Since Barack Obama’s election the media has been full of congratulatory essays—verbal and written—about the greatness of an America able to elect a person of color to the highest office. A few mention casually that it has taken us more than 2000 years to get to this point: more often the thrust of the commentary is about the greatness of a nation finally gone color-blind.
We aren’t really color-blind. This year, in a sort of national desperation fueled by a sitting president widely viewed as a failure and even a dangerous incompetent at many levels, American voters were able to get a bit more farsighted in their vision of race-- even if they have not gone blind to skin color altogether.
All the orchids being heaped on us in the meantime bring to mind feminist Gloria Steinem thoughts in the 70’s about the women’s movement and men who were coming along on the long road to gender equity. She used to point out how odd it was that men got sanctified for doing simple things like throwing their own underwear in the hamper when they should have been doing that all along anyway.
In that same way, Americans are being congratulated (and are congratulating themselves) that they finally were able to go to the polls to elect a capable man coincidentally of color as president. In this euphoria, not enough is said about how obvious the choice between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin obviously was to so many, not because Obama is half-black but because he and his running mate are so qualified, so calm and rational, so what America needs right now by stark comparison to their opponents.
One speculates whether Obama privately shakes his head at all the racial fuss. Does our president-elect wonder what took America so long? Does he think about all the men and women of color who came before him, equally and even more brilliant than he is, who were rejected and even destroyed because America’s vision was monochrome?
Certainly the outcome of this election is something to be proud of because we have elected a great man and also because his defeated opponent has graciously stepped aside with sincere praise for the new president and even promises of cooperation.
But America should not be fooled into thinking its fixation on race has disappeared overnight. Sadly, and terrifyingly, those who cannot embrace the color blindness of true equality (and its related gender neutral and faith irrelevant underpinnings) will continue to hate, malign and even try to harm, those they see as unacceptable.
In times like these, racism and the related hatreds of all who are not white, male and Christian in America simply go underground. They get quieter and sometimes more determined in the face of what they see as a defeat. They also necessitate extraordinary precautions like the two-inch thick bullet-proof glass surrounding the First Family on election night in Chicago for Obama’s victory speech. (U.S. press hardly mentioned that glass, though the foreign media showcased it.)
Only when all the bullet-proof measures safely come down can America start patting herself on the back. She may be needing bifocals now, but she’s not color-blind just yet. ______________________END____________________
- ▼ 2008 (17)