Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Numb With Worry

Today is a defining moment in the history of the United States. Today a black man will be inaugurated as the 44th president of this country; a first unimaginable for most of us who grew up in the homes of the 1950s and 60s when the N word was part of the common lexicon. Based upon my observations during and since the presidential campaign, there are a lot of white folks who still cannot or will not let go of their smoldering distrusts and ambiguous hatred of persons of color. I characterize this hatred as ambiguous because most of the people in this country have become accustomed to the superiority of various black athletes who have become legends in their respective sports; e.g., Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. The public generally reveres these men, but most of us white folk don't have a single black friend or acquaintance with whom we would feel comfortable sharing our dinner table. I received a hateful e-mail just yesterday of a picture of an older and heavy black woman in a bathing suit standing on a beach. She had obviously put her bathing suit on backwards and the caption accompanying the picture said "We know which party she voted for." I play golf on occasion with a Detroit lawyer who uses the term "Democrats" for black people. These types of incidents arouse within me on this wonderful day a protective parental-like instinct that diminishes my ability to fully enjoy the moment in time; a feeling akin to the first day a sixteen year old drives a car alone, or a young child swims in water over her head.

What is it about all this that makes me numb with worry? I read an article this morning that will help make my point. The author stated that one of the reasons that Obama has been so widely received (with an 83% approval rating) is that most Americans "play inside the forty yard lines" when it comes to politics. Continuing the metaphor based on my observations, I would say that most white people "play inside the twenty yard lines" when it comes to the issue of acceptance of blacks. What I worry about, however, is not those people inside these boundaries, but the crazies outside these zones who carry ideas and beliefs which will never be amenable to change. To be specific, there are plenty of people in our country who would kill Obama if the opportunity was presented. For reasons real or imagined, there is a lunatic fringe within our society that the added factor of Obama's race is the clincher. I am numb with worry that one of these nut cases will destroy one of the finest moments in American history.

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