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November 5, 2012

The Unspoken Racism of America

Indeed it exists, albeit a pale residue of the past, having moved from institutions to individuals, from law to arbitrary one on one prejudice.

America has changed, has freed itself to a large degree from its former institutionalized  and racist shackles; yet not all of its citizens have followed suit. But that is normal – speak to any candid taxi driver in Sydney, Berlin, London or Paris.

Some believe with perhaps reasonable justification that one of the underlying rationales for what they call “The Obama Phenomenon” could indeed be a racist inversion of affirmative action – actions that are designed primarily to help make some white people feel good about themselves, somehow feel more kind and ethical than others, thereby alleviating guilt emanating from ancestral racism.

The 2008 election was for certain commentators a baffling expression of mass hysteria. Journalists felt shivers up their legs, girls voted Obama as their sexiest man, and pensioners saw him as a savior from rapacious capitalism.

In time history will judge that election differently, will allow an inscrutable objectivity impossible now. Obama moved effortlessly without academic legacy through the Ivy League, despite unremarkable grades, to an equally nondescript job as a community organizer. His career as a state legislator and United States Senator was objectively devoid of accomplishment, notable only for his proclivity for voting “present” in the Senate when he was available to vote at all – no signature legislation eventuated from his pen.

Obama’s troubling associations with a voluably white-hating, America-despising preacher, Jeremiah Wright, with an unrepentant Weatherman Bill Ayers, who was an accessory to terrorist bombings, have been well documented – will history ask how a man with such troubled associations was so overwhelmingly elected? Can history side-step the loaded and ignored question – that of the electability of a white man with all Obama’s credentials, or lack thereof? Could it be that he was held by some to a lower standard because of the color of his skin?

He was so non-threatening, so different to Jesse Jackson, to Charlie Rangel, to Al Sharpton, who all so inconveniently raised the guilt of a few. He was so articulate, so elegant, so clearly a good and moral man, so evidently a great father and family man – he could finally allow the white voter to put racism to rest. But if one’s vote is affected by the color of one’s skin, whether positively or negatively, is that not racism in a nutshell, if anything is?

It would seem that Obama was the perfect solution for the white liberal establishment. A candidate who acts and speaks culturally “white.” There was no adjustment needed to be made in accepting an alternative culture. Ironically, the one-time poll leader among the former Republican candidates for the current presidency, Herman Cain, would be considered by many to be unambiguously very much part of black culture. His popularity was in many ways a far greater milestone for America in terms of accepting diversity, not just in terms of color, but in terms of physical appearance, speech and culture. Obama on the other hand presents himself as culturally neutral in a way that allows him to comfortably fit into American “white” society. He also, by the way, is mixed race as defined by most of America, although many ignore this and simply call him “black.”

Yes, white America thinks that they have indeed proven themselves prejudice free once and for all. They can now go on with their daily lives, living in cities where they are segregated and protected from the queasiness they would feel in allowing “black” culture to be truly endorsed by a broader US society. As it is now, “black” culture has been largely relegated to the entertainment industry. Meanwhile, other job industries continue to expect workers to conform to “white” sensibilities in order to get ahead. While it would be racist and downright silly to presume that Obama is purposely “acting white,” it is reasonable to assume that many who vote for him would not show the same confidence and take him as seriously if he did not exude these overtly “white” characteristics.

Obama was always good enough to flow effortlessly through the system, to find sponsors, to become the enviable Democrat poster boy – not because of his modest achievements, but because he made many, especially the white folk around, feel so darn good about themselves.

It is claimed he is a genius orator. Yet, without his ubiquitous teleprompters, one can easily come to see how often he is unoriginal, how uncreative in new ideas he can be beyond his socialist and humanistic leaning rhetoric.

Obama rather blames everyone and everything – it’s Bush’s fault; it was indeed bad luck; he inherited the mess; Wall Street is the obstruction. Yet he selectively takes the credit – I killed Osama bin Laden; I sent Al Qaeda on the run; I’m ending the wars and bringing our soldiers home: The Marines, Congress and the American people don’t seem to feature much.

Adoring acolytes placed him unreasonably high on a pedestal – they made him into their anointed messiah. But he is an ordinary good man with ordinary good accomplishments, trying to fill a space that was always impossible, that remains ever so.

America’s racial problems must be resolved by tenaciously affirming equality of pay, equality of opportunity, for all, without exception. Remaining prejudice in the white community and it certainly exists, must be diluted rather than masked with guilt reducing, falsely redeeming, and political votes. We need to be transparently color blind, not only in our personal relationships but in our politics as well.

In a few days we will know it. America’s love affair has ended for many, if indeed the pedestal finally cannot bear the weight of such spectacular expectations – it could not be otherwise.

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