I happened to read HeartinSanFrancisco's entry yesterday about casually accepted racist attitudes in her blog, Guilty With an Explanation on the same day that Ellie and I got into a discussion with our gardener (yes, we are that spoiled!) about the election. He asked us, in fact, whether we had seen the most recent debate--the one where Hillary and Obama got into a head-to-head. He emphatically would NOT vote for Obama, he said, because if a black man were elected there would be uppity blacks rushing around all over with chips on their shoulders, proclaiming that "we" owed them something.
Strange reasoning, perhaps--even grotesque. But what struck me was the casual, unselfconscious racism--not unlike that of HeartinSanFrancisco's grocery store clerk. In addition to this comment, our friend offered up the joke that it would be good to invest in bananas if Obama were to be elected! This, from a man of Latino origins--legal, certainly, he has been here for many years and speaks unaccented English--and one who is approaching retirement age but remains ineligible for both Social Security and Medicare because he did not make his individual contributions. The above evidence to the contrary, he's a good-hearted man, if a little improvident, and has eked out a generally satisfactory living with his gardening business. He has been with us for, I'd say, twenty years. (I'm guessing that he doesn't read my blogs!)
The ignorance--I'm assuming that it comes out of ignorance, not malice--is breathtaking. It leaves us open-mouthed in sheer astonishment, trying in vain to "understand" it. But the truth is surely that it is more widespread than we have allowed for, as we think about the current year's politics and political attitudes in this country. Racism is mind-less, uncontested, bread-and-butter truth for a very large number of "good" Americans. It remains to be seen whether it will affect the outcome of the elections. Is it true, as these two examples seem to suggest, that a black man can not yet be elected President? I hope not.
I have to add that I'm disgusted by the recent Clinton tactics, and that I believe--reluctantly because I had thought better of them--they're playing consciously and cynically to the kind racism that we're talking about here. The suggestion that Obama seeks to emulate Ronald Reagan and Reaganism and that he believes the Republican "ideas" he spoke of to be good ones is beyond absurd, but this kind of rhetoric plays to the uneducated, undiscriminating, literal mind. As Buddha Diaries readers know, I was first for Kucinich, until the media succeeded in nudging him out of sight, then for John Edwards, hoping that he can resist that same powerful trope. I'll still vote for Edwards in the California primaries, and hope that many others will see the light and join me. A sad commentary on the otherwise truly wonderful fact that we have a woman and a black man running, with a serious chance at being elected.
Should it turn out to be a choice between Clinton and Obama, I would until now have been torn between the two. I'm wondering at this point if I'll be forced to hold my nose and vote for Clinton despite her recent relentless nastiness. And Bill's. To think I used to like him...
(By the way, I have been getting some wonderful responses to the entries on my Huffington Post blog--some of which are cross-posted here. If you have a moment, check them out!)