Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Was America ready for a black president?

While listening to On Point, an NPR program the other day, I was struck by one of the caller's response to the shooting of a black man by a white police officer in South Carolina.

The caller, who identified herself as a white Hispanic woman from the Atlanta area, said all these recent shootings of unarmed black men is proof that this country wasn't ready for a black president.

It's a jarring comment that, in spite of President Obama's record-setting popular vote victories, is probably, and sadly, true.

Clearly, this country has huge problems with race that simmered during President Obama's first term but have percolated into the open during his second term.

It seems that many white folks out there are now perfectly comfortable in expressing their latent racism.

If you read any story that is even remotely related to race on Yahoo news or Fox News or the Wall Street Journal websites, the racist, anti-President Obama vitriolic comments from readers go on and and on and on.

It's disgraceful.

The 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War was commemorated last week, but, in many ways, that war still reverberates today. Here is a piece that shows how fighting continued for years after 1865. An estimated 50,000 blacks were murdered by whites in the South in the 25 years after the Civil War "ended."

Lynchings continued for decades after that, boosted in part by the film "The Birth of a Nation," which was released exactly 100 years ago.

A cop shooting or beating of a black person today, however justified at times, is so routine that it hardly seems newsworthy.

While formulating this blog post, another unarmed black man was killed by a volunteer cop in Oklahoma.

The difference now is that the video age has changed everything.

The Rodney King clip, more than 20 years ago, was the first video to show police brutality to the masses. Riots eventually followed.

It mirrored TV news footage from the 1960s of police using fire hoses on black protesters and also beating them. Riots spread throughout the country then.

The smartphone video from South Carolina is the latest to reveal how easily a white cop can shoot an unarmed black man in the back and how easily it is to capture for the YouTube generation. Without the video, Walter Scott would be just another statistic.

With the video, our country faces an uncomfortable truth. We're still at war with ourselves.

As we commemorate the assassination of Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago this week, we should be hopeful that nothing of the sort happens to President Obama.

Because if something terrible should occur to him or his family, I fear that the relative restraint the African-American community has demonstrated over the past six years will reach the breaking point.

And then, white Americans may realize that their protected, privileged world is truly gone with the wind.

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