I’ve just finished reading an article in the August 11 issue of Newsweek. The issue’s cover is titled, “The End of the South: How Obama v. McCain is Unsettling the Old Confederacy.” The inside article I just read is entitled, “Southern Discomfort” and was written by Christopher Dickey.
Dickey noticed some of the same things on his trek into the South that I have noticed in my move into AL: there’s a level of ignorance that cannot be changed. I will not for a second imply that this ignorance is pervasive. It is an ignorance, however, rooted in a deep-seated racism that is peculiar to the deep South. It is an ignorance that cannot be changed with education because there are blinders created by prejudice which prevent any enlightenment. Take this quote from the article:
Yet even a third cousin of mine in the mountains of North Carolina, an independent-minded Democrat who voted for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004, said he can’t bring himself to vote for Obama, either. Why? “Because I believe he is a Muslim,” said my cousin. Not so, I said. He was raised a Christian and is a practicing Christian. My cousin shook his head. “I just don’t believe him,” he said.
There is no arguing with that. There is no enlightenment possible.
I was sitting in a local Mexican restaurant the other day when I overheard a conversation going on in the booth behind me. The three women and one man were discussing the “fact” that they could never vote for Obama because he doesn’t say the Pledge and he was sworn in on the Koran and would be again if he were elected President. Every intelligent American knows that these things are simply not true, but there is no telling those four people that those two things are falsehoods because, as we’ve discussed before, those falsehoods are simply cover for the fact that they can’t say, in public, “He’s a nigger.” As Dickey says in his article:
(self-caricaturing bigot Dent Myers) argues that when Southerners criticize Obama, “They say, ‘He’s a Muslim, he’s a mulatto Muslim, or quadroom Muslim … [only because] they don’t want to use the old N word.”
There are more fantastic and incendiary events and remarks in Dickey’s article and other terrific articles in the Newsweek issue and I strongly encourage you to pick it up. And now I’m going to do what I so frequently do: encourage you to educate yourselves, educate others, and use your vote wisely. And please try to open or continue the conversations on race in your own communities and try, no matter how futile, to correct the misconceptions. Too often, it’s like banging our heads against steel walls. But you never know when you may get through.