Magazine article The Christian Century

Demographic Turmoil

Magazine article The Christian Century

Demographic Turmoil

Article excerpt

Ironically, racist attitudes may have increased during President Obama's first term. A survey conducted by researchers at Stanford found that 51 percent of Americans now associate blacks with words such as lazy and violent, compared to 48 percent who did so before the nation elected its first black president. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors racist and far-right groups, says that antigovernment "patriot" movements exploded during President Obama's first term, and it worries that they will grow even more rapidly after his reelection.

Resistance to black leadership is deeply ingrained in American history. Historian Steven Hahn, writing in the New York Times (Nov. 10), points out that ever since the slaves were emancipated in the 1860s, white Americans have resisted the idea of blacks wielding political power over whites. Hahn notes that only three African Americans have been elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction (Obama is one of them), and that this has happened in only two states, Illinois and Massachusetts. It is rare that an African American is elected to any office in a white majority district.

The so-called birther movement, which questions Obama's citizenship, and the widespread insistence that Obama is a Muslim indicate that many whites have trouble accepting Obama as a legitimate president. These movements fit what historian Richard Hofstadter nearly 50 years ago called the paranoid style in American politics. The paranoid style flourishes amid heated exaggerations of the facts and fabricated conspiracy theories--like the ones circulating now about how Obama will take away everyone's guns, how he will turn the nation into a socialist country, and how he is looking for a way to get around the two-term limit. …

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