It was with elation I watched President Barack Obama clinch a second term as president of the United States. Honestly, there were moments I didn’t think he would win again. Gov. Mitt Romney ran a tough campaign, yet he showed that he is out of touch with the American public. Most compelling is that Obama won on his message and will continue to help us along as we march out of the pit of a disastrous recession.
Despite my elation, the recent election cycle confirmed something tragic about American culture: We are still a culture locked in the throes of racism. Equally disheartening is that we still don’t know how to deal with it. This sickness is symptomatic of a culture and society beginning to embrace 1950s ideologies again rather than moving forward with an eye on the future horizon.
For the first time in the history of our country, we have a black president. Or, we have a president with dark skin pigment. That’s a pretty big deal. Why? It’s a big deal because we’ve never had a black president before. Just like when we elect a female president, it will be a big deal because we’ve never had a female president before. Anything that disrupts the dominant paradigm even a little is important and historic. Yet, it seems some just can’t deal with it.
I know the argument many use to defend their position is, “I’m not racist. I just don’t like his ideas.” That argument is a fair one, but some use it as an excuse to hide their feelings. Unfortunately, those who hate the president simply because he’s black are prevalent in that they garner much attention.
This type of hate is not far from home. On Election Day, an effigy of Obama was hung — or, more appropriately, hanged — over a billboard sign in Duluth, Minn. To know that someone, a person, felt so driven by his or her hate as to lynch a representation of our president is horrifying. Even more disturbing is to know that this act happened in Minnesota, a state known to be rather nice. Even though Duluth was the site of an infamous lynching, the fact that this type of overt hate would happen in 2012 is
This type of hate was made for our hyper-mediated society. Twitter was a flurry of racist commentary on the re-election of Obama, and perhaps most disgusting is that many who tweeted hate didn’t see a problem with it. One Twitter user with the handle @MoriahRae1 tweeted: “[Expletive] won again.” Now, I know many who would argue that the use of the N-word has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin. I seriously doubt such people under the trajectory of history and the cultural significance of such a word.
Moreover, to call the leader of the free world, the most powerful person on Earth, such a name without hesitation leads me to wonder if we should idly sit by and allow such speech to be proffered. The sickening behavior of such uninformed individuals puts into serious question their qualifications to be citizens and electors in our prodigious nation.
The great amount of hate didn’t stop there either. There are tons of examples. Another example is when a Twitter user with the handle @STaylorMade95 tweeted: “About time we get this monkey out of office.” I am flabbergasted that anyone could act in such a way, even if they don’t know of the historical claims they are grappling with their words. Regardless of the person, the presidency is an office, and it should be respected.
These instances highlight the tragic scene of America, where even a man who has worked from the ground up to the position that many children dream of having is still considered nothing because of his skin color. What America is this? It most certainly is not an America that is post-racial, and it’s not an America I want to raise my future children in.
So, this is an issue we still very much have to confront and deal with. It isn’t something from the past; it is something from the now. Indeed, this racism doesn’t even stop with Obama. It exists everywhere — many Americans paint all Muslims as extremists. These people exist. They are our neighbors and our elected officials.
How can we ever fathom entering a post-racial society if we constantly allow and encounter these types of people? America’s greatness is only equaled by its ability to support equality, yet bigots have an alarmingly strong voice. This is America in the 21st century.
The most tragic aspect of this entire myth is that other countries have long looked to America as the leader in many world issues. I don’t always agree with the fetishized worship America seems to get at times, but our country was founded on equality. It was founded on the idea that all people have the right to live happily and fruitfully. Yet, we still allow disenfranchised communities to wallow in their predicament without actively working to elevate them into equality. We still allow hate and bigotry to fly across various media, and we still allow those who hate to be elected to public office.
I love my country, but it is hard to reconcile with many ideas and messages that one interacts with on a daily basis in this country. We have an African-American president that has now been affirmed in his race to return to our top office, but any notion that we’re past certain ideological hurdles is idealistic and not found in reality.