Blacks in the Corridors of Power

04/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

While doing research for a book, I somehow landed on a radical right wing, racist website, the online version of a magazine whose name I won't mention because I'm a firm believer in not helping unimportant and negative people generate attention just because we talk about them--like the long-legged blonde who says anything, no matter how vile or outrageous just to get media coverage; or the cigar-chomping, drug-addicted radio guy who gets off on inciting his listeners to hate. Just to sidetrack for a minute, I am reminded of the time, years ago, when the village of Coconut Grove in Miami was leafleted with news of an upcoming demonstration by members of the Ku Klux Klan; the neighborhood's weekly newspaper published a front page piece that said, What if the Ku Klux Klan Held a Rally and Nobody Showed Up? And, in fact, nobody did. The following week's paper showed a picture of a dozen or so white, pointy headed ghosts looking mighty silly and lost with no one around to heckle them!

In any case, there I was on this website, reading an article that started out reasonably enough but got more suspicious by the minute. And then I noticed a picture of President Obama over on the right hand side of the page, with a photo caption that read "The Beginning of Black Rule?" Um, that was when I realized something was definitely wrong (I'm a little dense sometimes). In his piece, the writer described being interviewed on a left-wing radio show, during which plenty of listeners had called in to call him a racist. But by the time he got back to his office, he'd received a slew of emails commending him for saying out loud what so many are thinking; and, payments for new subscription requests had arrived in droves. He posted some of the numerous encouraging comments that had flooded his inbox in order to illustrate the conclusion to his piece, which was meant to comfort his readers, and which really gave me the chills: Don't worry, you are not alone out there.

Being a black woman and all--plus I'm a Haitian immigrant, which makes me a double insult--I was perturbed, to say the least. 2009-03-04-YellowTaintedLady.jpg
It's not that I am naïve enough to think that we were already living in a post-racial society--far from it. It's just that the writer and magazine publisher, along with the people commenting on his piece sounded so not like a bunch of yahoos. They sounded like intelligent, educated, well-informed people who live in abject fear of the rise of non-whites in their midst. The end of the white nation, as they know it (all the while conveniently forgetting that it was a "red" nation before whites came along, massacred the natives and claimed it as their own)!

Succumbing to an insecure moment, this you are not alone bit got me wondering how many people in my immediate environment actually think like this? But I didn't linger there very long because I'm not paranoid by nature. My next thought was, I wonder how many people in Congress and in the Senate feel this way? How many of them are secretly horrified at having to accept Obama as the leader of the United States, and at having to accord him the respect and decorum befitting the Oval Office? And, more importantly, how much of that sentiment drives our current discourse?

There goes that race card bullshit again, some of you may be thinking right now, but you'd be wrong. I don't see racist bogeymen around every corner. Many of my best friends are white (!), including my husband. Sure, the right's irrational and united resistance to Obama's suggested fixes of our country's problems are fueled in part by differing ideology, and the drive to retain power and relevance. But, I think it's also driven by pure, unadulterated fear. And, knowing the enemy you're up against is the first step toward coming up with a winning strategy.

Painting "Tainted Yellow Lady" by Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrié