You see, the residents of the Intolerant States of America would have
you believe that intolerance is now a thing of the past, popular only
among the ignorant. In this limited worldview, the original sins of
the Intolerant States of America were washed away just 40 years ago by
the heroes of the civil rights era.
Great victories were won then, and they were felt the world over. But
to believe these victories have vanquished intolerance is to do the
heroes of our past a great injustice.
It might be that it is no longer acceptable to say the “n-word” in the
public sphere, but intolerance has found new ways to inject it’s poison
into society. In the quote above, Leroy Pollard does not once mention
the fact that Obama identifies as a black male. Instead, Pollard’s
intolerance is directed towards residents of the majority world (“he’s
from Africa”), towards unauthorized migrants (“bring his family over
here, illegally”), and towards Muslims (“then there’s the Muslim
thing”). Some might argue that these phrases are just
substitutes for racism, but it runs deeper than that, in my opinion.
Pollard’s words don’t just amount to racism, they amount to nativism
and religious intolerance, as well.
Intolerance did not die along with the now sanitized image of the
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.,as the residents of the United
States of America would have you believe. It just mutated as it has
done since time immemorial. Intolerance is not relegated to the small
and backward towns of the United States of America, it is within every
one of us. Like demons, lurking in our subconscious, awaiting
resurrection, intolerance is summoned from the lesser halves of all of
These demons win when we see them as a thing of the past. These demons
win when we see them only in the minds of others, far away from
ourselves. These demons win when we fail to see them as a confluence
of sentiments, where fear of Muslims, can turn to fear of migrants, can
turn to fear of brown people, can turn to fear of the majority world.
Daily we must religiously search our souls for these demons and work
hard to find ways to stand against them.
I don’t know what makes me more sad, the fact that Leroy Pollard
considers African people, unauthorized migrants, and Muslims as less
than worthy humans, or the fact that Barack Obama considers these
rumors so damaging to his electability, that he works constantly to
distance himself from these categories.
What I do know, is that there is always hope. Even in the darkest of
nights there is light and all we have to do is move towards it. There
is one set of Obama supporters who, rather than distance themselves,
have chosen to embrace the aspect of Barack Obama’s identity that is
inspires so much hate.
Emily Nordling has never met a Muslim, at least not to her
But this spring, Ms. Nordling, a 19-year-old student from Fort Thomas,
Ky., gave herself a new middle name on Facebook.com, mimicking her
boyfriend and shocking her father.
“Emily Hussein Nordling,” her entry now reads.Jodi Kantor – New
York Times (29 June 2008)
Nordling has never met a Muslim, but still she has adopted Obama’s
Muslim name as her own in an act of defiance against the intolerance
that has sprung up as a result of Obama’s candidacy. I am still
undecided about who I’m going to vote for, but Nordling’s act has so
inspired me that I’m going to follow her lead for at least the
remainder of the election season.
From now on, please refer to me as Kyle Hussein de Beausset.