White Fears and Mass Hysteria: The Seceded States of a Disunited America?
By Dr. Darron Smith
White Americans took the loss of Mitt Romney exceedingly hard. Mormons, in particular, are mourning the defeat of the first Latter-day Saint GOP candidate to make it as far as Romney did in a national election. But what lessons have we, the American people, actually learned about race since the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012? Considering our persistently sharp divisions along racial lines, it seems that racial animus is business as usual in unequal America. To make good on our promises to preceding generations that their children would have better opportunities in a less racist society seems to remain pipedreams. American racism continues to shape our nation’s group decisions on areas such as how we vote, who we marry, where we live, and what church we attend. These life-making decisions are not merely instantiations of “free will,” but instead, are decisions and actions based largely on how we’ve been socialized; unconscious and half-conscious processes in our minds (the strongest of these are arguably white racial frames) that guide and shape our racial understandings. We have seen racial primers in our society before (employment or underemployment, high incarceration rate, residential segregation, poor educational investment and early death, all of which are greatest among people of color), and these eventually led to civil unrest in our not too distance past. What will happen in our future as these indicators continue to show polarization along racial lines?
Since the passing of Jim Crow legislation that ended legal segregation and the Civil Rights laws of the 1960’s, this country has seen a decline in front stage racism (or outward race-hatred such as name calling). Though tolerance has increased in some regards, this does not mean an end to white supremacist attitudes and implicit or even back stage racism (negative racial attitudes toward people of color behind closed doors). Racist rhetoric has anything, but faded from our national memory. In fact, the election has emboldened and encouraged those who harbor such ideas to go on record with their beliefs (http://mashable.com/2012/11/10/racist-threat-obama/). White Americans continue to discriminate, whether consciously or unconsciously, against communities of color, and since the election ended, White conservatives are angrier than ever. But why? Is it that terrible having one black man in White House after 220 years (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-president/309064/)? White men still control Congress by a comfortable majority. In this 2012 Congress, the Senate is 96% white in comparison to other racial groups and the House is 83% white (http://www.amazon.com/White-Party-Government-Class-Politics/dp/0415889839/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348102056&sr=1-1&keywords=white+party+white+government). Forbes magazine’s top 400 wealthiest Americans is comprised of 86% white men. The re-election of President Obama is symbolic for many Americans of color, and yet, his mere presence has inflamed the passion and tensions of scores White folks, leading some to petition the federal government to officially secede from the nation. The White House revealed that over 40 petitions have been filed since the election requesting secession (http://www.examiner.com/article/obama-secession-44-of-50-states-petition-the-president-to-secede). Maybe this tactic is the “will of the people” or maybe it’s sheer propaganda. Whatever the case, it should give pause to the deep political chasm that stubbornly plagues the nation and has yet to be effectively mollified. The national discussions over what President Obama can do to help the millions of Americans struggling in U.S. society for jobs, healthcare, and their own general well being are epic. But is seceding really the answer? All the hoopla because Romney lost in an otherwise fair and democratic voting process? Might I remind you that we have been down that road before during the Civil War—a war that ended the deaths of 750,000 Americans?
As much as the Republican Party has shown an increasingly urgent desire to be seen as welcoming to minorities (particularly Latinos) and women, their party’s platform persistently fails to represent the interests of those historically disenfranchised peoples who have been left out and left behind. After decades of half-hearted efforts to attract Blacks and Hispanics, nearly 90% of Romney supporters were white. GOP leaders realize that unless it expands its pool of support, the party could slide into extinction in coming decades. The GOP’s base tends to be working class Whites who lack a college education and rural Whites as wells as top “one-percenters.” Democrats, on the other hand, tend to have more working class people of color and women as their current base, which is growing with each passing election. Given that those who self-identify as White in U.S. census data is precipitously shrinking as predicted by demographers, the Republican Party will have to create issues that are central to non-white voters in the future. Despite the emergence of a few candidates of color on the Republican ticket—the likes of Mia Love, Herman Cain, J.C. Watts, Alan West, and Mark Rubio, these candidates and their party have yet to display any central themes that represent the interests of the communities of color. But given the sharp difference in how Whites, Blacks, and Nonwhites see the world, I imagine greater division in the future unless we significantly change course toward a more equal society. The solution is not to secede, but to have more serious political dialogue and policy-making around issues like race, for example, that can divide us as well as to redouble our efforts to enforce the laws for ALL Americans, especially those considered “the least of these” in society.
Follow me on twitter @DrDarronSmith or visit me at www.darronsmith.com