An interesting article in the New York Times this morning about the loss of political influence in the American South, as evidenced by the residents’ worst nightmare – the election of an African-American president. As I was reading it, I was struck by the disparities in attitude between the rest of the states, particularly places like California, and the attitudes in the majority of the states making up the former Antebellum South.
Look, I understand belief systems and their place in society as well as, if not slightly better than, the average person, but I’m still taken aback at how racism can apparently be an acceptable component of everyday life. What motivates such bigotry? What would make the individuals quoted in the article so afraid?
One white woman said she feared that blacks would now become more “aggressive,” while another volunteered that she was bothered by the idea of a black man “over me” in the White House.
“I am concerned,” Gail McDaniel, who owns a cosmetics business, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save. “The abortion thing bothers me. Same-sex marriage.”
“I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks,” she added. “From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”
Based on what, exactly? Do you think perhaps that being constantly degraded and often killed while trying to achieve the delerious American fever-dream might have made them just a touch angry? As is common for racists, guilt by association is the easiest way to keep your safe, selfish illusions of superiority – a black man is Prresident, therefore they will all benefit by being able to be more aggressive. As if they had – *shudder* – equal rights under the law.
Particularly troubling is the comment from a functionary in the local government:
Don Dollar, the administrative assistant at City Hall, said bitterly that anyone not upset with Mr. Obama’s victory should seek religious forgiveness.
“This is a community that’s supposed to be filled with a bunch of Christian folks,” he said. “If they’re not disappointed, they need to be at the altar.”
Because, of course, god favors one race over another – I’m sure it’s all right there somewhere in the Handy Dandy Book O’ Prejudice you call the Bible, and, if not, I’m sure people won’t check if you tell them that it is. Lucky for you, if they believe in that crap, they won’t question, particularly if not questioning maintains their moral and civil superiority. Self-interest is, as I’ve said before, a great motivator of religious belief.
My dismay at having an enclave of such backward, medieval belief and unquestioning devotion to a way of life that should not exist outside of the Third World in the 21st century (and not even then, really) is profound. The fact that it exists within one of the most technologically advanced nations on the globe is doubly depressing. To have the very fact that the color of the President-elect’s skin is darker than yours lead to irrational fear is devastating.
That noise you hear is the lessons of history knocking on your doors. Once upon a time, it took a civil war to illustrate how wrong some of your most cherished traditions were, and how the majority of people in your own country disagreed with the degradation and slavery you visited upon your fellow men. Now, the lesson is reinforced by the free choice of a majority of your fellow citizens. The “audacity of hope” has brought your worst nightmare to life, and you need to ask yourselves: are these beliefs actually helping me, or are they just trapping the population of the south in a stagnating quagmire of backwardness, superstition and irrational clinging to a dishonorable past?
As the old guard are slowly replaced by the new generation who reject your narrow-minded avarice and insecurity, you may not even be aware of the new civil war being fought, slowly and inexorably taking away your right to hold your bigoted attitudes and thinking of your fellow humans as somehow less than human. There will be no loud skirmishes, there will be no Antietam, no Chancellorsville, no Gettysburg or Bull Run. The battle for hearts and minds will be won with the weapons of hope and inclusion. Your small, fearful, god-given, safe, black vs. white world will be replaced by an America that moves as one, fearlessly and proudly into the future.
Your world will end, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
It’s a Fiery Flash Fact