Fear of a Black President

My husband is a member of Service Employees International Union. The SEIU has organized some of the most underpaid workers, many of whom are minorities. Working in health care, and belonging to a union would, you think, lead to experiences and interactions with all kinds of people, working in solidarity and all. In a perfect world.

Last week my husband came to work and found an internet page on the table in the staff break room. The page warns Americans that Sen. Barack Obama is a dangerous, radical Muslim Atheist and his family is a bunch of subversives and his membership in the United Church of Christ is a cover. The page legitimizes this slander by citing Snopes.com, which actually says the opposite, and debunks all the lies and distortions. As Snopes says, most people won’t bother to click on the source.

But back to the Service Employees International Union—SEIU has given Sen.Obama an important endorsement… says the Los Angeles Times…

On the night that he came in second in the New Hampshire primary, Barack Obama came in first with the Nevada chapter of the large Service Employees International Union. He won that important union’s official endorsement a few minutes ago.

The influential union’s 17,500 health care and county worker members will come in very handy for Nevada’s Jan. 19 caucuses. The union’s choice will come as a serious disappointment for both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who both coveted it too. And the timing late tonight is likely no accident.

Proof that race will influence some voters comes in the Times reader’s comments–

I have seen the Kenyans who have come to the local college to get scolarships that could have helped locals in in adepressed area. Most of these people try to mary fat white girls to stay here.

I also remember comming home from a days work to find that one of the Kenyan crack heads had broke in my apartment and trashed it, also I remember the two windshields and door glasses broke out of my truck that resulted in my insurance being canceked.

Personally, I am not ready for one to be president

Well, that proves it, I guess. The problem is that most people are not so in touch with their prejudices, but rather try to rationalize them–that is, disguise them as rational. The naked bigotry in that misspelled post is almost laughable. But I heard some disturbingly prejudiced comments about Sen. Obama at a party when I was talking to some Clinton supporters. And how about Mitt Romney’s test jab, when he kept ‘accidentally’ confusing Barack Obama with Osama Bin Laden? How about columnist Robert Novak’s comment “… he’s clean. He isn’t a stereotype African-American.â€? Novak tries to pretend he’s channeling Sen. Joe Biden, who tripped over his own unconscious prejudice earlier in the race. No one is marveling that Sen. Clinton is articulate or Sen. Edwards is clean, so what’s going on?

From the New York Times:

In the Wichita churches this summer, Obama was the Democrat who drew the most interest. Several mentioned that he had spoken at Warren’s Saddleback church and said they were intrigued. But just as many people ruled out Obama because they suspected that he was not Christian at all but in fact a crypto-Muslim — a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. “There is just that ill feeling, and part of it is his faith,� Welsh said. “Is his faith anti-Christian? Is he a Muslim? And what about the school where he was raised?�

“Obama sounds too much like Osama,� said Kayla Nickel of Westlink. “When he says his name, I am like, ‘I am not voting for a Muslim!’ �

You know, no one remarks wonderingly that Sen. Arnold Schwarzenegger is ‘clean’. No one is running conspiracy theories that he is an Austrian infiltrator. No one confronts him about his mother’s religion or his father’s politics. He has, to say the least, a colorful past, but hasn’t been accused of being in league with terrorists. In fact, some Republican politicians were talking about changing the Constitution so that a naturalized American could run for president. What a country! A man can become a citizen in 1983 and we amend the Constitution just for him.

But Sen. Obama, born in America, is being painted as an outsider. It’s still easier for a white immigrant than a Black native born American to enter some exclusive clubs, and some churches as well. It’s not like we don’t have history with Austria, but color counts. Just like that page of slander left in a union hospital, rumors and lies will be weapons against the first Black candidate to have a real chance at the presidency.

I trust Sen. Obama to run a good campaign. I trust the American people to want to do the right thing. But we have too often let race prejudice influence our vote, and let rumors and emotions substitute for clear thinking. I am hopeful, but I am sure that race will be a factor.

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4 responses

  1. Fear of a Black President

    No one remarks wonderingly that Sen.Edwards is ‘clean’, or that Sen.Clinton is ‘articulate’. Barack Obama is being slimed with internet lies and ‘accidental’ slights. Race matters.

  2. I agree with Nancy, buzzflash, and Pat, and have a question:

    Is it possible to be a “Muslim Atheist”? Isn’t that an oxymoron? ( like “military intelligence” and “jumbo shrimp” et cetera.)

  3. well, to be more precise, they are calling Obama’s father a Black Muslim, when actually he was a Muslim who happened to be Black. If you don’t know the difference you probably think Kwanzaa is a traditional African holiday. They are calling his mother an atheist, but she sounds more like a closet Unitarian to me.

  4. David, great link. I had the good luck to get to know our local UCC Church, Beneficent Congregational. They are wonderful people. I would like to write about it, but I suspect that the people who slam Sen. Obama’s Muslim relatives would hate liberal Christians even more.

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