A reader writes:
In your post "Email In West Virginia", you close with "When people simply refuse to deal with fact, something else is going on." I've been thinking about what's going on for a while. This FT piece set me off . At the end of the article, they quote a young West Virginia man who "insisted he was not racist", but said "I want someone who is a full-blooded American as president".
At first, I thought this was standard anti-immigrant stuff. Then I had an epiphany.
Remember "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"? A rich, highly educated, well-spoken, widely respected, black doctor freaks out his girlfriend's progressive, liberal, elitist, white parents? Yes, that was 1967, but how far have we really come since then?
My own grandmother was a liberal atheist. She campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment. She came from a progressive, politically active, elite liberal farming family in Iowa. She believed in civil rights for all. She treated Native Americans with respect at a time when they were still considered dirty Injuns. And she had no problem getting along with blacks in Seattle before she died.
What my grandmother absolutely would not tolerate, however, was miscegenation.
Blacks, Asians, Jews - all of these were perfectly respectable associates. But marrying one, for a "white person", was completely unacceptable. The ultimate taboo, really. For older people, and people who live in areas that have long been predominantly white, the miscegenation issue is the last bastion of knee-jerk racial identity. And whites are not alone in this. Every well-defined racial and cultural group has this taboo actively at play, even today, regardless of political bent.
When an older female Clinton supporter refuses to believe Obama is not muslim, or a young West Virginian hankers for someone a bit more "full-blooded" than Obama, they are using code-words for the ultimate threatening "other", the other that sneaks into your home and screws your daughter and destroys your bloodline.
The very qualities that allow Obama to cross racial and cultural divides with his message of unity, that make him a "non-threatening black man", also make him anathema.