Sorry, Idealists: Racism Doesn't End With Our First Black President

There is no doubt that Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 Presidential election is an incredibly historic one; the race barrier for the top job in the nation has been broken, signifying a giant step forward for the country as a whole. But the notion that Obama's victory signifies some type of end to all racism in America is a ridiculous one; while the country has made progress by electing an African-American leader, there are still signs that many citizens in the country aren't happy with that decision at all. And it's not based on Obama's policies, tax plans, or "elitist" background: it's based on the color of this skin.The Associated Press is reporting that there have been "hundreds" of racially-charged events taking place since the election, a number that hate-crime researchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center note is "many more than usual." Marsha L. Houston, a professor at the University of Alabama, had a poster of the Obamas ripped from her office door and replaced by a poster featuring "a death threat and a racial slur." As Houston notes, "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork." Similar hate-filled incidents are taking place across the country, with cross burnings, racist graffiti, and violent outbursts taking place against Obama supporters. The AP reports that "in the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying 'now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house.'" Second and third grade children in Rexburg, Idaho were also heard chanting, "Assassinate Obama!" on the school bus. You don't learn that kind of cheer in school music class, so one has to wonder where these children are picking their hateful rhetoric up from. Perhaps they're learning it from their parents, who may have the same attitude as Gail McDaniel, a Southern woman quoted in the New York Times as stating: “I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks. From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.” In the very same article, another woman "volunteered that she was bothered by the idea of a black man “over me” in the White House." Or maybe they know someone like Greg Griffin, 46, who believes that Obama's victory has "ruined" the country. "I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change. If you had real change it would involve all the members of (Obama's) church being deported." Children singing chants on the playground and scrawling graffiti on the blacktops is frightening enough, but when adults begin taking bets on when and how the next President of the United States will be assassinated, it's hard to even fathom the mindset required to tolerate or create such a hateful display. Yet the owner of a store in Standish, ME set up an "Obama Osama Shotgun Pool," where customers could pay $1 to place their bets on Obama's assassination date. Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," read the sign, with a note attached to the bottom of the board that read,"Let's hope someone wins." Ignorance breeds fear, fear breeds anger, and anger breeds violence. Realizing that an African-American man is now "over" them, it appears that many of these people are taking out their fears on less high-profile targets. As BJ Gallagher, a sociologist who specializes in diversity studies, told the AP, "The principle is very simple. If I can't hurt the person I'm angry at, then I'll vent my anger on a substitute, i.e., someone of the same race." Anyone who watched at least one Palin or McCain rally should not be surprised with this outbreak of hate; the cries of "Kill him!" and "Terrorist!" were merely incredibly visible examples of the kind of mentality that is sweeping a certain population of the country. The racist attitudes have been there for a very long time; Obama's victory just seems to have sparked a desire to be more open and more aggressive about it. It may be decades before we truly know the impact that Obama's victory had on race relations in this country; but as of right now, it appears that for every step the country takes forward, there are those who want nothing more than to use hate, ignorance, and fear to keep us locked in the past. Election spurs 'hundreds' of race threats, crimes [AP] For South, A Waning Hold On Politics [NYTimes]

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