If his election was a sign that the US has come a long way on matters of race, the way many people have responded to it shows that there is still a long way to go. In real terms, Obama being POTUS has not radically changed things in the struggles of black people and minorities. But for many conservatives, having a swarthy foreign-sounding guy in the top job is the end of the world as we know it. Obama is a kind of lightning rod for all the insecurities and contempt that some white people have about non-whites.
To Australia now, and evidence that despite his broad appeal throughout the world, pockets of rabid anti-Obama paranoia do exist here. Herald-Sun editor and columnist Andrew Bolt has never hidden his distaste for Obama, but the title of this post is surprising in it's no-holds-barred sensationalism:
Obama plans a race war
Yes, you saw that right. The heading of this article comes not from a white supremacist website, or from some far-right paramilitary group. It is from the flagship columnist at one of Australia's major newspapers.
Barack Obama appeals to two races to help fight the males of a third:
In the video message to his supporters, Obama said his administration’s success depends on the outcome of this fall’s elections and warned that if Republicans regain control of Congress, they could “undo all that we have accomplished.”
“This year, the stakes are higher than ever,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by Democratic officials. “It will be up to each of you to make sure that young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again...”
How would it have played in the media had George Bush appealed to “whites to stand together once again” in the next election?
Here is the actual video message. If you can spot the bit where he talks of his planned race war, you are a smarter person than me.
Of course, when heard in context it is clear that he is talking about the many people for whom the 2008 election was their first real involvement in the voting process, inspired by the Obama campaign. And they were largely young people, women, Latinos and African Americans.
But since Bolt and his army of rabid rightist followers are terrified by anything that doesn't specifically uphold the white males dominance, that translates as "race war".
Bolt's question "How would it have played in the media had George Bush appealed to 'whites to stand together once again' in the next election?" is the kind of thing you hear time and time again in discourses dominated by white racists. The implication of course, is that a call for whites to stand together would be attacked as racist, yet Obama says something similar about blacks and Latinos (and young people and women, but that's conveniently forgotten) and gets away with it.
To ask such a question, you need to be coming from a particular mindset: that society is a level-playing field and has always been so. That it is not significant that white males have traditionally dominated American politics to the exclusion of all others. Or, if you do recognise that white males have monopolised power all this time, it must be because white males are so much more awesome than everyone else. So there is no point in changing things to encourage others to have a share in that power, because frankly, they don't deserve it.
You can read the comments posted at the article if you like to observe ignorance and racism at work.