[Quick promotional note before I get started. I will be appearing in Nashville, Tennessee at the Millennium State Park at 3pm for a speaking engagement. It’s my first visit to Tennessee, yet I’ll be hanging out with two natives whom I already know. Then it’s an early morning flight back to Portland to watch election returns. — “R”R]
I’m your standard-issue, stereotypically demographically average straight married middle-class white guy. (If I were Christian and liked Bud more than bud, I’d be a complete cliché.) I’m a racist and I voted for Barack Obama.
Whoa, wait a second? A racist? Me?
Sure. You too. You’re a racist.
Let me explain. I’m not talking about that hateful KKK-style drag-a-guy-behind-a-pickup-truck racist. I’m talking about an almost unavoidable natural human prejudice about others based on race, particularly growing up in America, where race colors nearly every issue. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Barack Obama’s race is one of the reasons I voted for him.My racism is subtle, but distinct. When I watch boxing matches between two unknown fighters, I tend to think the darker of the two will likely win (but not mixed-martial arts, where I bet on the guy with the most messed-up ears). There’s really no logical reason to prejudge like that. If I’m cut off in traffic, I seem to be angrier if the offending driver is Asian. That’s not right, but I feel angry even as I’m offending my rational self by feeling angry. I tend to think Native Americans are really spiritual, that Hispanics have strong families and volatile men, and that Jews… well, I don’t really have a Jewish prejudice, because I grew up in Idaho and Jews may as well have been Martians.
I’ve had many discussions with many people of many races about this. One friend told me there’s a difference between racism and seeing things racially. Racism is thinking black people are inferior; racialism is thinking black people are different. It was a long conversation that meandered around a discussion of choosing the last guy for your pickup basketball team, both unknown, same height, build, but one’s black and one’s white – who do you pick and why? I say the black guy because, all other things being equal and knowing nothing of either’s background, odds are the black guy more likely grew up in a city playing tougher competition. There was talk of culture, Jim Crow, and diversity and before too long, we had to roll another joint…
But I digress. Of Barack Obama’s race, I don’t think my voting for him is this white guilt the right-wing likes to talk about. I didn’t vote for Obama because I felt guilty about my oppressor ancestors bringing conquest, genocide, slavery, and abuse upon the indigenous peoples of three continents.
I voted for him because for him to get to this point he’s got to be damn good. Do you think Barack Obama would’ve gotten this nomination if he was a C student at Harvard, even if his daddy was the president once? No, he doesn’t only have to get A’s at Harvard, he’s got to be the smartest guy in his class. Given two equally successful guys, one black, one white, like the basketball court, I’ll pick the black guy because my prejudice tells me he overcame more to get there.
While white politicians have to be caught in major sex scandals to go down in flames (see Jack Ryan, John Edwards), black politicians need only be suggestively propositioned by an actress in a campaign ad to lose an election (see Harold Ford Jr.) Obama is so scandal-free that the best mud the righties have on him is that a couple of people he knows did or said bad things years ago. How cool can this guy be? That’s another of my prejudices, that black guys are naturally “cooler”.
Chris Rock recently said, “George W. Bush is such a bad president he made it tough for a white guy to run for president. ‘Ah, give me a black man, a white woman, whatever…'” It’s a racist idea, but maybe having 43 white guys in a row running the country isn’t a great idea, either. Obama’s race, both black and white, plus being raised overseas, briefly living in poverty, having foreign relatives, born of a Muslim and an Atheist yet a practicing Christian, wow, what a truly American idea and what a fresh perspective in the White House!
I would have voted for any Democratic nominee, but I’m especially proud to be alive this day and to have cast my ballot for America’s first African-American president. That’s racist, isn’t it? Shouldn’t I just be proud to cast a vote for the next president?