Commentary by Ron Miller
The term "post-racial" was used during the 2008 campaign to suggest America had transcended the issue of race, concluded the civil rights era and eliminated race as a hindrance to individual ascendancy. The election of Barack Obama, the first black man to become President, is offered as compelling evidence of our post-racial society. He couldn't have won without white votes, the narrative goes, so race is no longer an issue in America.
As a candidate for public office in southern Maryland, I have a unique vantage point from which to observe others, and one lesson I've learned is despite the current occupant in the White House, race still matters.
Consider these comments from last year's school board campaign in Calvert County:
Often times, people say, You know, you shouldnt be too concerned about color these days. I say, Crap!...We have African-American children attending our school system and we need someone who looks like them.
Or this reaction to Obama's losses in Calvert and St. Mary's counties:
"It comes down to two things: One, ignorance. Not stupidity but ignorance, a lack of information. The other is racism."
Attorney General Eric Holder declared us "a nation of cowards" for not speaking frankly about race. We can't speak frankly, however, because no one wants to be crucified for even suggesting something contrary to the liberal worldview of America as an inherently racist nation. If we want a candid dialogue, we need grace first and that's in very short supply where this topic is concerned.
When I first read the comments above concerning the only black candidate for the Calvert County Board of Education, I thought, "That just cost her the election." She was running a full-fledged campaign and sought support across the entire commmunity. The injection of race into the campaign, however, probably repelled people who otherwise might have considered her.
Does that make them racist? Not necessarily. The overwhelming majority of whites I've encountered are fair-minded and base their conclusions about you more on your behavior than your race or ethinicity. If you display a suspicious heart and an attitude of perpetual grievance, however, people will avoid you. That's just human nature. Barack Obama knew this and refrained from agitating about race even as some blacks, including his own pastor, tried to drag him into the fray. He was rewarded for his unspoken dispensation to white America with the presidency.
When a local activist and friend attributed Obama's losses in southern Maryland to ignorance or racism, I couldn't resist writing and asking her, since I didn't vote for Obama, which of those labels applied to me. Ever the wise and wily politico, she simply replied, "Friend."
While racism was a factor in how some southern Marylanders voted, I disagree that his losses in Calvert and St. Mary's were primarily due to either ignorance or racism. Ideologically, there is no difference between John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008; both are extremely liberal in their policy positions and worldview. Why would it surprise anyone that two reliably "red" counties that voted for the Republican nominee for President every election since 1980 would vote against the Democratic nominee in 2008?
Race is always the invisible, uninvited guest when I'm strategizing for my own campaign. During one such meeting, I asked a campaign supporter who also happens to be black if the fact my wife of 25 years is white would hurt me in Prince George's County, and she said yes.
I've gotten letters accusing me of racism for assuming blacks in southern Prince George's County would vote for me over Senator Thomas V. "Mike" Miller simply because I'm black. That may be someone's assumption but it isn't mine. During my first run in 2006, I worked harder and spent more time in Prince George's County, probably to the detriment of my final vote tally in Calvert County, because I didn't take their support for granted.
Of course, there are the cries of "traitor" or worse from black voters because I'm conservative and Republican. I care deeply about my race being fully assimilated into the American family and I'm practicing the values my parents taught me and that have brought me great success in life. Redemption is not found in resentment or looking back in anger. Only through forgiveness and grace can we find hope.
My desire is to be evaluated on the merits of my ideas and experience, but the culture still won't allow that. President Obama's election is an important milestone, but we're not in the post-racial era just yet. There's still work to do.
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a conservative blogger and activist, former and future candidate for the Maryland Senate, and communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party. Ron is a regular contributor to
ProLifeUnity.com. You can also follow Ron
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