In my four years as a history/government teacher, discussions about the presidency and presidential elections obviously come up in the classroom. When the subject of a future black president comes up, without fail a black student will ask me a question that essentially sounds like the following:
"Mr. Chanman, isn't it true that if a black president ever got elected, they would have him killed?"
It happened again today.
This question has been asked of me at both the high school and middle school levels, and I am still too shocked to give a coherent answer right away because I simply find it unbelievable that these conspiratorial theories still exist in the black community; right up there with the U.S. government trying to kill them off with crack and AIDS.
First off, the students are never able, or are to embarassed to articulate who the "they" is who would have a black president killed. Second, a February article in the Christian Science Monitor quotes a poll that says 95% of Americans would be willing to vote for a black American for President; that doesn't exactly make it sound like our country is still dripping with racism. Third, I can think of plenty of people who would love to see our current President killed, and George W. Bush is as white as white can be. I don't think wanting to kill the president is a racial issue; it is a political issue. Finally, it bothers me to no end that so many Americans of African descent still have their heads stuck in the 1950s. In addition to the black president assassination scenario, many of my black students seem to think that the KKK is still a major influence in our society, when in actuality it is now essentially a bunch of mouth-breathing yokels meeting in a swamp shack; they think that the vast majority of black Americans are still living in poverty and living in the ghetto. According to author Mona Charen, as recently as 1991, half of all black Americans believed that 75% of black Americans live in poverty. The actual number is around 26%; still not good, but by no means a majority.
One of the battles we all face in improving race relations in this country is the battle of the minds. All of these myths that are still harbored in the black community are poisoning relations on both sides of the racial divide, and an effort must be made - especially by the Republican party - to begin addressing these myths and provide the real story of the amazing amount of progress that blacks have made in the past 50 years. The Democrats are certainly not going to try to fix it. They depend on an angry and dependent black community in order to keep them voting Democrat.
Good Day to You, Sir