The Current Political Discourse is Messing with My Head
It has been said about me that I may be black, but I’m not “black enough.” I might be presumed black, because I don’t look white, but I don’t “think black” and I don’t “act black.”
News flash: I AM black, just as the President of the United States IS black. The fact that we have equal amounts of white genes was declared irrelevant centuries ago in America, with the One Drop Rule. That hasn’t changed, especially and profoundly for those of us who cannot pass for white – not that we would want to.
I had a telling dream last night. I was back at my college for a reunion. This college in Wisconsin is in a town that prides itself as being The Birthplace of the Republican Party. I had a great four years there – better than most, it could be argued. Many of the white students from staunchly conservative families in that state found themselves in a battle with the Powers That Be in Mississippi to override their sorority’s “race clause,” which was preventing them from inviting me to join them. At the time, I was the only black girl on campus.
When I returned there in 2010 for our 44th class reunion, it was as if no time had passed at all. These were my friends, my sisters in the bond of sorority.
In my dream last night, I was treated as if those same “sisters” and friends had never seen me before. Wherever I went, conversations stopped. Plans for special activities were kept from me. No one wanted to share a meal with me.
In real life, nothing even remotely similar to this dream had ever happened to me. Due to the luck of the draw or an accident of birth, I grew up in an environment where what we called prejudice was tastefully hidden behind lowered voices and Midwestern decorum.
Yes, I had my feelings hurt, more than once, by the parents of school friends who wouldn’t go along with their own child’s choice of me as a friend; meaning, I wasn’t welcome in their homes. But it took me a few years to figure that out, because the truth was always sugar-coated by “polite lies.”
My intense interest in politics here in my later years has caused an apparent sea change in my psyche. Because I believe it is important to keep up with what the opposition is saying and doing, I have been exposed to some of the most explicit racist language I have ever heard in my life. I have no doubt whatsoever that there is a sizeable group of white Americans who despise Barack Obama just for being alive and not just for his so-called failed policies.
My world is being rocked by this process. When challenger Mitt Romney told the President of the United States, in effect, to sit down and shut up on national television, I was shocked. I have never seen a man holding that office be so blatantly disrespected to his face and in front of the world.
When writers such as Open Salon blogger Chauncey de Vega, in his signature no-nonsense style, make the case for the racism that is driving a good portion of the opposition, conservative readers attack him for being a race baiter, whatever that is supposed to be. Is he? I don’t think he is. I think he is unusually gifted in his ability to articulate what the rest of us are seeing, hearing, and feeling.
Earlier this week I received a link, from a person I once loved, to a far-right-wing website. He directed me to a writer who had collected Tweets from black people that in various ways stated if Obama loses the election, they are going to riot. With the link was one word from the sender: “scary.”
Why did I get that message? What am I supposed to make of it? Does this ignorant rhetoric from reckless young people indict the entire black community? I have no idea. I’m sure there are people out there who will want to use such a loss as an opportunity to behave like morons. I am not one of them. Nor am I sure that there aren’t comparable Tweets out in the ether from white supremacists who will want to tear up some real estate if President Obama wins a second term.
I have prided myself as being a person who exhausts all other reasonable possibilities before I decide a situation is racially driven. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt – or at least I used to. Today, I am suspicious of anyone and everyone who supports the election of Mitt Romney, especially those who are doing so only to get rid of Obama.
That’s not how I usually roll. I don’t like the feeling, but there it is. This election cycle has been toxic to me, personally.