In preparation for my last two sermons in which I used the integration of Central High School in Little Rock as my primary illustration I was doing a lot of reading about that incident. And I encountered something interesting. The use of the term socialist and communist were thrown around a lot for those who favored integration
The country at the time was undergoing profound change. The very fabric of the culture was being changed along with how people saw the world, and there was little that people felt they could do about it. In fact, some felt like it was being shoved down their throats, often by an "activist" judiciary and federal government. Lots of things they believed to be true and unchangeable, were being shown to be not only changeable but also false.
In reflecting on this I could not help but think of parallels to now in which the term communist and socialist are being thrown around a lot again, especially against President Obama. Now it is clear to me that many of the people using these terms have no idea what they actually mean, but I can't help but also see the racial tie in.
Now do I think that all people who are opposing the president are bigots? No, of course not. Many are disagreeing fundamentally with the president's policies, and that's fine, that's what democracy is about. But many of those who oppose the president are bigots. All you need to do is to hear what they are saying or read their signs. Sometimes it is brutally open, and other times it is much more coded.
I do believe there is a direct correlation between the claims of socialism and communism on one hand and race on other taking place today. I think we are replaying a smaller piece of history again. Let's face it the country is changing radically. Whites will soon be the minority in this country, and that scares a lot of people. Society is no longer looking or acting like they think it should, the president being black is just the tip of the iceberg, and so they react with fear, which is the natural tendency when frightened. It is our base instinct coming out: Fight or flight.
Why do people challenge that Obama is American? Because he doesn't look like "us". Only someone like "us" should be in charge, only someone like "us" is American. We can see this throughout much of the rhetoric that is currently taking place.
Whiteness has been considered the "norm" for a long time, and for whites who just naturally assume this as being the case, without also recognizing everything that comes with that, most especially power and privilege, when that "norm" is challenged everything they hold as dear and fundamental is also challenged.
Now my particular area of study in history is post-revolutionary America, so I don't know if the issue of race and socialism were as prevalently linked after the 50's until now, maybe it's always been there just not as upfront. I would love to hear from anyone who has studied this issue in post 1950s America.
What I also don't know yet is what to do with this information, except to call it out when I see it.