Mark Naison: Hard Times Ahead ... Let's Hope We Can Come Together After This Brutal Election





[Mark Naison is Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University.]

The United States is heading into the most devastating economic crisis in the last 70 years with the worst of it's impact yet to be felt on the ground. As businesses shed jobs, soon to be followed by cash strapped governments and non profit organizations, millions, if not tens of millions of people, will be unable to pay their credit card bills, forcing a collapse in credit card companies and yet another round of government bailouts. By the time consumer credit mechanisms are restored, on a vastly more restrictive basis. it will be extremely difficult for most people to purchase any big ticket items whether it be cars, homes, computers or flat screen tv's without putting far more down in cash than they had been accustomed to doing. As the credit squeeze takes its toll, unemployment will reach double digit proportions and many Americans will be forced to sharply curtail their spending and dramatically change their lifestyles, skimping on meals, postponing vacations, carpooling to work, and sharing housing with friends and relatives.

Given the hardships about to descend on us, it is unfortunate that some members of McCain Palin campaign team have used racist and xenophobic appeals to attract voters to their ticket. Their racially coded messages, which have created a lynch mob atmosphere at some Republican rallies, reached their their apotheosis this week when a young female McCain supporter in Pittsburgh faked injuries inflicted by a mythical 6'4" Black Man who allegedly robbed her and carved a "B" ( for Barack?) on her cheek!

The sheer stupidity and irresponsibility of this act, especially at this historic moment, staggers the imagination. Using one of the most dangerous and potent symbols that have promoted racial violence in the United States, that of white womanhood defiled by Black male lust and agression ( one responsible for the deaths of thousands of black people in the last 150 years), not only shows the desperation of some McCain Palin supporters, it shows their complete misreading of the political climate in the nation.

, Layoffs and foreclosures, shrinkiing retirement accounts, salary and credit card freezes, and rows of empty homes and storefronts in once thriving neighborhoods have affected people in every portion of the United States, crossing lines of race, religion, region and political affiliation.. Republican or Democrat, Black or White,, Muslim, or Evangelical Christian, Blue State or Red State resident; we face the loss of jobs and savings and the prospect of depending on friends, relatives and possibly upon government for housing, food, and medical care. To survive this crisis with dignity, we are going to need kindness, and generosity from friends,neighbors and fellow citizens, not suspicion and hate. More and more, our neighborhoods and workplaces are multiracial. Exacerbating racial tensions will undermine effective and humane responses to the coming economic crisis

Fortunately, many Americans, especially working class Americans, recognize this and are going to great lengths to avoid offending neighbors and co workers during this bruising election. In the blue collar Long Island neighborhood where I have a vacation house, which is about 60 percent white, 30 percent Latino, and 10 percent Black and mixed race, you cannot find a single Obama or McCain sticker on the pickup trucks and work vehicles that drive through the neighborhod,park in its strip malls, or sit in homes and driveways. Nor can you find McCain or Obama signs on people's lawns. There are plenty of signs for candidates for local office, but if you didn't watch television or listen to the radio, you wouldn't know, by driving through this town, that this was a presidential election year

At first, I attributed this lack of campaign signs to apathy, but then I realized that in this community, where many people's jobs are dependent on home maintenance and construction for wealthy New Yorkers,the coming economic crisis has created an atmosphere of foreboding that dictates extreme caution in the expression of political views, especially those which might upset someone close to them. In the midst of the most passionate and divisive presidential elections in recent American history, my neighbors are doing everything in their power to keep their views to themselves, not because they don't care about which direction the country is going, but because they don't want to offend or upset some they are going to have to work with, socialize with, or ask for help.

My neighbors out here realize something we should all try to remember The real hard work of rebuilding our economy, and country, will come after November 4, and we cannot' afford to burn our bridges with people we disagree with, or whose racial background or religious traditions are different than our own.


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