So the Romney foreign policy team is open with their belief that a non-white man cannot properly relate to the white experience and therefore cannot properly engage with Western Europe.
No surprise. Not anymore. It’s just another sign that the American ethos, forcibly divorced from open racism by the civil rights movement, has finally decided to go public with its not-so-secret affair with hate.
Abusive and dangerous relationships are hard to quit and I was stupid to think that their break was final.
But I did.
It was in the oxytocin flush of November, 2008, when somebody turned to me, their face loose and goofy with love for our fellow Americans who had just elevated a black man to the highest office in the land.
“Will this change things for your kids?” She asked.
“Maybe,” I said, nodding slowly. “Maybe.”
My kids lived in apartments, converted garages, attics, basement crawlspaces. They slept on beds, couches, floors, and chairs and openly daydreamed about life with beds and without bedbugs.
And my kids were full of reasons why they couldn’t succeed. In that heady November it seemed logical that the poor black child of a single mother who had risen to the top against the headwinds of race and class and garnered the support of millions of white middle-class Americans to become the President of the United States at a time of crisis could be just the tool to help chisel through the calcified fear and hopelessness that covered so many students.
When we watched the inauguration in January, kids wept openly. So did some of us adults.
Even the newspapers were engaging in speculation that we had finally reached the other side, taking that long step to the shore from a centuries-long mid-passage through choppy racial waters.
“A Post-Racial America,” they said. And me with my dark skin and my civil-service position on the front lines of the American experience nodded along with it.
America looked like it had a new love and I sighed with relief – once we’d had black…
Hope is a powerful thing.
But hope implies a desired change in fortunes and deep down we’re all afraid that fortune is a zero-sum game.
My hope is your fear.
And if too many people have hope, fortunes might actually change for people like my students.
The part of America that still held a torch for the way things were grew mightily afraid that they would never again feel the love.
And now, a mere three years later, a major party candidate is using that torch to light a fire and if we don’t push back with everything we have, the fire will catch and hope will burn.
The Romney Campaign and the Republican Party are on the verge of creating a rift with their rhetoric that will not heal.
Our president’s solitary tale of success in the face of strong headwinds of race and class may not be the powerful force for good that I had wanted it to be and if our president should lose on the merits of his performance, so be it.
(I’m comfortable saying that because on his performance he won’t lose.)
But if race and class are used to engineer his destruction the result will be powerful and awful, confirming the deepest-held fears of a plurality of our population:
I don't matter. Even if I am good, I will not be allowed to succeed. Even if I am the best, my accomplishments will be ignored. And if I compete in arenas beyond my purview, I will be destroyed.
Barack Obama's reelection may not have the power to quell these thoughts, but his ouster in a campaign run on race and class can cement them permanently.
The social fabric is already thin and I don’t think I’m ready to tell my students years from now:
“Well, we had a black president, but it didn’t work out.”
Cross-posted from my personal blog