AN ELECTION IN BLACK & WHITE by Charles L. Freeman

President Obama in Parma, Ohio; Thursday, July 5, 2012.

Supporters of Mitt Romney hold signs during a campaign rally Tuesday in Chillicothe, Ohio; Tuesday, August 14, 2012.

Parma and Chillicothe; two cities in Ohio, 153 miles apart. According to the latest available census data, the former has a population that’s 95.6% white and 1.06% African-American while the latter splits 87.4% white and 7.1% African-American. Based on those numbers alone, one would think that there would be at least the chance of seeing several black faces at Romney’s event, even if only out of curiosity. And yet, as the photographs above clearly show, that wasn’t the case just a few days ago.

While there will be places in the country where based solely on the racial demographics of a state’s cities or towns – New Hampshire for example – President Obama will speak before a virtually all-white audience, Mitt Romney almost always speaks in front of virtually all-white crowds, even in places like Chillicothe where there are people of color residing. In fact, I’ll predict right now, that after his recent speech to the NAACP convention where he ”imported” African-American supporters, the only place where Romney will speak before any significant number of people of color during the rest of this campaign will be at the upcoming Republican National Convention. And believe you me; his handlers are already hard at work to make sure their faces are seen on television.

However, this is mere window-dressing designed to cover-up one of the most glaring differences between these two candidates; one already the President of the United States and one who wants to be. For no matter how little the mainstream media tries to downplay the fact or the Romney campaign tries to ignore it, the 2012 elections are a stunningly accurate reflection of the racial polarization of today’s politics.

When one takes an objective look at the crowds at the two photographs at the top of this piece, it’s hard to believe that both were taken in the same state, a mere five weeks apart. The first one has a crowd that looks like the multicultural society that present-day America is while the second, if you take away the current fashions and hairstyles, could have easily been taken 50 years ago. And when you read and listen to the candidates’ policies and speeches, it’s even clearer that there’s a battle for not only the direction of our nation, but its’ very soul. For while President Obama speaks of moving “forward”, the Republican candidate and his surrogates repeatedly and loudly talk about “taking America/our country back.”

“Back” from whom Mr. Romney? And “back” to where? These are some of the important questions that the media should be asking you, but you don’t want to answer right now. In fact, your main campaign strategy on your policies and plans seems to be not telling the American public any of your plans for them and the country should you be elected president. A strategy that was neatly (and scarily some would say) summarized by your running mate Paul Ryan on August 14th when he said that your campaign is willing to discuss its proposals on taxes but only after the election.

I can only speak for myself, but as an African-American of many years, I can tell you that I get chills down my spine (and not the good kind) when I hear a politician, particularly a white Republican running for president in 2012, talk about “taking America/our country back.” When I hear that, I get a vision of an America that denied blacks and other minorities their basic civil rights including the right to vote. I think back to a time when abortions were illegal and performed in less than optimum conditions. I think back to a time when “Separate but equal” was not only an accepted way of life, but the law in many places.

And “taking back our country/America” goes beyond just color and race. All one has to do to confirm that is look at the Republican stance on social issues such as Planned Parenthood, reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, just to name a few, to see that this phrase stands for a return to a far more repressive society than the one we have now.

But, as the title of this piece clearly states, this election is a stark look at our nation along color, cultural, and racial lines. Take another good look at the photographs. Both of them could have very easily taken four years ago instead of within the last five weeks. President Obama’s supporters continue to reflect the nation as it really is and Mitt Romney’s, much as John McCain’s did in 2008, reflect the nation as it once was.

Through no fault of his own, the election of Barack Hussein Obama II hasn’t brought America any closer together than it was before it happened. Sadly, as we see the Republican and right-wing opposition not only harden and increase but coarsen, the sight of the Hawaiian-born only son of a Kenyan exchange student and a transplanted Kansan has brought out some of the vilest and most repulsive behavior we’ve seen in years.

Never before in my lifetime can I recall an American president (and in many instances, his wife) being the open target of the kind of disrespect shown to this one. From the horrible signs at rallies of the so-called Tea Party during the summer of 2009 to being called a liar by a sitting Republican congressman during a nationally televised speech before Congress to not even being given credit for approving and ordering the raid that led to the death of the terrorist most responsible for the 9/11 attacks, President Obama has endured the slings and arrows of racism with dignity, grace and intelligence.

Make no mistake about it, November 6th is as much about race and color in America as it is about jobs, economics and America’s standing in the global scheme of things. From the White House to the statehouse and the council in the smallest hamlet in the nation, this year’s elections are about black & white, literally and figuratively. And don’t let anyone tell you different.

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