I have a confession to make. When President Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election, I was very happy. I knew what a historic moment it was. Yet I didn't experience the sense of elation that many other blacks did. A part of me felt numb as I watched black elderly people who'd lived through Jim Crow discuss what Obama's election meant to them. By showcasing such blacks, the mainstream media seemed to be implying that the 2008 election meant racism was dead and gone. I simply didn't buy it.
Although I'm fairly young--my Tennessee-born mother barely remembers segregation--I've felt the sting of racism. In fact, when the 2008 election took place I was still recovering from the most blatant racism I'd ever experienced. I won't go into specifics about what happened to me, but suffice it to say that certain individuals let me know that my blackness was an issue for them. My race meant that I didn't measure up and would never be welcomed by them. They refused to even utter my name because my blackness meant they didn't have to acknowledge my existence.
Everyone in my life--friends and family, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos--could not believe that I was subjected to such in-your-face racism in 2008. Yet I was. Given this, I watched the election coverage very skeptically. As the weeks and months and finally years begin to pass, the nation disabused itself of the notion that Barack Obama's presidency had ushered in a post-racial America. By this time Americans had seen the doctored images of Obama as a shoeshine boy, as a grinning Sambo-like caricature on a box of waffles, as a chimpanzee and as a terrorist. We saw Obama's White House superimposed on a watermelon patch and his face used to hawk fried chicken. We saw the racist signs at tea party rallies referring to Obama as "an arrogant Kenyan" or more recently the one at a Mitt Romney rally calling for the public to "put the white back in the White House." We saw the birthers repeatedly challenge the legitimacy of the first black president's right to be in office by claiming that his birth certificate was a fraud. We saw Obama shouted down while addressing the public, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer waving her finger in his face and other unprecedented acts of disrespect targeting a sitting president. All in all, we saw that Obama's presidency had unearthed racism rather than buried it.
If Obama wins reelection it will signify in many ways that the hate mongers lost. Of course not everyone who's backing Mitt Romney is a hate monger. Gallup has found, however, that a significant number of Romney supporters say they're not really voting for him but against Obama. You can find the hate mongers in this group.
Will the hate mongers triumph if Romney wins? Not necessarily. Black president or not, the United States is a much more diverse place than it was just 10 or 20 years ago, and Romney will have to serve people of color along with whites, if elected. Just as President Barack Obama has pointed out that he's not president of black America, Romney will not be president of white America if he wins the 2012 race. He'll have to contend with communities of color, the 47 percent and the "very poor" people he said he's not concerned about. While a black president can be driven out of office, hate mongers will never be able to drive black and brown people out of the U.S.