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 know Republicans have often relied on dividing the nation with Racial furies — but does that mean those we are “divided against” are against us as much as others wish us to be against them?

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.

After Obama won the election, I took my new “Obama Hope” shirt to be laundered. 

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?

24 Comments

  1. Hi David!
    Is it possible that while mainstream discourse and Obama himself saw his campaign as one that went beyond racial divisions, within much of the Blacks/minority communities he was seen and meme-ed as an “our” candidate?
    Of course, that itself would be inherently racist because if you think it’s unfair that all Arab-looking people are discriminated against because of people like OBL, then it’s just as misguided to vote for Obama just because he looks like you.

  2. I think it’s a gradual process to go from where we were as a country when we had separate toilet entrances and water fountains to where we are now, with a strong support that ushered in the election of President-elect Obama. In another few decades people will learn in history books about this time period and wonder what the big deal was, as the mindset will be so different by then.

  3. Amazing topic David! Thank you so much for bringing it up!
    I could sense it in my 4 years stay in the USA. All my white friends used to somehow take pride/ show off having so many “colored” friends, probably to prove the rest of the world they are really progressive. Their so called black friends were somewhat dispassionate about it. It was probably more obvious because I was based in the midwest.
    I found both the incidents to be artificial and sad.
    Why on earth in this 21st. century someone will be suspicious about others just because of skin color?
    Isn’t it time to overcome it?

  4. At the beginning, Dananjay, the Black community did not take to Obama because he was “mixed” and they supported Hillary and her “first Black President” husband. Michelle Obama was right when she said the Black Community would “come home” to Barack — and they did — and I think they did because he expresses the conflict of racial identity that is hard to pin down and difficult to bear.

  5. It is time to overcome it, Katha, but as your example provides, it seems there are “White Folk” out there collecting friends as skin totems instead of people.
    There was a rotten and pernicious “joke” while I was growing up in Nebraska that the “only Black people in the entire state were on the football team.” Terrible. Awful. Pretty much true. Is the terribleness in the saying of the obvious negative or in the hiding from it?

  6. When Chris Rock said that the only two black people in Minnesota were Prince and Kirby Puckett, is that a kind of racism?
    We must fight veiled or overt racism tooth and nail until every vestige is destroyed and it is a sad chapter in history.

  7. Creating awareness is the only way I guess David, people need to understand these jokes are not very civil.
    Just so you know, I can’t access bolesuniversity account tonight as the speed seems to be very low – I will take up 26th. along with 13th. I just saved one.

  8. Sorry I am late – we had no power yesterday. I love that second image – the larger picture made up by smaller pictures.
    I cannot answer your question – I do however suspect you are right and that only time will give you the answers. If the WILL is there I guess you will move on.
    The reason that it is difficult for me to comment is that racism in the UK is a fundamentally different animal to what it is in the USA.
    It is still Racism – but it has different roots and has a different history. I think there is less hatred but more resentment – if that makes sense.

  9. Hi Nicola
    Glad to have you back! Don’t forget to check out my new RelationShaping article on MRSA infections if you can. I’m curious how you handle that sort of issue with needle play and shared, porous, surfaces.
    It is amazing how different racism is in the USA and the UK. I understand what you’re saying that there’s less a violent threat in the UK, but is there perhaps more resentment for… social programs… access to programs based on skin color… ?

  10. I will go and check out that article – sounds like one I can get my teeth into 🙂
    I think there are differences between the UK and the USA – primarily it is a pure case of numbers – coupled with different laws on gun/knife possession.
    The resentment here bubbles over into violence when you get two groups of immigrants on the same turf – Indian/Pakistani versus Caribbean or African. Our worst race riots have been caused by that kind of problem.
    The white population get restless in times of recession (so be prepared) – when we have no jobs, find our services cut and money being thrown at immigrants ( of all races).
    There is a saying in the UK along the lines of “if you are a black one legged lesbian with two kids (fathered of course before you came a lesbian) you go to the top of the housing list.” You score points for being a racial minority, a sexual minority, being a single parent and having a disability.
    Most of the current racial tension is currently focused on Eastern European immigrants – who under EU law are entitled to work here and who claim family allowance for their wives and children left at home.

  11. I thank you for the race and immigration update from the UK, Nicola!
    We sort of have that a bit with the notion of a 700 mile fence to prevent “The Mexicans” from coming over and taking the “White Jobs” nobody else in the USA wants to work.
    We also have a bit of “minority priority” that was pretty much beaten back the last 8 years and I don’t think Obama wants to take up restoring that notion. It was most prevalent in getting access to elite universities where less prepared minorities were given admission preference over higher achieving White students. It was a wily mess.

  12. I have heard about the fence – are they still going ahead with it?
    We have exactly the same in our universities and schools. A lot of private schools and also the universities have charitable status. They are changing the rules about charitable status to reflect “equality” on race, religion, sexuality , gender , age, physical ability and class. If they do not fill their quota’s they are likely to loose their charitable status and the tax breaks that go with it.
    Our government and local government and state employers have similar targets to meet.

  13. The fence is partially built, Nicola, and no one wants to spend the money to build it but nobody wants to be the one to kill it because then you’re “in favor” of illegal immigration. It’s such a pox on us all and Bush started the whole stupid thing!
    I support the helping of minority students because that’s the only way to get them out of the minority. Of course White Kids are better educated and trained — they have better schooling and neighborhoods and other advantages of living a life of status in the majority.
    Minority children will never crack the barriers unless they are given a bit of help, and while that infuriates the many that feel they “earned” their majority status by birthright alone — there needs to be a balancing against the angry mob of the majority — and that is the job of the courts. The judicial system needs to set things right for everyone in the overall future scheme of us.