Volunteering on Frank Jackson’s campaign for mayor of Cleveland in 2005, I was not surprised to hear a very unpleasant and vulgar word beginning with the letter ‘n’ used two different times. Still irritated, to be sure, but not surprised. Cleveland is a prime example of a town where racism still flourishes. This is why Obama’s tossing of his former pastor under the proverbial bus did absolutely no good, and may have even hurt his campaign in the long run. Obama cannot separate himself from his African roots no matter how hard he tries, no matter how white and nonthreatening he tries to make himself to white people. Obama was never going to get the bigot vote. Yet he thought he could simply by making a few speeches.

It saddens, but doesn’t surprise me that some of his followers are shocked to see racism alive and well on the campaign trail. No, their candidate cannot work miracles, cannot simply talk his way past hatred or heal racial divides by dissing his own as angry old relics. But why are these folk shocked? The other night I was having a political argument with my friend and mentor about Jeremiah Wright. He thinks Wright is a racist because the preacher believes AIDS may have been an invention of the white man to use against Blacks. While I disagree, and don’t think that is the case (no one would be crazy enough to create a virus that destroys the human immune system and think it wouldn’t affect everyone instead of just one group), I can see — given our history of experimentation with contagions and upon humans — why Wright and others like him might not think it such a far-fetched theory. And that appears to be the only thing my friend thinks makes Wright a racist. Never mind that false preachers such as Hagee, Falwell, and Robertson have actually blamed America for things such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other major disasters — all for imagined crimes of immorality.

The point is that just because Barack Obama waves his oratorical magic wand and declares an end to racism in politics doesn’t mean his snake oil pitch has worked, and no one should be expressing any surprise over this.

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