Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Politics of Racism

How ironic that the election of President Obama was supposed to herald in a new age of racial harmony.  Through the election of a biracial president, we as a nation had finally made a grand enough gesture to show our sincerity about the notion of all men being created equal.  The United States was now a sufficiently color blind nation that we were able to look beyond skin in the selection of our national leader.  The problem is, however, we didn’t look beyond skin.  Instead of being the reason why someone wasn’t considered, it became the main reason they were.  Unfortunately, the new age has not materialized in the na├»vely hoped for manner as the last five years have been riddled with incessant claims that racism is at the core of all opposition to the Obama administration.  To disagree with the 44th President of the United States cannot be due to having a differing political ideology, opinion, or vision; no, according to those that ardently support and defend the president there is but one factor, race.  Evidentially racial harmony doesn’t have quite the political advantage as labeling one’s ideological opponents racists, and dismissing qualifications that truly matter for skin color does not a competent president make.

In 2008, Barack Obama was the benefactor of a perfect storm.  Coming to the end of eight years of Republican occupancy of the White House with the country engaged in two increasingly unpopular wars, many voters were ready for a change.  They were so ready, that the always slippery mantra of “Anything is better than this” was gaining traction.  This was fertile ground for people to easily convince themselves that the candidate the other party put forth was the better choice, regardless of that individual’s experience or core political beliefs.  With this most enviable position, the Democratic nomination was just a formality in the selection of the next president.  Though Hillary Clinton believed she had the nomination all but locked up, during the primaries there emerged an upstart.  The junior Senator from the state of Illinois who hadn’t even served half of his first term, and sported a resume completely void of executive level leadership examples, somehow derailed Hillary’s presumed coronation.  Even the allure of national prosperity that many associated with the Clinton name was no match for the momentum summoned by the Obama machine.  With Hillary dispatched Obama’s ranks were swelled by the Democratic faithful who vote for whatever candidate their party puts forth.  This support was further bolstered by scores of voters wanting to be part of something historic and others anxious to punish the Republican Party for a financial crisis that fortuitously broke mere weeks before the election.  The stars aligned and with an unprecedented defensive effort by the majority of the national media, Senator Obama was bestowed with an aura of majestic flawlessness.  Christened with lofty though baseless expectations, he was touted as the one that would deliver us from the doldrums and lead us to the Promised Land.

“There is just something different about him.”  These words were repeated incessantly during the campaign by the scores quickly becoming enamored with candidate Obama.  But when asked to elaborate as to what special quality he possessed, an explanation seemed to escape most voters.  Was it his message of change?  Every non-incumbent candidate since the dawn of time has spoken of change, so that couldn’t be it.  Was it his perceived charisma?  Political history has no shortage of people that displayed this trait.  How about a professional life full of experiences and accomplishments that could only properly culminate with being selected as President of the United States?  A state congressman serving his first term in the US Senate with no previous executive level leadership role in government, business, or the military is not the optimum set of qualifications to be a successful leader of the free world, let alone one that would redefine excellence in the position.  The difference people were reluctant to verbalize was something that had no impact on his ability to be president, but greatly impacted his chances of being elected president.  To say it out loud would be racist, but somehow using it as the basis of one’s vote was noble and made us a better nation.

There is no doubt that slavery and the racism that fostered it are grievous blights on our nation’s collective soul.  We were founded as a nation that embodied freedom and the premise that one was defined only by their actions, nothing was to be preconceived.  Racism is in direct opposition to this, so it is not just morally reprehensible, it is inherently un-American.  The problem comes in when we try so desperately to right this wrong by perpetuating the wrong.  The mistakes of the past must be learned from not continued as a misguided notion that it will make amends for previous transgressions.  Simply electing a man of color to be president does not make up for sins of the past, especially if that was one of the defining reasons for his election.  The historic significance of the election of the first African-American president is tarnished because he was selected in large part due to skin color.  He was not elected because he was a qualified candidate that happened to be black; he was an unqualified candidate that was elected because he was black.

Racism is an accusation where one is believed guilty until proven innocent.  It touches on something that we as a nation are rightfully very ashamed of; a scarlet letter that usually evokes immediate and lasting condemnation.  This makes it an extremely effective and tempting political weapon, especially when the facts and results are not supporting your party’s message.  The best way to stifle a strong legitimate counterpoint is to discredit the person or people delivering it.  The validity of the cause is lost if the messenger is labeled an undesirable.  When the truth is inconvenient, distraction is the only course of action.  It just so happens, that the perception of hate is very distracting.

While the increasingly illogical standard we live by would disagree, anyone who voted for President Obama because of the color of his skin is just as racist as anyone who didn’t vote for him because of the color of his skin.  We must recognize that whether it be an advantage or a disadvantage, if race is a factor in the decision, it is racism and it is unacceptable.  President Obama’s election did not make us a better country; it made us a delusional one.  A man wholly unqualified was elected leader of the free world because it was believed to be time, historic, the right thing to do, or cool.  If you believe this to be untrue then ask yourself would we be in the second term of the Barack Obama presidency or the Hillary Clinton presidency if Barack Obama happened to have two white parents?  How sad that President Obama will hold the historic position as this nation’s first African-American president, for he has proven himself most unworthy of the honor.  And shame on us, for we as the American electorate are responsible.  While many heralded President Obama’s election as a triumph, it was in fact a tragedy for it is proof that we are still not up to the challenge of being a nation that judges a person not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.