If Barack Obama’s success is a measuring stick for how far our society has come in terms of racist sentiment, then the rather blithe racist remarks that have been spewed about his candidacy are the watermark for how low the tide can go and how shallow we can be.
There’s plenty of racism throughout America, and the South in particular has a nice abundance that we usually keep stockpiled within some of our older and less educated folks. When politics comes up at large family functions, I fully expect to hear the things that either drive me crazy or make me gut laugh. When one person says to me, “I’ll never vote for a woman or a black man,” I think “how very retro of you.” That’s that same old racist nonsense I heard growing up. But I have another relative who says that she won’t vote for Obama, because as she says, he’s a Muslim and possibly even the Antichrist, and at that point I see the evolution of bigotry.
Hating someone just because they’re a different race is so yesterday. It’s too easy to prove that someone isn’t inferior based on race; so today’s bigotry is just a matter of attaching the person you want hated to something that’s still acceptable to hate. And remember, it doesn’t have to be true. Thanks to modern technologies like the series of tubes known as the Internet, idiots can instantly e-mail everyone in their address book and let them know about nuggets such as “Obama is a Muslim” or “Obama is the Antichrist,” or even that golden oldie “Hillary is a lesbian.”
Would it really matter if Barack Obama was a Muslim or if Hillary was a lesbian? It appears we are slowly managing to get past our fears of having anything other than a white man run the country, but have supplanted that fear with religious demagoguery. Glenn Beck, who I’m amazed still has a T.V. show, actually asked the Rev. John Hagee if he thought Obama was the Antichrist, and he said he did so because he was getting so much mail on the topic. If that’s true then we can probably thank that fantastic children’s book series “Left Behind” for implanting that nugget of crazy into mainstream thinking.
Then you have the people who practice soft racism. Soft racism is what I call it when somebody is racist in a roundabout way. They’re not on the front lines screaming “I hate you black man,” but they’re on the sidelines using the appropriate language with the same results. Geraldine Ferraro’s statement about Obama only being where he is because he’s a black man was soft racism. It’s an inaccurate statement first and foremost, and it attempts to diminish everything that he’s said and done that’s gotten him as far as he has. It also sounds exactly like something that would come from the cranky conservative, not a highly influential liberal politician.
I think there needs to be an official name for when racist people start losing their minds and saying crazy things after more minorities take office, and the name that I’m giving it is Archie Bunker Syndrome.