Have you ever walked into a room and detected a barely discernible odor coming from somewhere and you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was or where it was coming from? You wonder what the heck it could be. Is it a dead mouse under the kitchen stove or perhaps an undetected sewage leak in the plumbing? Well, I’ve been catching whiffs of something foul ever since Barack Obama first announced his candidacy for the highest office in the land and I have finally discovered what it is. It is the subtle, but reeking rot of racism.
Of course I know Senator Obama is a black man and of course I know that racial prejudice exists here in America and puts off an offensive reek. So, what else is new? I guess what bothers me is that I’m finding it in quarters that I didn’t previously expect. It wafts up in more subtle ways than the blatant stench I recall from my childhood years in segregated south Texas. I remember at a very young age asking my Mom why I couldn’t drink from the public water fountain with the brown handle at the local A&P store. She explained that the colored people used that fountain and we were not supposed to. I puzzled over that yet didn’t question further because my sense of smell for injustice had not yet developed. It wasn’t until later, when integration happened and black kids came into our high school, that I had my first interaction with people of darker skin color. My olfactory sense awakened and helped me to realize that they didn’t stink, but how they were generally treated did. Being schooled with these amazing kids of color caused me to begin to hate the repugnant odor emanating from racial prejudice.
I have been somewhat naïve and perhaps a little sheltered in the last few decades of my life cloistered away in a remote valley in Tennessee. We have chosen to go without live television for most of this time and only recently put up an antenna to get a couple of fuzzy channels. The Internet, NPR and newspapers have kept me informed with as much of the world news as I can absorb and tolerate, so it’s not like I’m completely out of touch.
I know, without the help of media, that some in our mostly white community are prejudiced, but I thought it was confined to the less educated and older generation. Lately, the odor seems to be drifting in the air everywhere, like when the wind shifts from the south and the atmospheric contaminants from the paper mill in Alabama drift up to Tennessee. I’m starting to get the disheartening revelation that it’s not just the South that generates the putridness I detect. It’s somehow being released all across the country as if a mass graveyard, where things like racism are supposed to be buried, is being unearthed. Dank crypts previously sealed under grave markers of common decency, education and higher consciousness are cracking open and allowing the seepage of this rancid stench into the air. An issue that I naively hoped had almost completely died is being resurrected like a zombie or a vampire in a bad movie and is coming for the very souls of our families, friends and our nation.
I recently received an email from a friend in Florida that helped to sharpen my sense of smell and clearly revealed the extent of this pollutant that is emerging so strongly. It shocked me into the reality of how widespread this problem is. The letter, author unknown, raised the following questions that could be asked if the all white ticket and the mixed race ticket swapped pigmentation.
What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three-month-old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?
What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was divorced?
What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?
What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to painkillers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
What if Obama could barely read from a teleprompter?
What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?
What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?
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