I watch in utter amazement at the change in the discourse of emails that my intellectual black friends send after President Barack Obama’s election as opposed to before it.
The emails used to be filled with hateful, vitriolic and outright mean language about former President George W. Bush. It didn’t matter to them that I had voted for him and was a proud, card-carrying Republican who had left the Democratic plantation.
But if I sent them pro-Republican, anti-Obama emails, they didn’t hesitate to hurl those same vitriolic insults at me: How dare I vote for someone other than the black man! How dare I be on the other side of this historic day – of the first black president!
Now I watch in amusement as those who never thought twice of calling for the demise and even death of President Bush rush to condemn any hint of displeasure at Obama.
There is even one friend whose involvement was limited to voting and passing on hateful emails, but who is now emboldened enough to confront the manager of a local book store whose window display included a book of a monkey in the midst of books about the Obamas.
It has become downright taboo to speak or even insinuate anything negative about the First Family – now that they are black. Obama even called a reporter to display his displeasure about an interview. Imagine that the president of the United States himself called to reprimand a critic. Now, imagine if George W. had called everyone who said ugly things about him over the past eight years. He wouldn’t have time to run the country.
So it has become painfully obvious that when you speak ill of the new president, you run the risk of being run out of town. I can’t imagine how many alphabet soup boys will be investigating me.
At any rate, the last time I checked, we still lived in the land of the free. And if people were able to even suggest the assassination of President Bush with impunity, then certainly others can speak their minds against President Obama with impunity.
That brings me to one of the best emails sent to me recently by one of my Republican friends. I read it with so much glee that you would have thought I was in church, clapping for the Lord.
Anne Wortham, an associate professor of Sociology at Illinois State University and visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote, “No He Can’t,” a thoughtful, insightful treatise on Obama’s election as “The First.”
Wortham, author of The Other Side of Racism: A Philosophical Study of Black Race Consciousness, wrote, “Please know: I am black; I grew up in the segregated South. I did not vote for Barack Obama.”
I thought, “OMG, a true sister who is not only my age, but also speaks my language and has had some of my experiences.”
But it was her “I do not require a black president to know that I am a person of worth…to love the ideal of America…” that got me.
Right on, sister! I was ecstatic when former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice were added to Bush’s cabinet. Not one, but two “firsts.” Not even Bill Clinton – who used to be “the First Black President,” that is, until Obama, the “Real Black President” – had any blacks in his inner circle. But since Colin and Condi were Republicans, 95 percent of the black community didn’t even consider them as being black.
Ms. Wortham even answered one of my friend’s questions: “You mean you didn’t cry?”
She said, “I cannot join you in your celebration. I feel no elation. There is no smile on my face. I am not jumping for joy. There are no tears of triumph in my eyes. For such emotions and behavior to come from me, I would have to deny …all that I know about Barack Obama as a politician…. about the kind of people who have advised and taught (him) and will fill posts in his administration…So you have made history, Americans. You… have elected … not an individual who is qualified to be president, but a black man who…promises to – Do Something!… But you have also foolishly traded your freedom and mine – what little there is left – for the chance to feel good.”
Now that was an email worth sending.
Barbara Howard is president of Barbara Howard & Associates and the Florida state chair for C.O.R.E. (the Congress of Racial Equality).