On Race

Part of this rant comes from an overreaction on my part to the posting of a friend on Facebook (some of the text is from there too). And part of it is something I've been bottling up.

I'm tired of complaints that people are advocating voting for Barack Obama because of his race. The majority of them are discussing the significance of what electing a minority would do for our country. Though race should not be part of the consideration of how we should vote, we are allowed to consider the implications of his potential presidency.

Skin color absolutely should not matter. It should not matter whatsoever. But it’s naive to believe that it is a relic of our past. Racism still exists in this country, and it's not some big secret that we’ve hidden away in a vault. The rest of the world is well aware of how America has treated racial minorities in the past. We are not so far removed from the days where water fountains, schools and buses were segregated. Jim Crow laws were on the books less than a century ago. The KKK still exists. My own family has experienced it directly.

Racism is rarely as overt as it once was, but it is still here. It cannot and should not be ignored. The subtle form racism takes today is sinister and pervasive in its own right – as it exists now, it can nearly be impossible to nail something down and point it out as “hey, that’s racist!” But it doesn’t mean it’s gone. It would be a disservice to Americans to turn our backs and pretend it doesn’t exist. If we say it’s not there, then nothing can be done to address the problem. Ignoring it will not make it go away. I hope that there will be a day when we can say that man-and-womankind has transcended race, but we are not yet there.

Our country as a whole is not yet above skin color. We’re not above gender. We’re not above religion or sexual orientation. If skin color didn’t matter, this would not be a historic election. If skin color didn’t matter, this wouldn’t be the first black (well, bi-racial), person at the top of the democratic ticket. If gender didn’t matter, Hilary’s near win in the primaries wouldn’t matter. Palin’s nomination as the VP candidate would be just another day in American politics.

Skin color should not be a factor in our decisions on November 4th, but ignoring the significance of the election of a black man to the highest office in our country would be tragic. It would be a slap in the face to the people still alive today who have had to look overt racism in the eye. I will not say, “yeah, so?” to anyone that takes pride in a black man’s nomination. I will not say that a country that may go from saying, “Hey you! Go to the back of the bus,” to “hello Mr. President” has not accomplished something great.

Luckily, for those of us who don’t give a *bleep* about race, Obama is a fantastic, qualified candidate with forward-thinking ideas. As an unintentional side-effect of an Obama presidency, we could show the world that we are another step closer to making race a non-issue.

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