Posted on September 16, 2008

‘Race War’ in America

Fatimah Ali, Philadelphia Daily News, September 16, 2008


Thousands of hostile messages flooded my e-mail after my Sept. 2 column that the Daily News called “We Need Obama, Not 4 More Years of George Bush.”

Drudge cleverly headlined it: “Philadelphia columnist warns if McCain wins, look for a full-fledged race war.”

I stand by the column—but after all of that backlash, I realize I was dead wrong. We don’t have to wait until after the election for a race war. We’re in one now.


I hate violence, but I do see a growing wave of intolerance sweeping the nation. And most of the responses were hostile, like one from someone who identified himself as Dennis Van Pelt: {snip} But, not all white Southerners feel like Dennis. Russ Nelson wrote: “I am a white male who was proud to cast my vote for Barack Obama in the Alabama state primary. He inspires me!”

Nelson sounds more like the liberal whites I grew up with in West Mount Airy, a community that pioneered integration in Philadelphia and kept me wearing rose-colored glasses. I didn’t personally experience racism until I was 40, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.


But from what I’ve been seeing lately, including the reaction to my column, the racial, economic, cultural and religious divides are getting wider. Most of the 2,000 negative responses used language so foul my ears curled.


Do these quotes shock you? Is the vitriol not far from the kind of hatred that led to lynching?

Unfortunately, sentiments like this are not uncommon. Flip through right-wing talk radio, and you can hear this type of intolerance daily. {snip}


Decades after Brown v. Board, after a long civil-rights struggle and the fact that we live in an increasingly multicultural society, our nation’s sagging economic state is also causing great racial strife among those who are financially at the bottom.

In some neighborhoods in L.A., violence is rampant between blacks and Mexicans. Gang wars are frequent, and, the LAPD says, are based on race and competition for jobs. In Philadelphia, police believe several recent robberies and murders of shop owners were directly related to race.

No, we’re not anywhere near “post-racial” times. If we were, the possibility that a black man may well become our next president wouldn’t matter. {snip}

[Editor’s Note: Fatimah Ali’s column, along with comments from AR readers, can be read here.]