California’s Shame Tarnishes a Stunning American Renewal
Nothing much could spoil the moment. When Barack Obama was announced President-Elect at approximately 8.00pm Pacific Standard Time, the hardest of hearts had to have shed a tear at the sheer enormity of the moment.
Ever since I left South Africa to become an American, more than twenty one years ago, I have found America’s hypocrisy around racism repugnant. She spoke a good game on paper, but when push came to shove, as I witnessed during the Rodney King riots, the land that spawned the Ku Klux Klan hadn’t strayed too far from her roots.
As my former country transformed, shedding Apartheid like a soiled coat, electing Nelson Mandela president, and producing the most progressive constitution on the planet, my new home welcomed me with “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell,” and Trent Lott.
It seems like only yesterday that ugly racists like John McCain’s buddy Don Imus were calling journalists like Gwen Ifill “cleaning ladies” and the young women of Rutgers’ basketball team “nappy headed hos.” The campaign leading up to last night was just as ugly. The not-so-soft whispering about Obama’s “true character”.
The stunning moment when McCain was forced to correct one of his supporters who had swallowed too much of his campaign’s racist Kool Aid, referring to Obama as an untrustworthy Arab. No, McCain defended. He was a decent human being. Because as we all know, Arabs and decent human beings are mutually exclusive.
Yet something shifted Tuesday night in spite of the thinly veiled racist slights and blatant racist email campaigns and smears, calling Obama a Muslim. That One. The Other. Too white. Not black enough. Not white enough. The replacing of Uppity with Elite. As I wrote just a few weeks back, in the thick of it – that Sarah Palin represented the “Tits on the Ticket personification of America’s racist undertone, allowing the narrowest of minds the perfect conduit to get away with voting for the bitch rather than the nigger and still look progressive.”
America said enough. The same America I begrudgingly forgave for screwing up the election in 2000, but loathed with unforgiving disdain for actually voting Bush into office in 2004, finally said enough.
America’s new President-Elect opened up a new and necessary chapter. I felt it Tuesday night, and again yesterday, and as I write now. The Bush nightmare with its ugly and hateful cast of characters will slowly fade into the background, despite the decade’s worth of damage they leave in their toxic, torturous wake.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for California, who chose to enshrine narrow-minded fear into its constitution. Funded significantly by a bunch of Utah-based Mormons, petrified at the notion of a same sex wedding, although not at the prospect of a union between one man and many women, Prop 8 passed. California will not recognize same sex marriages.
South Africa, upon shedding Apartheid, made sure that its constitution specifically prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, setting a global example of what equality looked like.
While the election of Obama -- this watershed moment, for all its wonderful, historic importance – is worthy of joyous celebration, California’s cowardly clutch to the past, where fear, hatred and discrimination still have their claws in deep, demonstrates that America still has a long way to go before attempting to reclaim her moral authority.
Causes Clinton Fein Supports
First Amendment Project
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network