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Looking Back

America didn’t become colorblind in 2008
By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  December 29, 2008

Since Barack Obama’s election, there have been many congratulatory essays — verbal and written — about the greatness of Americans being able to elect a person of color to our highest office. A few mention casually that it has taken us more than 200 years to get to this point. More often, the thrust of the commentary is about the greatness of a nation finally gone colorblind.
We aren’t really colorblind. This year, in a sort of national desperation, fueled by a president widely viewed as a failure, and even as dangerous incompetent at many levels, American voters were able to get a bit more farsighted in their vision of race, even if they have not gone blind to skin color altogether.

All the orchids being heaped on us in the meantime bring to mind feminist Gloria Steinem’s thoughts in the ’70s, about the women’s movement and the men who were advancing on the long road to gender equity. She used to point out how odd it was that men got sanctified for doing simple things, like throwing their own underwear in the hamper, when they should have been doing that all along.

In that same way, Americans are being congratulated (and congratulating themselves) that they finally were able to go to the polls to elect a capable man, coincidentally of color, as president.

In this euphoria, not enough is said about how obvious the choice was, to so many, between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin. This was not because Obama is half-black, but because he and his running mate are qualified, calm, and rational — what America needs right now, in stark comparison to their opponents.

One wonders whether Obama privately shakes his head at all the racial fuss. Does our president-elect wonder what took America so long? Does he think about all the men and women of color who came before him, equally and even more brilliant, who were rejected and even destroyed because America’s vision was monochrome?

Certainly, the outcome of the 2008 election is something of which to be proud, because we have elected a great man, and also because his defeated opponent has graciously stepped aside with sincere praise for the new president and even promises of cooperation.

But America should not be fooled into thinking that its fixation on race has disappeared. Sadly, those who cannot embrace the colorblindness of true equality will continue to hate, malign, and even try to harm those they see as unacceptable.

In times like these, racism and the related hatreds of all who are not white, male, and Christian in America simply go underground. They get quieter, or some-times more determined, in the face of what they see as a defeat.

They also necessitate extraordinary precautions, like the two-inch thick bullet-proof glass surrounding the first family on election night in Chicago for Obama’s victory speech.

Only when all the bullet-proof measures safely come down can Americans truly start patting themselves on the back.

Related: Uh, race still matters, folks, Women on the verge, A step forward, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Elections and Voting,  More more >
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