When Barack Obama became our president, many of us bought into the idea that his victory signaled a "Post-Racial America," or at least an America that was very much past the old way of dividing its citizens along racial and ethnic lines.
We were clearly wrong.
It's clear now that it will take far more than the first black president, or biracial president depending on one's way of looking, to get us to that long awaited land of post-race.
And we should have known that. After all, look how long it took to get to this place at all. Generations of racial divisions don't evaporate in one Presidential election cycle or term in office.
But what is more surprising, at least to me, is that in many ways it appears President Obama's victory and presence in the White House has actually caused a lot of people to get worse about their issues regarding so-called "race." Some on the right, possibly angry that a man with his complexion is the leader of this country, have been emboldened to speak with even more venom on matters of ethnic difference. The Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, The Birthers, the Arizona immigrant crackdown, even Dr. Laura and the whole "N-Word" controversy (because her issue was as much about Obama and Blacks complaining as it was anything else) -- they have all seemingly gone truly insane since Obama came into office. How else to describe some of the totally illogical and outrageous things we've heard from these guys of late?
But it is not just the people on the right. For some on the left, I think the expectation of a drastic change, in a short amount of time, an expectation that did not come to fruition, at least in the way many had hoped, also made them crazy too. It was as if some of us expected Obama to do the impossible in an incredibly short period of time, even after coming in on the heels of a long Bush legacy. And for some blacks, the fact that racism still exists, that their/our lives did not change because a man that looks like us is in the White House, caused many to also get more frustrated. We've always had incidents of ethnic tensions and animosity, but it's hard not to think some of the tensions are worse now. The recent attacks on New York City's Staten Island, of blacks assaulting Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, is I think, a factor of the new tensions, and somewhat related to the anti-immigrant talk in the country now, led in part by Arizona's silly and misguided focus on Mexican immigrants.
Even the major brouhaha in New York, and the ensuing national debate over the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," is a sign to me of a country not going forward in the way many of us had expected. The religious intolerance -- and that's what it is on this issue, since Islam is being acquainted with terrorism when Islam did not attack the World Trade Center, idiot terrorists did -- is another indicator that our prejudices have become more open rather than better.
But maybe the positive in this, the silver lining if there is one, is that things have to get worse in order to get better. So maybe all of this coming out in the open, as painful as it is to watch and hear, is a step in the right direction. Maybe getting all these feelings out in the open is indeed a sign of progress. After all, we do have to deal with these underlying frustrations, prejudices and issues and until we put it out there, there can be no dealing with it.
So looked at that way, maybe the "Post-Racial America" is indeed closer. We just have to get through this growth period before we get there. Let's just hope it doesn't get too much uglier before it gets better.