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Doing dirty laundry in public

The issue of race has reared its ugly head in the US once more; Americans should not be afraid now to talk about it openly

The race issue in America is resurfacing again, with some commentators claiming that many Americans who oppose President Barack Obama's reformist policies, do so simply because he's black. Perhaps it's time for America to discuss the matter more openly, and some of the American media are now slowly beginning to do just that.

"Democrats see race factor for Barack Obama foes" was the headline of an article posted last Monday on, a popular political news and commentary website based in Washington DC.

"White racism's convenient target: Our president" shouted a headline on page 7A of USA Today on August 18.

When you talk to liberal or open-minded Americans, you will likely hear from them some form of admission that race is indeed still an issue, and that some white Americans are having a hard time coping with the fact that the man who occupies the White House is black - or half black and half white, to be more accurate.

"As far as African-Americans are concerned, we think most of it is[about race]," said Democrat House Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas. He was quoted by in response to whether he thinks the growing protests against the president have to do with racism. "And we think it's very unfortunate. We, as African-American people, of course are very sensitive to it," Johnson went on.

 "With some, I think it is [about race]," said Democrat House Representative Mike Hondo of California in the same article.

"Black people have lived under white presidents since day one," said another commentator, this time a Democrat activist, Gwen Dawkins. "So would you give him a chance?"

The article elicited more than 1,500 comments from readers online, even before the day's end.

The August 18 article in USA Today is even more disturbing as it claims that white supremacist militia groups are growing as a result of the Obama presidency. It quotes a source as saying that at least 50 new anti-government militia groups have been discovered.

"One of them is made up of present and former police officers and soldiers. Their creation has been spurred by the presence of a black man in the White House," the article stated.

"One militia near Atlanta created its own grand jury, a kangaroo court that indicted Obama for fraud and treason. His crime, it said, was that he wasn't born in the United States, and is illegally occupying the presidency."

Some anonymous online posters are very straightforward about the matter: "The hysteria has to do with a threat to a deeply-held belief in superiority and birthright being threatened. It is symbolism. It is about black and white and what America means. Stand up and say it people. Don't hide behind healthcare and some silly issue about a birth certificate. Say what is really in your minds. You want the order of things restored, where a black man could not become the leader of the free world.

"Don't be cowards. Say it! Get it out. What you have believed to be true isn't true, and it hurts. It hurts bad. But it's going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right," wrote one poster on last month, using the nom de plume of "Ohio Citizen".

Whether things will be all right or not will depend on how Americans deal with the issue. More open discussion is inevitable, but the recent, and now deep-rooted, culture of political correctness has ironically caused restraint, or even stopped Americans, especially white Americans, from discussing the matter openly.

It's unlikely that the matter will ever be resolved by having everyone keep silent, however. Perhaps it's time that America opened up and dealt with the matter in a straightforward manner, now that the country has its first black president.

Race issues continue to be America's dirty laundry, but some non-profit groups such as the Washington DC-based International Institute for Sustained Dialogue are working hard to try to improve race relations amongst university students, including those at elite universities like Princeton, by enlisting students to come and discuss the matter in a multiracial setting.

America can never truly be called a racially plural society as long as it continues to be mired in racial hatred and prejudice. It is time for America to confront the evil of racism in a manner that goes beyond the lame belief that problems will simply disappear by merely not talking about them.

Obama himself may be in a delicate position. He must be careful about conflicts of interest, and must not be seen to be unduly favouring Americans of colour. But this shouldn't stop others from tackling the issue in an open and earnest fashion.



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