I was frankly quite astonished when listening to the post-election discussion about how the election of Barack Obama was a sign that racism in the U.S. had been overcome. In fact, the discussion about racism through the entire campaign was laughable for how shallow and dismissive it was. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, among others, now emphasize the reality of “white privilege” when discussing racism. In a nutshell, “white privilege” means attitudes and structures in society which give privilege to whites and disadvantage persons of color.
I’d suggest that behind the increase of traditionally understood racist behaviors since the election of Obama is a reaction to his election to an office of privilege. Comments during the campaign about Obama making the White House a “black house”, or filling the cabinet of his new administration with African Americans is reflective of this “violation of privilege”. It’s not unlike the reaction within thousands of neighborhoods and “private clubs” when people of color began to move in.
Is all the reaction to Obama’s election racist? Not entirely. Although some clergy are saying that Americans have gone against God’s will in electing Obama, they focus primarilly on the matter of abortion. Having said that, I don’t recall the same venom being used when white “pro-abortion” officials are elected.
Now is the time for decent citizens to not allow the overt racist comments and attitudes to prevail. I believe that Christians need to be clear that racism is not something we accept … whether overt or the more normative “white privilege”.