It is 2011 and America has a Black president, but it is not an indication of progress in the realm of race relations; quite the contrary. Having a Black man in the Oval Office has brought out the vile disease of racism like never before, and it informs us that the White Supremacist tendencies of America’s history are still as divisive and destructive as ever.
It is a normal human trait to gravitate toward those who share similarities of race, dress, and political persuasion, but the hatred of and superiority over the “other” is counterproductive and will be the ruination of America if it continues unabated. The racism in America is not limited to hatred of African-Americans, and the past year’s negative rhetoric against immigrants, the poor, and Muslims has been a display of white supremacy that has permeated the general population and many of our politicians.
The outrage over a mosque and community center near Ground Zero in New York was fueled by white politicians and pundits from the Conservative segment of society that feels their superiority over Middle-Eastern (read Brown) people gives them the right to restrict their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. The irony is that the racist bigots claim to be patriotic Americans who are the staunchest defenders of the Constitution that says all men/women are created equal – as long as they are white.
The Arizona “papers please” law (S.B. 1070) gives law enforcement officials the right and duty to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants based solely on the color of their skin. It doesn’t matter that Arizona is home to a large Hispanic community; the implication is that people who are brown-skinned cannot be legal Americans and do not belong in this country. Indeed, in California and many parts of America, illegal immigrant is synonymous with Mexican, and in the white supremacist mindset, unworthy of inclusion in America.
Conservatives’ attacks on ACORN, NAACP, and the Southern Poverty Law Center were not for their activism or defense of civil rights, but an attack on African Americans. Conservatives are worried sick that people of color will exercise their right to vote and become empowered to elect representatives who will ensure that all Americans are represented and treated equally like the Constitution guarantees. Bigots, racists, and White Supremacists function under the misconception that people of color are not included in the Bill of Rights and not worthy of the same rights as white Americans.
The racist belief that people of color are illegitimate is never more obvious than the attacks on President Obama. Fox News pundits like Glenn Beck who label Obama a Nazi, Socialist, Communist, and racist is nothing more than an attack on his race. Nothing in the president’s politics remotely resembles Nazism or Socialism, but in an effort to brand him as illegitimate, Beck and company use those labels as a substitute for African; or Black. The birther movement is not so much a question of Obama’s birthplace but to brand him as an African-born man who is usurping a white man’s place in the Oval Office. During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was no impetus to question John McCain’s birthplace even though it was common knowledge that McCain was born in Panama; because he is white.
Pundits and many politicians on the right criticize Obama and his policies by imputing that he is different, or illegitimate as an American and occupying the White House where he does not belong. Shortly after President Obama was inaugurated, white supremacist groups increased at record levels and tea party groups adopted the mantra of “take the country back” from the illegitimate Black man in the Oval Office. The President has been accused of giving preferential treatment to Blacks and Hispanics so he could curry favor with them to win their votes. Much of the opposition to health care reform was nothing more than resistance to the idea that the poor (many of whom are people of color) were undeserving of affordable health care that white Americans have. It all boils down to racism.
White Americans love their Black athletes and entertainers as long as they are in uniform or on stage, but if they take their uniforms off, they are little more than illegitimate interlopers who are in a position they don’t belong. Racists do not look at the person, but the color of their skin and react as if the person is alien, foreign, and inferior to the white race.
There are many experts who pontificate on the solution to racism, and there is some consensus in the field of psychology and sociology, but it involves education and tolerance. The problem with educating children, is that when they are in their homes with their racist parents, the tolerance and education goes the way of all education. When a child is raised learning that people of color are inferior, dirty, and inherently evil, no manner of education will mitigate the hate that parents inculcate their children with.
One scientist suggested that the only solution is to exterminate the parents and offspring to kill the racist tendencies once and for all. That solution may work, but it is unacceptable in America in 2011 or any time. The best hope is education at a very early age, and there is some validity to that point. Psychologists have studied very young children who were exposed to all races and found that without preconceived ideas of color or race, acceptance was universal.
There is no hope for America if racism and white supremacy continues with no end in sight. However, as America becomes more racially diverse and homogenized, racists will find themselves in the minority and politically impotent. In the meantime, unbiased Americans must weather the storm and whenever possible, reach out to all minorities in the spirit of brotherhood and tolerance. But even using the word tolerant shows a level of inequality that is not productive. Tolerance implies “putting up with” a different or lesser person so that is just another aspect of education that must be addressed. If only the religious community would use their forum at the pulpit to encourage equality, but they are supremacists of a different sort and cannot be counted on to help. America has a long way to go before racists and white supremacists are insignificant, but it is 2011; must we wait another 200 years?