Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What Lies Below the Surface: Racism, Generations and the Promised Land

I frequently post comments and engage in discussion on at fivethirtyeight.com, a blog run by a statistician and analyst named Nate Silver. Because of the focus on numbers, most of the participants are reasonable and intelligent, though there are some exceptions. Like all forums there are the trolls and fools who add spice to the discussions. But there are also some folks who really reveal some of the nastier thought processes in .

One individual in the comments section, was always clearly a McCain supporter, and mostly made valid points and observations. They were colored by his biases, but then that is true of most of us. If asked, he would flatly deny that he supported McCain for reasons having to do with race, yet in a post last night celebrating what he thought were good poll results for his candidate, he included the following at the end:
Everyone else will get into the ballot box and say to themselves... "Do I really want P Diddy, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Snoop Dogg dancing in the Oval Office?.... uh... NO.
I mention this not because I have a personal vendetta against this person -- obviously, I don't even know who he is. I say it because it's important that Obama supporters understand just how much of this sort of racism is running just below the surface on the part of McCain supporters. That in turn is important, because it reflects the fact that Obama is running his entire campaign with the huge handicap that some percentage of voters will never consider him because of the color of his skin.

Some are going even further than the veiled comments about race, flatly saying that they won't vote for a black person, and that whites need to "stick together" and so forth. The proximate cause of this is likely seeing all the bad news for the McCain camp this week, but the greater cause goes deeper. Many people who are already predisposed to have racist leanings -- especially older ones -- see a black man getting into the White House as symbolic of changes in the nation that frighten them -- especially, the waning of the sole dominance of white men as the power-brokers of America.

The culture war McCain started is working, and so is the race war the GOP knew would accompany it. This is only going to get worse as the campaign continues. And if McCain finds himself behind Obama as we get into October, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Republicans will go for broke, trying to exploit these racial and cultural divisions to try to take the election based on fear and hatred. The damage to the country will be tremendous, regardless of who wins, but the Republicans have already shown that they don't care about that.

In his final speech before being tragically assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. famously referred to the Promised Land that he could see from the mountaintop. But in the Exodus story in the bible, after the Israelites were freed from Egypt, they didn't go straight to the Promised Land -- they wandered in the desert for 40 years. As written, God commanded this to allow the old generation that was still disobedient, and still behaved like slaves, to be "consumed". Similarly, most of the remnants of racist feelings in our nation are concentrated in our older generation, and this could be what costs Obama the election. It may be that we have to wander a bit longer in the desert ourselves, until more of the older bigots among us have died off, before we too can reach a new and better place.

5 comments:

Gianna said...

I have always feared that if this election is close, it sadly will be racists that determine the outcome.

Just another suburban mom. said...

Racism will do our country in before any foreign country or terrorist organization will.

anj said...

Have you seen this letter to the editor of a Fort Worth paper?
http://startelegrameditwriters.typepad.com/letters_to_the_startelegr/2008/09/how-racism-work.html

In a nutshell.

James Kei said...

Good observations Chuck.
I'm assuming the black vote will counter-balance the racist vote.

Charles M. Kozierok said...

Thanks for the comments.

Interesting letter, anj.