today in black history

March 01, 2024

Mississippi Senator Blanche K. Bruce, a Black Republican elected during Reconstruction, was born on this date in 1841.

All that’s Left……

POSTED: October 12, 2008, 12:00 pm

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With the McCain campaign growing desperate by the day as polls show Senator Barack Obama making significant progress in key battleground states, the presidential election is now turning on John McCain’s not so subtle “white appeal.” Over the last ten days we have watched McCain and his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, unleash a torrent of racially coded attacks that has given their followers license to resurrect hate that we had hoped had been buried with Jim Crow. Apparently the crow flies.

With the active encouragement of both Senator McCain and Governor Palin, speakers and supporters at their rallies have been motivated to shout “kill him” and “off with his head,” in reference to Senator Obama. Thought Senator McCain eventually tried to calm his bloodthirsty brood, it is apparent that the genie is out of the bottle. For almost two years running, the specter of race has hung over this presidential campaign and, up until now, every time it surfaced well meaning individuals in political circles and the media worked feverishly to temper the rhetoric. Now, with less than a month to go, the issue of race and racism has come back with a vengeance as a desperate campaign throws one last “Hail Mary” pass hoping to sow seeds of doubt about Senator Obama in the minds of white voters.

Congressman John Lewis is absolutely right. What we are witnessing is straight from the George Wallace-Lester Maddox playbook. When all else fails, remind working class white voters of the need for racial solidarity; despite the fact that it could work against their vested interest. Senator McCain’s contemptuous reference to Senator Obama as “that one” was his call to arms to those paranoid white voters whose guilt would have them to believe that a Black president will turn history’s table back on white America. The McCain team’s spiteful invocation of “Who is Barack Obama?” attempts to portray “that one” as a covert, anti-American, Black Muslim Arab sympathizer who is an undercover agent for terrorists abroad. It is conspiracy theory run amok and only capable of taking root when the appeal is made in the context of an anti-intellectual framework. The McCain campaign is hoping that a hate filled, sound bite driven volley as the campaign winds down will give their ticket the boost it needs among those white voters still burdened by race.

It has been sobering to watch Governor Sarah Palin, the poster girl for cut and paste politics, attack someone far more educated, accomplished and qualified to serve than she could ever hope to be. And it has been revealing to see Senator McCain hide behind his running mate as she makes baseless accusations that are an affront to the American public. If there ever was a time for Senator McCain to demonstrate real courage, it would be now. But he can’t because he has awakened the beast and history teaches us that once the lynch mob gathers, someone has to get lynched. He can’t play the voice of reason now with his angry mob because they have been promised a lynching and will now turn on him if their thirst for blood cannot be satisfied.

The historical parallels are clear. It wasn’t just ordinary white citizens who filled the air with racial epitaphs and clung to white privilege at the height of Jim Crow, it was whites who should have known better, who should have had a more enlightened perspective; like law enforcement officials, and religious and political leaders. So who do we see leading the hate parade for Senator John McCain? In Iowa it’s a pastor giving an invocation and suggesting that non-Christians around the world are praying for a Barack Obama victory. It’s a sheriff in Florida who uses Senator Obama’s middle name – Hussein - during a speech to subliminally cast him as an enemy of the state, while wearing his police uniform. It’s a New York County printing ballots with Senator Obama listed as “Barack Osama.”

So is it no surprise that “kill him” is shouted from a McCain campaign crowd and a Black member of the press corps is verbally abused at a rally in Florida. Neither should we be shocked that when John McCain asked a crowd in New Mexico, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” someone from the crowd yelled, “a terrorist” in response. And Senator McCain was silent. All that’s left is for Senator McCain to invoke the N-word. That’s about all his campaign has left to fall back on now. Even CNN’s David Gergen, no bleeding heart liberal and someone who has served in both Democratic and Republican campaigns, has warned that the incendiary tone of the McCain rallies could lead to violence.

This election will either make a long anticipated, and much needed, course correction in our nation’s racial journey or it will resuscitate the vilest element of our national culture that will make the foremost issue of the 21st century that of the color line.

Walter Fields is the Executive Editor of

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