Prejudice: perspective from Nick Kristof

A frightening number of Americans actually believe the rumors spread by right-wing radio personalities and religious groups – that Obama is or must might be a Muslim. And of those 10% who believe that the Book of Revelations “end-times” are near, some are saying Obama could be the “Antichrist.” You can buy T-Shirts with a horned Obama with that very caption.

Nicholas Kristof in today’s NY Times speculates that religious prejudice is replacing or masking racism:

To his credit, Mr. McCain himself has never raised doubts about Mr. Obama’s religion. But a McCain commercial last month mimicked the words and imagery of the best-selling Christian “Left Behind” book series in ways that would have set off alarm bells among evangelicals nervous about the Antichrist.

Mr. McCain himself is not popular with evangelicals. But they will vote for him if they think the other guy may be on Satan’s side.

In fact, of course, Mr. Obama took his oath on the Bible, not — as the rumors have it — on the Koran. He is far more active in church than John McCain is.

(Just imagine for a moment if it were the black candidate in this election, rather than the white candidate, who was born in Central America, was an indifferent churchgoer, had graduated near the bottom of his university class, had dumped his first wife, had regularly displayed an explosive and profane temper, and had referred to the Pakistani-Iraqi border …)

What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.

The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.

Deepak Chopra said this in another way when he wrote about Obama and the Jungian “shadow.” We project onto the “other” the darkest aspects of our own souls.

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