COMMENTARY | You’d think I’d be elated today. Make no mistake, I’m thrilled that President Barack Obama won a second term, and for four more years there will be no abyss. I’m relieved Mitt Romney will go his way, and our country will go ours, and that, as they say, is that.
But I’m not elated.
In 2008, I walked around in a state of euphoria, the force of progress tangible. On the way to the grocery store, in line at the post office, we all grinned at one another, as we knew change had come. This was our country, all of our country.
And perhaps that was naive. Perhaps it was short-sighted to underestimate the vicious undercurrent that remains, but the 2008 campaign was remarkably light on racism and heavy on issues.
Now I know better.
I look at an electoral map bearing great resemblance to the maps of slavery, and can no longer deny that even as the world changes, even as I cannot seem to find logic to explain it, people continue to cling to old prejudice as though it, alone, will keep them afloat in a sea of diversity.
It saddens me and it angers me, a century and a half after slavery ended. I say to the places where owning another human was considered a savvy thing to do: Those days are done. They will not return. Faces around you may not be the same color. They may not subscribe to your religion; they may not love who you love; they may be poor. They may be all of these things at once.
Whatever they may be, whomever they may be, they most certainly are your fellow citizens, endowed with the self-same rights that you are. Outsides do not matter.
What upsets me the most is what people will accept out of hatred or fear. Romney was not a good presidential candidate. In fact, I have often wondered how a man who refused to tell us who he was in any detail and or what he’d do as president in any detail made it past the primaries.
Yet, despite the constant falsehoods and a revolving door of ideals, the 47 percent and binders full of women, Romney wasn’t laughed out of the electorate. He didn’t lose by a landslide, he wasn’t seen as comical.
No, apparently, as far as you can measure such things, he received 59 percent of the “white vote.” For that, there is only one explanation.
We cannot give this issue dismissive names like “race card.” We cannot bandy the term “racism” as though it has no intrinsic meaning. A recent Associated Press poll found that a small majority of Americans harbor racism toward black people.
That prejudice, the study estimated, could have cost the president 5 percent of the vote.
It is a painful thought that so many Americans would rather have a man who seems to lack any guiding principles of his own over a man whose skin color didn’t suit them. It is this reality that stood in the way of my elation.
And we must confront this reality with complete, unwavering determination.