I woke up from a dream that I’ve been dreaming for all my life: that we are living in a world where there is no distinction between black and white, brown and yellow. Oh wait, that was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, wasn’t it? Well, I hate to be the one to break it to the ghost of Dr. King, but… 49 years after he delivered his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., fifty-one per cent of Americans explicitly expressed anti-black attitudes in a recent study by The Associated Press last week. 51%!!
After the last Presidential debate, I came across a post from a Facebook friend living in the U.S. who said that she was fearful that this election isn’t going to be about Republicans versus Democrats, or Obama versus Romney. Instead, she worried that this was becoming a choice between Americans and Barack Hussein Obama. My eyes stopped in their tracks; this comment literally took my breath away.
After all that’s been said and done, was it possible that the subtext in this election was all about race? This was a moment of enlightenment for me. For weeks prior, I struggled to understand how so many Americans could support a candidate who didn’t have a vision for their country, who changed his positions like the wind to conveniently suit the polls at the time, who – frankly – outright lied without any remorse or discomfort. How could anyone want this kind of leader in office? It never occurred to me that the only reason these same people could not support Obama was because he is black. Just saying this is disturbing to me. And the whole birther movement spawned by Donald Trump? What is that all about?
Josh Pasek of the University of Michigan – one of the study’s authors – said this about the findings:
“Racial attitudes in America have been a major issue for a long time. To imagine they’d disappear with the election of a black president is probably naïve.”
Well, I’ll be… I never took myself for naïve, but rather hopeful and optimistic. But in just the last week, I’ve read countless times about how many Republicans hate Obama (though never really explaining why). And now hate groups will only get more stoked if Obama wins this election. There will be another issue on the agenda we didn’t foresee (or at least I didn’t) having to address so urgently. This is astounding to me.
I live in a city that is wonderfully diverse. I like to believe that there is little latent hatred lying dormant in Torontonians, that we celebrate and embrace this diversity because it is what makes this city ours. I really hope I’m not being naïve.