I think that sometimes I live a sheltered life up here in Portland. Portland is like a little alternative paradise. One of my closest friends (who happens to be a black lesbian) has said, “you can’t throw a rock in this town without hitting a lesbian.” And the same could be true of a whole swath of people who in the rest of America would stand out as strange, or down right unwanted. It’s one of the only places I’ve ever been where people who are different, really different, actually get along, hang out in coffee shops (plenty of those around), and don’t make a big deal about what you look like.
We take it for granted. That is, until we have to leave town for a while, or we get a piece of news like this:
The monster lurking behind the curtain in the Democratic presidential contest is racism. Up to now, Obama’s supporters in the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party have tried to ignore its existence. This article is proof that it not only exists; it is unfortunately alive and well, particularly in factory towns:
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.
I don’t tend to associate myself as one of the “extreme left wing” members of the Democratic party, [I am a big proponent of capitalism, I don’t think having a large military is all bad, and I long for a country that would take the idea of “personal responsibility” to heart], but on this I must be. I think I’m one of those that just hasn’t taken seriously how much racism is still out there politically. I know it’s there, but to be so unconsciously organized as it was in Virginia, scares me. [Balkinization has a post similar, here]
There is something fundamentally wrong with a society that on the one hand is at a point where we are seriously looking at a man who is (at least half) black for President, but still has all these holdout-racists to contend with.
Even if only 1 out of every 100 white people on average in the US was racist, that would mean African-Americans would run into 4 or 5 (depending on they’re job, and lifestyle) every week. How grating is that!?
I keep wanting to believe that the number would be 1 out of every 1000 or less, and that they’d be located mainly in the midwest and in small towns. But, that’s likely BS.
I want to believe that the subtle racism that comes from ignorance and a lack of human contact with black people is the most common form of racism in America. That is not so bad, relatively speaking. Once people like that actually get to know some people of different races, they tend to change their tune real quick.
But, if it’s more sinister than that, and it seems to be (at least in some places), then it makes me (at least on this issue) ashamed of my country. We haven’t done enough. I don’t know what else to do, exactly, but something is wrong.