Just imagine that today, in 2012, we were all marveling at the amazing job Obama had done, making America great in the eyes of the world, bringing our economy back with strength and vigor, taking strong stands for the family unit, and bringing dignity to the office of the president. Think of how much that pride that would have brought to African Americans and how much satisfaction that would have brought to all but the most ardent racists. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Worse still, from the first days of Obama’s presidency, any criticism of him was perceived by some to be racially based, setting up a scenario almost guaranteed to inflame tension and division. And to the extent that Obama played into these tensions – most famously by mishandling the arrest of black professor Henry Gates by white police officer James Crowley, for which the President later expressed his regret – a potentially positive situation became increasingly negative. And with his radical policies coming under a storm of criticism from many quarters, it has become all too easy to pull the race card in these closing days before the elections.
We now have Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Gen. Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, saying that his party, the Republican Party, “is full of racists.” He actually claimed that, “the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander in chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.” (Question for Col. Wilkerson: Even if your observation about “a considerable portion” of the Republican Party was true, which it is not, is there no anti-white racism among blacks in the Democratic party?)
Then there was Chris Matthews, who said, “As a white person, I think it’s a statement against the white people to talk like this. It’s a sickness by the white people. Anyway, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.” (Notice he said “they” not “we,” since Matthews is clearly not that type of a white person.)
And then there was the aged Rev. Joseph Lowery’s alleged joke that all white people are “going to hell,” coupled with his indelicate comment that, “I don’t know what kind of ni**er wouldn’t vote with a black man running. Nobody intelligent would risk this country with Romney.”
This is where we are after four years of President Obama, but the reality is, for the vast majority of Americans, his election was not about race and, if he is defeated on Tuesday, it will not be about race.
We do well to focus on the real issues that caused his presidency to disappoint rather than to be bated into an argument about race.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.