Romney Pushed Boundaries of 'Acceptable Racism' to Extremes
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The District of Columbia, you see, is not just your nation’s capital; it is a Southern city with the same Jim Crow legacy of other Southern towns.In the Northwest quadrant of the District, where the White House lies, the dividing line was 16th Street; black residences were relegated to the streets below. The White House sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, right on the line. The population of the District is about half African American.
On the evening of election day, I was making the rounds of several places from which I reported, and was en route from a church in the Southwest quadrant -- an historically black neighborhood that had been razed in the 1960s in the guise of urban renewal -- to U Street in the Northwest corridor, which had once been known as Washington’s “Black Broadway” for all of the top-name performers its clubs, located on the black side of the quadrant, brought to town.
I was on the subway platform when the returns came in signaling the election’s result. The station manager took to the P.A. and announced, “Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.”
There were only a handful of us waiting at the stop. I was on one side of the bench, and four young women were on the other side. I was the only white person on the platform at that particular moment. The women, all African Americans, shrieked with joy, embracing in a group hug. I stood alone with tears streaming down my face, so amazed to have seen my nation cross this threshhold in my lifetime. One of the young women noticed me, and together with her friends, they pulled me into their hug.
On U Street, a party erupted, spilling from the clubs and restaurants onto the pavement. Drummers came from all quadrants, and in all colors. While there were plenty of us elders about, the night belonged to the young. It was their time, their moment, and we had a glimpse of what a joyful America could look like.
The thing about euphoria is that it’s a temporary state. And that’s okay; it’s the small bursts of joy in life that make the rest of it worth slogging through. But was that euphoria really pure joy, I find myself wondering today, or just the manic side of a bipolar America?
Perhaps the most difficult thing about covering the 2012 election has been how unremittingly boring it has been. That would be the other side of the pole. Racism and mendacity rendered mind-numblingly routine and monotonous through repetition. Depressingly commonplace.
As I write this, some prognosticators of the electoral map predict one that echoes the map of the Union and Confederate states in the Civil War -- a war that has never been quite settled in the minds of many Southerners, a war that was fought over whether states had the right to declare black Americans as something less than human and therefore subject to ownership by whites.
Whoever wins the presidency on Tuesday, America faces a long road ahead in the rebuilding of relations between the races, thanks to the destruction we permitted when the Tea Party came to town.