This morning, two of my coworkers asked me who I voted for in last night’s primary. Upon hearing that my support went to Barack Obama, they responded with absolute horror. No, not just incredulity. Horror. Shock. Disgust. I’m serious.
“What do you think is going to happen to America if that guy...you know he’s black...you kids don’t know...you don’t know what it was like...when that black guy was Mayor of New York - Dinkins - do you think that was good...I’m telling you right now, white people are going to have a hard time...I would never vote for him...” and on and on.
Effectively what they were saying was that electing Barack Obama as President would turn the United States of America into the United States of African-America, a place where blacks hold uncompromising power over whites and other minorities.
To which I say, quite frankly, “What the fuck?!”
These women - one is from Russia and the other from Peru - both U.S. Citizens now (interesting, perhaps, though I’m sure that has less than nothing to do with their feelings) - just shook my faith in the American electorate. Not because they want someone other than Obama to win (one of them didn’t even vote, and hundreds of thousands of other people want someone else, too), but their (lack of) reasoning for it. I mean, I’m not asking other people to carefully consider the policies and qualifications of the candidates. I guess all I’m looking for is a shred of rationality - even merely a little excitement about one candidate in particular - a sense that the motivation is rooted in something other than being strongly against (and especially for racist, sexist, or related reasons) the others.
I tried to argue that just because they didn’t like New York City under Mayor Dinkins (and here my other coworker piped up to say that he liked Dinkins), that didn’t mean that America under Obama would be remotely similar. The assertion that not all black people are exactly the same, just as not all white people are exactly the same (duh) fell on deaf ears.
One of these women actually indicated that if Hillary Clinton did not win the Democratic race, she would, without a doubt, vote for “that other guy” - a politician on the “other side” whose name she didn’t even know.
I have never - never, not once, ever, in my entire life - personally experienced the expression of sentiments like those to which I was a witness this morning. Never.
How naive of me to think that we had somehow moved past this kind of hateful, hurtful stuff. The way they said to me, “You want a black man to be President?” with such disregard for the possibility that I might have black relatives or close friends - just an assumption that I was somehow betraying my “race” - really hurt. And it was really disappointing. I really hurt for them, too.
One thing I agreed with: “You kids don’t know what it’s like.”
Nothing could be more true.
And, given the taste I got this morning, nothing could be more welcome.