If there was any doubt of a racial component during the past election after the coordinated attempts at targeted voter ID laws to disenfranchise racial minority voters, a number of events following the election have shown that racism seems to run deeper than thought and that a post-racial change in our cultural-political society has a long way to go.
“I wonder how many students sat in their dorm rooms tossing around racial slurs and racial threats?,” wrote Dr. Ibram H. Rogers, assistant professor of Africana Studies at SUNY Albany and author of “The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972 ,” in a November 13 commentary for diverseeducation.com. “I wonder how many people sat in their homes privately protesting the re-election of a Black man?”
You would think with the historic re-election of America’s first African-American President that would be the end of the remaining racial split in this country. The same electorate that helped re-elect the president also voted in the most diverse Congress in history - more women, more LGBTs (including the first openly gay person of color), as well as more religious and racial diversity, according to ThinkProgress.org. In fact, the House Democratic caucus is no longer a majority of white males for the first time while the Republican caucus grew less diverse.
But since the 2008 election, there was also a drop in Obama’s share of the white male vote. Nevertheless, America’s first African-American President was re-elected, and since then the extent of racial divide has surfaced in a variety of forms. Speaking to donors on November 14, Mitt Romney attributed his loss to “gifts” President Obama gave to minority voters, the Los Angeles Times reported. Romney noted Obama had been “very generous” to blacks, Hispanics and young voters, re-enforcing his earlier comments that “47 percent” of Americans are “dependent upon government.” And in his first interview since losing the election, VP candidate Paul Ryan attributed the loss to the large turnout of the “urban” (code word for “black”) vote. Meanwhile, the state chairman of the Republican Party in Maine told an NBC affiliate he thinks there may have been voter fraud because “nobody in town knows anyone whose black,” but “dozens of black people” came to vote.
While the frequency of racism among rightwing politicians and in many Southern states is well known to most Americans, many were stunned to find it among the “future” of the country: College students.
Within hours of Obama’s re-election, about 40 students rallied outside the Minority Student Union at private, all-male Hampden-Sydney College near Richmond, Virginia, shouting racial epithets, throwing bottles, and threatening minority students with physical violence.
Deeper in the post-Civil War South, a small number of students who also gathered to protest Obama’s re-election at the University of Mississippi soon swelled to over 400 as word spread through social media. Students yelled racial slurs and “The South will rise again,” burned an Obama campaign poster, and sang “Dixie.” Mississippi's chancellor, Dan Jones, issued a statement Wednesday, November 7, denouncing the students for damaging the school's reputation and promised “a thorough review” of the incident. “The gathering seems to have been fueled by social media, and the conversation should have stayed there,” Jones said.
But the racist social media campaign didn’t end on those campuses.
Online hate speech calling the president a "monkey" and other slurs continued to emerge. NBCNews.com reported that one of the more contentious comments came from a 22-year-old white California woman, Denise Helms, who called the president the N-word on Facebook election night noting, “Maybe he’ll get assassinated this term” Later, Helms insisted she’s “not racist” and was “simply stating my opinion.” She was fired from her job and is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.
The spike in social media hate speech prompted Floatingsheep.com to use geographic-based software to map the origins of the racist tweets since election night and found they originated mostly from Alabama and Mississippi, followed by the surrounding states of Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee forming a "fairly distinctive cluster in the southeast." But their research also found a significant number of racist tweets from states such as North Dakota, Utah, and Missouri.
This same cluster in the southeast - the post-Civil War states - Floatingsheep outed also represents most of the nearly 20 states that recently filed petitions for permission to leave the union led by Texas, an outspoken advocate of secession. Writing in a recent Tea Party newsletter, Texas’ Hardin County Republican Treasurer, Peter Morrison, reportedly called Obama supporters “maggots” who voted on an “ethnic basis.”
These are not events that happened four years ago when then-Senator Obama became the first black president. And the “riot” on election night at the University of Mississippi occurred just five weeks after the 50th anniversary of the riot that awaited James Meredith when the National Guard escorted him to class during desegregation of Ole Miss in 1962.
“The fact of the matter is that for a lot of students their knowledge of social change and how it has taken place in our society is quite shallow, and we would all benefit, I think, from a deeper understanding of our own history,” Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman College, and author of “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria and Other Conversations About Race,” told Inside Higher Ed.
Though only two students were arrested election night, the incident prompted U of M to post an open letter on November 15 penned by the student Chairman of the Mississippi Federation of College Republicans, and the Presidents of Ole Miss College Democrats, Associated Student Body, Interfraternity Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Black Student Union.
“The hateful, small-minded actions committed by some students are unacceptable,” wrote the student leaders. “That type of mentality is the reason inequality, injustice, and prejudice still exist – and to move forward, we need to have meaningful dialogue with one another, face-to-face, not by tweets or text or Facebook.”
To check out more of the racist tweets since the 2012 election visit: