12.16.2006

Running for President

The possibility of a Barack Obama candidacy for president raises a lot of questions about the American people. The first and foremost, or course, is whether or not whites and some blacks, would be willing to support a black man in his quest for this country’s highest office.

Obama represents the second black man who actually has the opportunity to pursue the presidency with the potential for success. The first was General Colin Powell. General Powell opted not to throw his hat into the ring, reportedly because his wife feared for his safety.

The Obama camp reportedly is also considering or has considered the safety factor. The bogeyman for blacks seeking higher office remains the white man with the sniper rifle.

Safety is not something usually discussed with white candidates. They don’t fear for their life when seeking higher office. The average white candidate doesn’t need to fear for his life in politics. They only worry about whether or not they have or can raise money for the campaign.

And that speaks to the underlying racism still permeating this country. For blacks, it’s the knowledge that going down some streets or traveling through some neighborhoods can still get you assaulted or killed in America. It’s not about being a politician. It’s about having power over whites, something that some whites simply will not allow.

As a country, we have not dealt with our racial feelings. We think we have. We respond to the racism polls as if we’ve put racism and racial thinking behind us, but we really haven’t.

A recent CNN poll reveals the deep disparity on race between blacks and whites. Whites think the problem is solved. Blacks are nearly united in thinking racism is still a very real problem in America.

Racism has changed. It’s not about slavery, jim crow, or segregation of the races. The laws of the land have done away with these concrete situations. The perception of racial inequality has been slower to change and therein lies the problem.

Just because the law says everyone is equal doesn’t mean that folks think that way. Mindset, just like morality, cannot be legislated away. It has to die off.

So until that happens, black presidential candidates will worry about their safety first and their fundraising abilities second while being twice as qualified as the white guy to handle the job.
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