Lisa Falkenberg, Houston Chronicle, November 10, 2008
Some of my fellow whites apparently are feeling a bit confused, disturbed and even threatened by all the smiling, chest-puffing, Obama T-shirt-wearing black folks strutting around like they run the country or something.
Well, finally, for the first time in our nation’s history, someone who looks like them will be running the country. Can we blame them for celebrating?
Yes, apparently, we can. Where some of us see pride, and share in it, others see divisiveness.
“I thought this election was not about race, but that’s pretty much all I’ve heard since the result was declared final,” wrote another [reader], who went on to lament how Jesse Jackson wept openly, Condoleezza Rice “could barely contain herself” and a “usually composed Colin Powell was unabashedly happy that a black man was now our president.”
Another reader e-mailed Viewpoints on Saturday, apparently in sarcastic response to the Houston Chronicle’s promotion of a special section on Obama’s historic win: “Is it still possible to get reprints of the special Sunday section highlighting George Bush when he was elected in 2000 or 2004?”
A white loss
All these people can’t be oblivious to the historic moment our country has just witnessed: A man who would have been sent to the back of the bus in the 1950s will soon be riding on Air Force One.
“It’s a classic argument,” says Eric McDaniel, a University of Texas assistant professor who specializes in racial and ethnic politics. “The victory of a black person is automatically seen as a loss for white people.”
Instead of a symbol of racial advancement, McDaniel says some whites may see themselves as losers in a zero-sum game.
They see blacks as part of a special group looking out for their own, rather than members of the regular ol’ mainstream.
There’s also the general discomfort among many white Americans with any and all reference to race or ethnicity. We have the luxury of being fatigued by the subject. It’s not something we like to talk about because, usually, we don’t have to. We’re rarely the only white people in the room, or the restaurant or the class.
In the end, Obama’s win is a victory for equality in this country.