An article in The Root (via Avedon) seems to satirize the question I have been trying to deal with for a week (and having all sorts of Typepad-related problems, along with others) but then winds up taking it seriously, which I think it should.
"Would black people riot if Sen. Barack Obama didn't win the election?" That was the question a white man in Memphis recently asked a racial reconciliation group with which I am involved.
After five years of being a columnist for the daily paper in Memphis, I wasn't surprised by the absurdity of his query. Many whites still labor under the illusion that black folk act en masse and that if you ask the right one, you can get the official position of some 40 million people. If a few of us get angry, that logic allows, it must surely result in a riot.
Riot because we didn't get our way? Please. Black people have more than their share of experience with disappointment and dashed dreams. (See: King, Martin Luther; Evers, Medgar; Chaney, James.) Matter of fact, I'd go so far as to say we're experts in making the best out of a losing hand.
The reply to the curious white gentleman: "No! There is no reason to believe black people will riot if Obama does not win."
Actually, there are. Two of them.
Reason #1: The riots when Martin was murdered. Those riots did NOT happen in Memphis, which is maybe why Ms Thomas could afford to be so dismissive, but they devastated a number of other cities, including LA, Detroit, and Atlanta. Memphis blacks may have forgotten the rage of the Watts riots but white folk, I can assure you have not, not with the GOP subtly referring to them every fifteen minutes since the day they happened. Rich whites aren't the only ones afraid that one of these days blacks are going to finally lose their tempers and there will be a full-scale revolution. All it would take, they say, is the right spark, and Obama losing could be it.
And they might be right, but not for the reason they think. Blacks will riot because they're "disappointed" in the result? No, because...
Reason #2:...because the GOP most likely stole another election. TMiss and Avedon Carol have both been treasure houses of links about the Republican effort to cage voters, challenge every single Democratic/black/Hispanic/poor/absentee/military voter on the rolls in every state. It is an effort that has been slapped down at least three times in local and appellate courts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana, while the beat goes on in as many as a dozen other states, including New Mexico, Texas and Pennsylvania. Anybody who thinks the GOP can't outright steal a national election that isn't particularly close hasn't been paying particularly close attention.
The evidence is going to be there a lot quicker than the last two stolen elections because the news has finally penetrated the public mind that the last two elections were actually stolen and now we're looking as it happens instead of months - or years - later. The black folks I've talked to around here are already convinced that if Obama loses the only possible reason is another GOP rigged vote, and the polls make it look like they'd be right.
And they're not alone. We might join them, we angry white prog-libs who have watched while the Democrat conservatives helped the radical GOP movement conservatives rip off the Treasury, disembowel the Constitution, help itself to our homes and wages, and dismantle both the govt and the world economy for the sake of
corporate interests the "free market" myth. We're the ones who caught the fact that the last two elections had been rigged by Rove's Boys, and we won't be the least bit happy if it happens a third time.
Not the least bit.
But later on in the piece, Ms Thomas looks at the other side.
[T]here is a small but vocal segment of white Republicans who just might have an aneurysm if the next occupant of the White House is a black man.
If the polls are accurate—and Obama wins—will these few angry white people make good on their oral declarations? And will those who stood by them silent, join them? With dreams deferred, can angry whites do what Langston Hughes taught us—to let it fester like a sore, even to let sag like a heavy load? Or will the dream of a perfect streak of white men in the White House, if deferred, cause white people to explode?
Might they torch stores and overturn cars? Or worse, will angry whites take out their disgust on black people by, say, denying loans, or jobs or housing? Burned-out stores and cars, that's unsettling. But the damage angry whites could inflict if they really go off—that's scary.
Will angry white people riot if Barack Obama wins the election?
With all due respect Ms Thomas, you bet yer black ass we will.
Ms Thomas isn't sure it's even a legitimate question but the blacks I've talked to in Savannah - a fairly laid-back, tolerant town as Southern racist cities go - are all talking about it. "If Obama wins, are the crackers going to come after us?" pretty much sums it up. A sizable chunk doesn't think the question is "if" but "when". Will the whites riot as soon as the election results are in? Or wait until Obama is sworn in in January?
It's a more than fair question. The disappointment over the GOP failure to make their fantasies real has clearly angered a seething portion of the white cracker vote. Fed by the McCain/Palin/RWNM, the cracker-wingnuts are looking for somebody to blame, yes, but they also want to take out that anger and loss of status on someone, preferably someone not white. Not white and not American? Say, Hispanic immigrants (all of whom are illegals as far as the wingnut-crackers are concerned, paper status notwithstanding)? Even better, maybe.
But when you talk to whites the picture, at least here, is somewhat more complex. A few years ago a black man in the presidency would have sent many of the white guys down here sailing up Pennsylvania Ave with their shotguns loaded and a truckload of nooses right behnd them for easy access. The usual cartoon of the Southern racist, and there would be a lot from the west and east and north who would be right behind him.
But that was a few years ago. Since then the vast expance of Bushian/conservative failure at almost every level has covered the nation with a dark cloud. People are watching the economy, the war, the schools and roads and bridges, collapse right in front of their eyes. They are watching the bail-out of the overwhelmingly Republican bankers who ripped them off, are in the process of taking their homes, and are so shameless they're taking the bail-out money and using it to pay bonuses to the same execs who screwed the people in the first place.
In times like these, a wingnut-cracker doesn't know how to feel. Everything used to be so clear but now it's all terribly confusing. He'd like to string up all those niggers and spics, it would make him feel better and they deserve it for stealing jobs that rightfully belong to him. But they weren't the ones who put him in this position. They didn't destroy the economy or foreclose on his house. He tried to believe that cock-and-bull story about the FM's causing the mortgage crisis, he tried hard, but in the end he just couldn't swallow it. He knew it wasn't true no matter how often they said it on Fox.
In the wake of the destruction of long-term, long-cherished fantasies of conservative "you can be rich and you won't have to sacrifice anything but your neighbor" tales of merger and acquisition, the cracker-wingnut seems to have come to an epiphany. Many have discovered, much to their shock and awe, that they hate Bush/Banker Republicans more than they hate blacks.
This has not been easy for them to absorb. They've had to chew on it a long while as the world fell down around their ears and all those pre-digested "ideas" turned to poison they had to puke up.
"I'm goin' to vote for that black boy."
Ripped out of a cracker-wingnut's very nuts but what choice does he have? Reality has made its way through his blinders at last and he no longer has a choice. Further denial will just make things worse - worse for him.
So will they or won't they? How will the confusion resolve itself?
I don't know but blood in the streets wouldn't suprise me no matter whose it is.