America: One Nation?
by Alex Day


Presidential campaigns harness powerful imagery, through campaign ads, to influence a person’s decision making process because—according to—“[t]hese ads elicit emotional reactions, inspiring support for a candidate or raising doubts about his opponent.”

I am going to indulge in a little bit of the same emotional manipulation as those ads. I am a supporter of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign because I believe in his sincere and complete dedication to abiding by the ideals that our country was founded upon. However, even if you don’t have my faith in Obama, the powerful image of an African American president is still a compelling reason to support him.

The history of racial prejudice, which has been ingrained in American society since colonial times, makes that image powerful. Racism in America has spawned racist government policies that have exploited and perverted our political system to justify the oppression of racial minorities, to deny them political rights, and to prevent social equality of all races and all Americans.

The history of American racism has made Americans extremely conscious of their own race. Extreme political correctness, race bubbles on standardized tests, racial comedy, and statistics on the racial makeup of the U.C. system are only a few of the indicators that, even if Americans are not openly spewing racial slurs at each other, they are painfully conscious of their racial differences.

What is the impact of Americans’ racial consciousness? The concept of race, which anthropologists say is an unnatural social construct, is innately divisive because it creates an “us” and “them” mentality within a supposedly unified society. Racial difference, and the resulting antagonism between “the races”, has historically informed American politics. And while Obama recently claimed, after the Pennsylvania primary, that he did not consider race to be an issue in this election, the outcome of this election has an enormous potential to change race relations in the United States of America.

Obama has the power to transcend the racial division that still exists today in the collective American consciousness because the image of an African American taking the oath of office will break the white man’s monopoly on the Presidency. The President is a powerful symbol because he or she is the head of the federal government; as such, the President heavily influences Americans’ view of their government.

When someone says “Fuck Bush,” they are also silently saying “Fuck the Government.” If the melting pot cliche describes the racial and ethnic makeup of the country, the presidency is a single serving of vanilla ice cream—which isn’t necessarily bad. I like vanilla ice cream. But coupled with the history of government supported racism, such as the 3/5 Compromise in the Constitution and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the racial uniformity of the Presidency creates the implication that America is, at heart, a white man’s nation, and that the government is a white man’s government.

White men have dominated the government of the United States for two hundred and forty years. (There have only been five African American Senators elected since Reconstruction, one of whom is Senator Obama). The image of a President with light brown skin can have the power to make Americans re-imagine their nation and their government. That image can have the power to prove that all races have an equal opportunity in politics.

Equality of all races in politics can give all races ownership of American democratic ideology, based on the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
If everyone can claim equal inheritance of America’s ideology independent of their race, then racial differences can no longer determine who is and who is not a “true” American. Only then will we be “One Nation, under God [or not], indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”