Rights Act was signed? Does Palin know blacks actually did shuck and jive to survive the terrorism of slavery and later of the Jim Crow South?
Why don’t these Americans know American history?
As if ignorance weren’t enough, Tagg Romney wanted to punch the president after Romney’s father made himself look foolish during a debate and Ann Coulter called the president a “retard,” a two-fer insult.
I won’t even go into Fuera de Serie, the Spanish magazine that superimposed Michelle Obama’s face over the image of a bare-breasted, head-rag-wearing 19th century French slave on its cover, or Jim Sensenbrenner, the morbidly obese white Wisconsin congressman who commented publicly on her “big butt.”
I have been gob smacked by the torrent of racist disrespect and blatantly bigoted pot shots taken at the holder of the highest office in the land.
If noteworthy blacks with the platforms of Trump, Coulter or Palin pelted our last two (white) presidents in these relentless, hate-filled ways, wouldn’t some good, upstanding whites have vehemently defended those presidents?
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: firstname.lastname@example.org