We were so close.
For a minute there it seemed like America had come to its goddamn senses. It closed out the first decade of the new century by electing its first African-American president, while simultaneously handing him healthy, veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate after a decade of letting The Fear drive us into the arms of a half-witted dufus by the name of George W. Bush, who seized that opportunity to fail spectacularly at virtually every conceivable measure of the public trust in return.
During the Bush years — It took almost eight full years for people to realize that some random hirsute foreigner probably wasn’t going to blow up their ’91 Ford Taurus or reduce the local Piggly Wiggly to rubble in Allah’s name, but not before they let largely the same people who scared them into thinking so demolish their 401ks and drive the entire global economy screaming over a cliff. All this while simultaneously building the world’s largest self-service surveillance network ever conceived. Any pretense of the American notion of giving a shit about human rights took a pretty solid beating in the 00s, along with a lot of guys with names like Mohamed in CIA black sites scattered around the world.
But for one brief, shining moment towards the end of the 00s, a green sprig of hope grew between the cracks of the nation’s thick, stony head. For about a minute and a half — it looked like America might be on the verge of a true moment of evolution. At least that’s what a lot of us told ourselves back then.
To be clear — Shitty White People doing Shitty White People Stuff isn’t anything new. SWPs have been on a pretty hard roll for at least the last six centuries. But for about forty of the last fifty or so years in America, we have at least made it impolite to be openly racist in most rooms. Usually, that didn’t comprise of much more than at least taking a cursory glance over each shoulder before making a racist joke, but when you consider we aren’t that far out in geologic time from when a white person could buy and sell black people out in the open market — it’s at least some sort of progress.
Few people have summed up this plan on how to closet their racism more succinctly than Republican strategist Lee Atwater — who spelled it out verbatim…