If things play out the way they're looking like they should, this Fall we'll have a ring side seat at the nerve racking side debate in the presidential election on whether race still matters in America. If Hillary wins, since both she and John McCain are northsiders, the side debate would have been focused on the 'been there, done that' gender question. But if Smooth Barack wins, outside of the age question, it's clear that the side debate will focus on the "Is America ready to elect a southside President?' question.
The anecdotal evidence seems to point to a definitive 'yes', but America's collective feet have yet to really be put to the fire. The March 2008 issue of Men's Health magazine had a nice article on 'Pride vs. Prejudice', a survey where they asked 1,229 men 'where they stand on matters of race and prejudice'. The participants did weigh in on the specific presidential question (check after the jump for their take), but answers to other questions (as well as another proposed confederate flag license plate) tells me that there's still work to do...
The demographics of the MH survey respondents broke like this: 65% northside, 17% southside, 6% eastside, 5% westside and 7% otherside. On the presidential question, 55% said America is ready for a nonwhite president. Then things got interesting:
- 53% said there's some tension in the state of race relations in America (no doubt)
- 63% said that they had a least some racist feelings
- 50% believe that we will never achieve racial equality
To be fair there was other good news in the survey:
- 89% approve of interracial relationships (remember these are *guys* being surveyed, shortys may feel differently...)
- 74% agreed that racism is a learned vs. an innate behavior
- 44% vs. 39% said it's never okay for authorities to racially profile suspects
So just when I started feeling a little hopeful again, I see this article in USAToday about a Florida legistator proposing a 'Confederate Heritage' license plate. Now as a southsider, I've got zero love for anything confederate. The flag is a permanent reminder to me of states that were willing to divide the nation in order to keep slavery legal. I can't understand why anyone would want to continue to perpetuate such a divisive symbol so maybe some of my northside homeys can educate me on that one.
Representative Donald Brown, the Republican (I'm shocked!) legislator who introduced the bill claims it 'has nothing to do with race' and 'It's a part of our history, whether we like it or not'. Hmmm...lynchin' and firebombin' southside home across the south are a part of our history too. I'm choosing the 'or not' option on that one.
So it's a mixed bag for me y'all. As I've mentioned before, I'm completely astonished that Smooth Barack is doin' as well as he is. On the other hand, I continue to share an unsettling concern about his safety the longer this thing goes. I've heard this concern voiced in mixed company as recently as Saturday at a party I attended. In my mind, we're either at the launching pad of a new era in race relations in America or at the precipice of a long fall that will clearly reveal just how deep our dysfunctional racial roots really go.
That seems to be the definition of 'cautiously optimistic' to me. Buckle up, sports fans - it's going to be a wild ride.