Image Credits: John Gress/Reuters.

It must be an intoxicating and fearful time to be a black political junkie. I assume this because it appears that Barack Obama is poised to become the next president of the United States, but, at the same time, a political junkie is forced to confront one racist attack after another. Try to read an article about Obama’s efforts to win Indiana, and you get subjected to this:

For others, like David Ward, who runs an antique shop with his wife in New Albany, the issue is race. Ward, a registered Democrat, said he will vote for McCain “mainly because he’s not black.”

Blam!! Out of nowhere, it’s like a sock to the stomach. Try to read Sean Quinn’s account of his travels in Western Pennsylvania, and you get this:

So a canvasser goes to a woman’s door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she’s planning to vote for. She isn’t sure, has to ask her husband who she’s voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, “We’re votin’ for the n***er!”

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: “We’re voting for the n***er.”

More pain. Go over to the Politico and read Ben Smith’s piece on Racists for Obama.

“I wouldn’t want a mixed marriage for my daughter, but I’m voting for Obama,” the wife of a retired Virginia coal miner, Sharon Fleming, told the Los Angeles Times recently.

One Obama volunteer told Politico after canvassing the working-class white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, “I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are … undecided. They would call him a [racial epithet] and mention how they don’t know what to do because of the economy.”

Watch any of the videos being made at McCain-Palin rallies, where Republicans yell, “Go back to Africa” and “We’ll vote for who we want, this isn’t the Oprah show” and brandish stuffed monkeys dressed up like Barack Obama.

Anytime they poll the American people about racism, blacks say there is more of it than whites. The raw racism on display this election season is probably more educational for whites than for blacks, who have had a more accurate picture of reality all along. But, either way, it’s deeply painful to see these suspicions confirmed in such a brazen way. It’s not so much that racist attitudes are being confirmed. It’s that so many people live in microcultures where racism is so accepted that they openly profess their racism to Obama canvassers, reporters, and other perfect strangers. It’s the lack of shame that I find most disturbing.

And it hurts me to know that black people all over the country are being traumatized by these hate-filled expressions of intolerance. It doesn’t help a bit that a racist is going to vote for Obama. That can’t take the sting out of their statements. That can’t take the sting out of the fact that this election has apparently given people license to say out loud what they were supposed to be ashamed to admit.

For a long time, a good section of the white community has been impatient with talk about racism and this country’s violent racist past. Why not get on with life and enjoy your full citizenship and civil rights? Stop making excuses for your poverty, and stop taking my tax money to pay for you to sit on your ass.

But, we can now see how widespread and virulent racist attitudes are in this country. And it’s heartbreaking.