Seven states have reached the signature threshold to have their petitions to secede from the Union addressed and responded to by the President. Texas leads the way with about 100,000 signatures, followed by Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida with about 30,000 each. Six of the seven states voted overwhelmingly for Romney in the Presidential election. Obama narrowly won Florida. On the other hand, Austin, the Capital of Texas, is talking about seceding from Texas.
To my knowledge, this is the first time this has happened on such a grand scale since the South seceded from the Union and the Civil War resulted. The issue 150 years ago was race and that's the issue this time too, even though you'll get few people to admit that. So they'll blame it on taxes, or welfare, or the unemployment rate but those aren't really the issues at all. Racism was the underlying current in both of Obama's races for the Presidency and it's the underlying current in the secession movement as well.
I've been paying attention to presidential elections since I was 7 years old and never was there talk of seceding from the Union because people didn't like the way the election turned out. Of course, all the other candidates, winners and losers, were white. Obama's the first black.
So this is the condition of our country in 2012; a country almost evenly divided in its politics and a country still unable to shake the ugly, confining tentacles of racism. People who study race relations understand the reasons for racism. We're all ethnocentric, liking our own kind better than any other kind because we understand ourselves much better than we understand others. So when people come here from other countries with a desire to be free, instead of embracing them, we reject them because they don't look like us, dress like us, talk like us or believe like us. But as I mentioned in last week's column, we're rapidly approaching the tipping point where there's going to be more of 'them' than 'us' and that idea has almost half of our population flummoxed, distraught and confused.
I remember the hateful words thrown at people who befriended blacks when I was growing up in Arkansas. They were called n***** lovers which totally missed the point and demonstrated an abject ignorance of human relationships. Some people look for similarities in people while others focus on differences and that's the difference between seeing people as people while others define people by the color of their skin.
I have known black people in my life that I didn't care for very much. But it wasn't because of the color of their skin but rather their words, their attitudes or their behavior. The same goes for other minorities as well as white people. And even though I know that qualified minorities increase the job pool which makes it more difficult for whites to compete and get jobs to support their families, the blame is misplaced. Instead of blaming a person of color for their failure to get the job they wanted, maybe the blame lies with them instead of the other guy. Maybe if they had worked harder or studied longer, or developed their skills or gotten a degree they wouldn't be in the position they're in.
I know a lot of people have never liked affirmative action programs and I agree it's a necessary evil. Nobody wants to be denied a spot in a college classroom or get turned down for a job when someone less qualified than him or her gets that seat or job based only on the color of their skin. But it had to happen that way in the beginning because all the people in positions of power were white and they weren't going to hire people of color unless they were forced to. And so they were. I have hoped for a long time that we were getting close to being able to dismantle affirmative action and allow people to compete based on their talent and abilities rather than the color of their skin.
But the deep division between us in the last election plus the number of people signing petitions to secede from the Union has convinced me otherwise.
We still have a hard, long road to travel.