In the wash of the Barack Obama win, there are strange thunderings going on below the surface level of local, human, interaction. Many of our area neighbors, and casual acquaintances, cannot believe we — “The White Folk” — voted for Obama, and I cannot help but wonder why.
Why is it so strange to some minorities that White Folk voted for a candidate of color? Is there an innately trained expectation that the only thing that matters is devotion to Race over your faith in the nation?
I can’t quite get over the surprised looks I was getting over the last couple of months as I wore my “Obama” shirts in the streets.
Latinos and Blacks appeared to be non-believing of my support and sometimes there was even a glare returned — as if I were somehow mocking the Black Man by wearing a red, white and blue shirt of support over a lily-white body.
I stopped wearing my Obama stuff in my neighborhood.
When the Latina woman who owns the laundry saw my Obama shirt, her face was surprised and delighted. I have been taking my laundry there for the last seven years and every week we have a nice discussion about the weather and neighborhood happenings.
“You like Obama?” she asked in disbelief.
“You betcha,” I said. “Love the guy!”
“You love Obama?”
“Yes!” I said with glee, “I love Obama!”
“Then I love you.” She gave me a hug.
As I left the laundry, I realized I didn’t really know my laundry friend very well if she was so surprised that I was in love with Obama.
I began to wonder if there is a subtle, if casual, reverse Racism against White people who choose to vote for a minority — and then once that minority is elected — we are expected to back off and “return” the minority winner to the minority interest even though the minority candidate won a majority mandate.
Maureen Dowd asked the same thing earlier in the week:
After the O. J. Simpson verdict, when black Howard University law students cheered, and during the Million Man March, led by Louis Farrakhan, a man who peddles racial and religious divisions, I wondered if we had lived and played apart for so long that we had lost track of how different our experiences and thoughts and perceptions of progress were.
President Bush was a divider, not a decider. And the city and the country followed his bunker mentality. After 9/11, the White House and Capitol were ever more blockaded, and there seemed to be fewer and fewer bridges across any of our divisions — racial, political, social and cultural.
But now we have the delicious irony that a white president from a patrician family, whose administration was so negligent about America’s poor and black citizens, was so incompetent that he helped elect the first black president.
As Andrew Young told Stephen Colbert, “The world got so messed up nobody else wanted to really tackle it so then they turned it over to us.”
One Black friend of mine told me a long time ago, “Black people are always suspicious of Whites even if they are friends because there will always be the feeling on the Black side of the relationship that, deep down, the White Folks really don’t like us and you’re just pretending to like us. We’re just waiting for the day your true feelings come out.”
With that sort of thinking — that Lying in Wait Racism — how can we ever hope to move beyond what has happened if those we are seeking to support and befriend are waiting for us to fulfill a self-fulfilling prophecy that can only end one, awful, way by disappointing them and confirming their darkest suspicions?