Election 2008 will be history in less than four weeks. I have to admit, I haven’t been buying into the hype this time around. And I don’t yet have a clear visions of who is going to win this thing.
I know who should be winning, given the unprecedentedly dismal performance of the ruling party over the past eight years. If Barack Obama were a white man, or perhaps even a white woman (though not, I think, Hillary Clinton) he would be a shoo-in for the office. Hell, if he were Donald Duck he would probably have a larger lead over McCain than the slim few points he enjoys now (Donald is white...) But the fact is, the American people–so desperately need of a drastic change in leadership–are having a hard time accepting that change in the form of a man who, fifty years ago, wouldn’t have been allowed to ride in the front seats of a city bus.
Nobody wants to talk about that. Nobody wants to admit it. Nobody wants to believe that the ugly demon of racism still sits on the shoulders of a large portion of our population, still whispers that blacks are inferior, blacks are mentally deficient, blacks are somehow not completely human, blacks should go back to Africa where they came from. DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF THINKING THIS STUFF HAS GONE AWAY. It has become politically incorrect to talk about racism. But we have not eradicated it from American society by any means. What we are as a nation, and what we would like to be–what we should be–are in this case two disappointingly different things.
I am fifty-three years old. I was brought up in the liberal sixties and seventies...in the lily-white suburbs of Chicago. We were forbidden to use the "n" word; we were taught that there was "nothing wrong with Negroes." That they were people just like everyone else. But I had no contact whatsoever with black people when I was a kid, other than the bag boy at the grocery store, and the occasional sighting of a black woman standing at the bus stop in the evening, waiting to be transported back to the city after spending the day cleaning some white suburbanite’s home.
I did not have a black classmate until I was a junior in high school. I remember being shocked at the grumblings around the school, being disgusted when a girl in my art class declared that her father was upset because now the property values were going to go down.