Last night while listening to commentary regarding the Rolling Stone article on President Obama the question was asked of the writer if he thought the Tea Party was racist, and if so to what degree. His answer was that he thought there was a segment of the nation which felt white America was being treated unfairly. Many of those who felt that way are now what is termed the Tea Party. The writer could hardly not smile when making that statement as he, along with every other sane person, knows white America, especially white males, have life on a rainbow in this nation. Always have.
So what gives with all the anger and nastiness that has permeated this election cycle? There is no doubt in uneasy economic times that all sorts of ugly fissures open in society and ooze stuff that in better times is kept in check. And yet the volume of disgusting actions and words make that simple attempt at an answer inadequate to what we all witness.
Beyond the basic economics is the fact that when white America sees President Obama they see the future. For some that is most unsettling. After all, a white majority population in America is not the future. The world is brown, and the trend lines have this country moving in the same direction. And quickly. There is nothing wrong with that. Embracing what makes us diverse has always been the way for social progress, and it also allows for personal enrichment.
In early 2009 I read an article in The Atlantic that I want to flip back to for a moment. Some paragraphs just never leave my head.
Whether you describe it as the dawning of a post-racial age or just the end of white America, we’re approaching a profound demographic tipping point. According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, those groups currently categorized as racial minorities—blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians—will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under the age of 18, this shift is projected to take place in 2023, which means that every child born in the United States from here on out will belong to the first post-white generation.
There is a tremendous social flux that is taking place day-to-day in the nation, and some hate it. When an intelligent black man….and both parts of that statement matter…was elected to the White House something snapped in the minds of too many insecure white people. They saw the future, and it un-nerved them. Mind you, the problem is not with the nation, the problem is with that segment of the white population that somehow feels threatened by the future.
Not only is President Obama black but he is a constitutional scholar and able to analyze complicated national issues which places him far over the educational level of many in the country. If only the angry white ones can say he is a muslim (as if that even matters) or try to make others think he was not born in the nation (which he was) then they can tarnish him enough and bring this uppity black man down a peg or two. That is, after all, what we have been witnessing for the past 20 months. It is ugly.
I have no way to understand the fear and anger that I read about every day from the Tea Party types, the anger of white males. While I always try to gravitate to the smart folks at a cocktail party there are others who feel threatened by those encounters. It is that very dynamic that is now playing out in the national arena. Consider the upside to this trend of more ethnic inclusion into the governing class, the invigorating results of inclusion.
Whiteness is no longer a precondition for entry into the highest levels of public office. The son of Indian immigrants doesn’t have to become “white” in order to be elected governor of Louisiana. A half-Kenyan, half-Kansan politician can self-identify as black and be elected president of the United States.
These two men mentioned are in many ways political opposites and yet they are the same. Americans. What is so hard to understand that they each are like the rest of us and care about family and their favorite sports teams. They went to college, worked hard, pay taxes, and are now following the American Dream. Just because they worked harder and achieved more seems little reason to rant and rave. That they are not white is even less reason.
Just a few thoughts this morning on a topic that will be with us for decades.
Now pass the hummus……(just one of the many pleasures of diversity.)