America's racial climate and the first Black president

By News | Last updated: Oct 27, 2009 - 4:59:53 PM

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( - It has been about a year since the first Black president of the United States was elected. By nearly all accounts, Barack Obama ran a brilliant race, mastering the Electoral College, attracting disaffected and young voters to the political process and issuing a call for change that rang across America.


Despite the tears of joy and the hopes of millions that a nation born out of the womb of racial inequality and a racial double standard had made changed, in less than a year it has become clear that the America of today very much resembles the America of yesterday.
The new president has moved swiftly to tackle economic ills, is pondering the next move for U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, appears on the verge of leading the most far reaching reform of health care in history and has already been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The president has made jobs and economics his top issue at home and pushed policies to revive a moribund economy. America's standing in the world has improved and even some enemies are finding it a little harder to declare the U.S. is the Great Satan. The president has expressed a willingness to extend a hand if others will unclench their fists. He and First Lady Michelle Obama have embraced the city of Washington, D.C., like no other first couple. The White House doors have been opened and the people of Chocolate City, who have often felt like residents on the last plantation with congressional oversight and funding the final determinant in their affairs, feel like a part of the country again.

Though recent violence in Iraq and demands from Republicans that he declared a new strategy in Afghanistan and that country's upcoming elections join domestic economic trouble as serious challenges, no one can argue President Obama has not been diligently on his post, trying to steer a troubled nation through major crises and a maze of vexing challenges.

The president has moved consistently to prove he is the leader of all the people of America: He has said reparations are off the table for Blacks and the best reparations are a good education and good jobs. He has rejected race-based solutions to curbing disparities that exist along racial lines, saying the best way to serve the locked out, all of them, is through expansion of federal programs. He has said the pledge of allegiance, asked God to bless America, sang the national anthem and warned potential enemies that his determination to protect the United States should not be challenged.

Despite his best efforts, the euphoria of an historic election night victory and declarations of a post-racial era have waned.

Despite the tears of joy and the hopes of millions that a nation born out of the womb of racial inequality and a racial double standard had changed, in less than a year it has become clear that the America of today very much resembles the America of yesterday. Proof of the age-old problem of racial hatred can be seen in the treatment of the man whose election was supposed to herald this new era.

The U.S. Secret Service is facing a crisis and trying to refocus its mission based on the death threats issued at the president and his family. A Boston Globe article reported that there had been a 400 percent increase in threats against President Obama in less than one year. The newspaper, citing a Congressional Research Service report, also said “a rise in racist hate groups, and a new wave of anti-government fervor threatens to overwhelm the U.S. Secret Service.” This is an agency that gets over $1 billion a year, and does more than just guard the president, is in a tizzy because of the number of threats and the different scenarios that could be harmful to a man whose only crime is the color of his skin. Another indicator of the deep roots of U.S. racial hatred is the fact that the Black president had a White mother and was largely raised by White grandparents—his mixed racial heritage means nothing to those who wish to do him harm or likely increases the desire for some to destroy him.

According to the Globe, the Congressional Research Service report concluded that the agency's work “has increased and becomes more urgent, due to the increase in terrorist threats and expanded arsenal of weapons that terrorists could use in an assassination attempt or attacks on facilities.''

“The domestic threat is also growing, fueled in part by Obama's election as the nation's first Black president, according to specialists who study homegrown radical movements,” said the Globe. “Obama, who was given Secret Service protection 18 months before the election—the earliest ever for a presidential candidate—has been the target of more threats since his inauguration than his predecessors,” it added.

“A key difference this time is that the federal government—the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy—is headed by a Black man,'' the Globe observed. “One result has been a remarkable rash of domestic terror incidents since the presidential campaign, most of them related to anger over the election of Barack Obama.”

Just as the U.S. has never seen a Black man in leadership of the Oval Office, there has never been the level of hatred and outright death plots against an America's chief executive. It is another sign of how sick American society remains—from those who plot death to those who deny the clear existence of racial hatred and a desire to eliminate a man whose existence poses a threat to the White supremacist mindset—a mindset can be found in a hooded KKK member in Alabama, a beer guzzling mechanic in Pennsylvania or a financial professional walking the streets of New York. The mindset equates Whiteness with rightness, fitness for office and ability to lead, guide and direct a nation. It is a mindset, spoken or unspoken, that makes many uncomfortable with the reins of government in Black hands, even if the previous White-handed government nearly brought the country to ruin. Though the degrees of a White-is-right mentality may run across a spectrum, the underlying idea is the same: Whites should and must rule.

America has paid a price for that mindset and continues to pay a price with the lack of development and opportunity for those of darker hues in the society. Human potential and divine gifts have been allowed to languish because the nation has not valued each of those individuals that are called citizens.

What does America want? Does she want to survive and seek a way out of the divine chastisement she faces through new vision and new ideas—or does she lack the strength to look beyond skin color to the content of a man's character? The failure to change will bring a doom prophesied in scripture and justly earned for violations of God's law. But mercy from God can come in many forms; it would be tragic if America were to reject a chance at mercy because the packaging was just a little too dark.