Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Reality of Assassination

This is not a pleasant subject to talk about, but after the arrest of a would-be political assassin this week, one has to consider what many in the African American community greatly fear--that there will be something like 1968 all over again.

I am not sure if this is the right time to bring up the issue. Hopefully, this is nothing more than an academic offering that will never come to fruition. On the other hand, this is a country with a long, sordid history of killing off its political leaders--Lincoln, James Garfield, McKinley, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King. And with the exception of McKinley (Garfield was a civil service reformer), most of these leaders were progressives. And there have been many Presidents who have survived assassination attempts (FDR, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, W. Bush, etc.), and most of the ones who survived were conservative. Indeed, the US has one of the bloodiest histories of political assassinations of any democratic country and at times has rivaled some Third World countries (although we have a ways to go to catch up with such peaceful havens like Pakistan).

Moreover, while I would like to think that this country is very different in its racial attitudes than it was 50-60 years ago, we still have a long ways to go. Deep down, a good many whites, probably a majority of whites in the South, frankly do not like black people or would consider voting for a black candidate. Additionally, this is a country whose response to civil rights (from Reconstruction to the civil rights movement a century later) led to one of the most violence backlashes in this country's history--a backlash that helped create the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, and the murders of civil rights workers during the post-World War Two civil rights movement. True, I do believe we have progressed as a society (it would have been inconceivable to nominate Senator Obama back when George Wallace was standing on the doorsteps of the University of Alabama, trying to block racial integration). A majority of whites polled support interracial marriage, living next to blacks (although you could never tell when you look at many of the suburbs of this country), and are even mindful enough to make light of fellow whites who support Obama.

Still, I have no illusions about folk of my hue. If were really this open and tolerant, we would not be locking up an entire generation of black men in the concentration camp system of our prison industrial complex. Notwithstanding all of the anti-black nationalist rhetoric from that genus of love for all things black, Sean Hannity, when was the last time you have seen a member of the African American community assassinate a white politician? When was the last time you heard whites talk among themselves about their real concerns for the physical safety of candidates with their ethnic background? There is a reason why African Americans are paranoid about this. Many of their community's leaders, and even their supporters from the white community, have fallen victim to people like Mr. Geisel. And if you look at the polls, a majority of white voters will still be voting Republican (like they have since 1968). I am certain many of those voters care more about abortion or taxes than race, but ask the average 60 and over McCain voter his or her view on these issues. The honest ones will be quite illuminating.

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