This is for Vanessa in South Florida.
She emailed me a few days ago after spotting a bumper sticker that read: 2012 Don’t Re-Nig. “Honestly,” she wrote, “I don’t know how to process my outrage, so I’m handing it off to you. I know that President Obama’s race has always been an issue to many people, and perhaps I live a relatively sheltered life in Democratic-leaning Broward County, but I’m still stunned by the sentiment. I’m even more stunned, naive though that may be, by the fact that some people believe it’s appropriate to flaunt that sentiment — and that it’s not a source of shame.”
Vanessa, I’m afraid I’m not nearly as shocked as you. After all, the sentiment that bumper sticker expresses has been part of the Obama narrative since before he took office.
Some of us grapple with a sense of racial and cultural dislocation, the jolting sensation in a changing nation, that their prerogatives as white people, assumptions so ingrained as to have never previously required the slightest thought, are now in question. They want “their” country back. As the great satirist Randy Newman sings in a new satirical ballad:
“I’m dreaming of a white president
“Just like the ones we’ve always had
“A real live white man who knows the score
“How to handle money or start a war.”
But for others of us, it’s not anything so nuanced as a sense of dislocation — just the same old hate as always.