Nationalistic pride is borne of beliefs that one’s country warrants devoted love, support, and in instances of peril, defense even if sacrificing one’s life is required to preserve a way of life. For many Americans, this country’s alleged exceptionalism is the impetus for nationalistic pride although it is becoming increasingly difficult to cite much about America that is exceptional. The rise of conservative and religious extremism threatens the foundations of what, at one time, made this country great, and although the resulting corporatism and theocracy are grounds for abject shame at the state of conservative politics, they can be combatted with electoral resolutions. However, there is another national shame that few like to acknowledge much less openly address.
Cancer lurks beneath the surface until it spreads throughout the body and eventually eats enough healthy cells that, without extreme medical intervention, it kills the host. America’s cancer, racial bigotry, once thought in remission, has returned with a vengeance with the election of the first African American president. Many pundits opined that racism was eradicated with President Obama’s election in 2008, but, like cancer, it remained virtually unnoticed and has returned with exceptional virulence and consequences this country cannot tolerate and survive.
During the Republican primaries, each presidential hopeful made overtly racists statements that appeal to a large segment of the population that were directed at President Obama, but recently, two incidents inform that racial bigotry infects a large segment of the population in this country. One event resulted in the death of an African American child, and the other represents the death of decency in conservative politics.
A couple of days ago, an image of a bumper sticker went viral on the Internet that demonstrates the depth of depravity and racial bigotry rampant among right-wing malcontents who cannot countenance the thought of an African American in the White House. The bumper sticker said, “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012” and contained the circle-and-line-through-it symbol superimposed over President Obama’s campaign logo. There are several sites selling the racist bumper sticker and other items with the slogan and promotion reading; “Show the world how you feel! (but be careful, you may hurt someone’s feelings).” There are no words to describe the despicable promotion of racial hatred for the President of the United States and it is unconscionable that naked racism has become part of conservative political strategy. However, based on the stunning racist comments of Willard Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, the Republicans’ bigotry is a deliberate ploy to appeal to racists who would exterminate African Americans if they were given the opportunity. In Florida two weeks ago, a white man did exterminate an African American boy for no other reason than his race.
Late last month, an unarmed African American teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a 28-year-old white man named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, whose tactics concerned neighbors before he murdered young Trayvon, admitted killing the teen who was walking home from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles while visiting his father and stepmother in a suburb of Orlando. Zimmerman called the police to report an African America boy walking in his neighborhood and despite the police dispatcher telling him not to follow the child; Zimmerman armed himself with a 9mm handgun, got in his SUV, followed the boy, and confronted and murdered him. When law enforcement arrived, the boy was face down on the grass with a bag of Skittles and can of iced tea next to his body. Zimmerman is still free despite Sanford Police Department Chief Bill Lee’s confirmation that Zimmerman was told not to follow the boy. The police chief said “I don’t think it was his intent to go and shoot somebody that night,” but why else did he arm himself, get in his SUV, follow the boy and confront him? Because he was “suspicious” (read – Black).
The murder, like the racist bumper sticker, are examples of naked racism that permeates more of the population than many Americans like to admit. The Republican presidential candidates certainly understand that appealing to racial stereotypes will garner support from racists or they would not stoop to the level of impugning African Americans or President Obama.
The level of racial bigotry rampant in this country is not lost on minorities who are being excluded from voting with obscene voter ID laws aimed specifically at minorities, or students who are left in under-funded schools. The questions about President Obama’s religious affiliation are racially motivated and the birther movement that questions the President’s citizenship have as their basis the belief that an African American cannot possibly be a “real American.” The racism America suffers from is a product of white supremacist’ mindset that believes only white people are worthy of citizenship and it is a generational issue that sociologists claim will never be solved with tolerance training or education. It is true that white racists love their Black athletes and entertainers, but as soon as the uniforms come off, African Americans are just sub-human, and it is not always covert. When First Lady Michelle Obama attended a NASCAR event with Jill Biden, the crowd booed and a worthless radio talk-show celebrity excused the crowd because according to him, “they thought Mrs. Obama was uppity.” It is naked racism and as the general election progresses, it will certainly get worse.
Americans should be humiliated that in 2012, the level of racial bigotry in the population has reached a point that it is acceptable to let an African American teen’s murderer walk the streets and that Republicans sport racist bumper stickers as a campaign slogan. America is exceptional, but for all the wrong reasons and it is why decent citizens hang their heads in shame. The only solution is eradicating racists from the face of the Earth and that includes the generations they are training to continue the vile bigotry. Education and tolerance training do not work if children go home and learn that African Americans are inferior, and Republicans are propagating racial bigotry and will never support equality for all Americans regardless how much they claim to support the Constitution. There is one thing that is certain; based on the lack of outrage from the public, the media, and conservatives at the naked racism ravaging this country, any American who looks you in the eye and tells you they are proud of America is a racist, and the saddest aspect is that, unlike this author, they are not ashamed.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.