Recycling posts written on and immediately after election night 2012 lends a critical framework in which to discuss the 2016 election and the challenges we face today. This post is the second in a series of posts that were written during the 2012 election season. We do so to recall the reality on the ground at the moment when President Obama was elected, and how that experience informs our theological reflections this election season.
It broke their hearts. NO! It shattered their hearts. Broken hearts mend with two equal parts coming together. A shattered heart? It is reassembled with____? What with? The disappointment, the sadness, the disbelief, the anger, the rage! Rage is the only way to mend a shattered heart. Because it put the pieces together in a way that doesn’t resemble the heart. It soothes the shattered heart with the content that knows the heart was…whatever shattered the heart was…I don’t know what, but it was wrong, something outside of us…it was not RIGHT. It is a heart reassembled in anger and hate.
Election night 2012.
Obama did something to white people that was never done before. It was curious. Dumbfounding. And when he did it, they didn’t expect it, and he was not sorry about it, and did not acknowledge he did it.
There’s no blue America or red America. That’s what he told them. What did they hear?
“There is only white America! Yeah!”
Finally, a well-groomed intelligent half-white person, but nonetheless Black man, told them that it is white America. After all, it is, and has been, the age of Whiteness for the entire history of U.S.A. That’s what he said. So they thought.
White people accept Black people in two different ways. Black people can be deferential or angry. Either way, it works. Whiteness is the subject of the sentence…or the order of life. They (Blacks, the world, people of color, African Americans, and anyone else) can accept it or be mad about it…but, it is white America…it is the white America world. But Obama just wouldn’t be Black.
As president, Obama did not defer. He did not appear angry. He acted as…as if WHITENESS was NOT…exactly, WHITENESS just was NOT a thing…was not THE thing.
He did not think he was equal to white people. He did not act if white people were the standard to be equal to. He did not aspire to whiteness. Whiteness was not defining. It was not red America. It was not blue America. But it was not white America either. He did not defer to Whiteness. He was not angry about Whiteness. He did not recognize WHITENESS?
That enraged white people.
They live in a world where they may have to accept—at least in theory—that blacks are equal to whites. But they cannot accept a world where WHITES ARE EQUAL TO BLACKS.
They can accept—at least in theory—where color doesn’t count. But they cannot accept a world where WHITENESS does not count. They are the subject of the sentence—WHITENESS is the beginning and everything else is a subordinate clause.
They were enraged election night 2012 not because Obama won, not because a Black man won…but, because Whiteness did not win, or more accurately, Whiteness lost. That is unacceptable. That means the whole inheritance of Whiteness is being challenged. Being white may not count for anything. The next election is about the primacy of WHITENESS. But it is too late—maybe?