Can We Rise Above The Ugliness?

by | May 13, 2008

Now that Barack Obama is the Democrat Party’s “presumtive nominee”, it’s time to address the real roadblocks he’s going to face in the general election.

According to The Washington Post, (and my own observations) racial hatred is still commonplace in America.

For all the hope and excitement Obama’s candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed — and unreported — this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They’ve been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they’ve endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can’t fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: “It wasn’t pretty.” She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn’t possibly vote for Obama and concluded: “Hang that darky from a tree!”

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across “a lot of racism” when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: “White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people.”

Naturally, Obama campaign officials say such incidents are isolated, that the experience of most volunteers and staffers has been overwhelmingly positive. But let’s be brutally honest, we all know people at work, at church or in our families who harbor racist views.

Once the Republican hate machine starts running commercials that paint Obama and his wife as radical, uppity blacks, moderates are going to move toward McCain and in all likelihood those moderates in working class states like Pennsylvania and Ohio will deliver the White House to the Grand Old Party, once again. I’d like to be wrong, but that’s how I see it unfolding.