First in a Two-Part Series
Ali Kamara, a Black teenager from Staten Island, New York, walked home last Tuesday night just before it was announced that Barack Obama was elected president. It was at this time, he says, that four White men in hooded sweatshirts leaped from a car and started kicking and beating him with baseball bats. “He said they started saying, ‘Obama! Obama!'” Kamara’s mother, Janeba Ladepo, told ESSENCE of the incident. The 17-year-old, who managed to escape from his attackers, suffered injuries to his legs and back and has staples in his head as a result of the beating. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. “I wish Obama could see what this did to my son,” says Ladepo. “While he was rejoicing, my son and I were grieving.”
Other reports of backlash after Barack Obama made history as the country’s first Black president-elect have surfaced nationwide. An African-American family in Pleasanton, California, woke up last Wednesday to anti-Obama graffiti spray-painted on their garage door, their house toilet-papered and egged, and their car tires slashed. Hours after Obama’s win, a predominately Black church in Springfield, Mississippi, was set on fire. A suburban Pittsburgh man discovered a note on his car windshield reading, “We know you voted for Obama-now just watch out for your house!” And though the president-elect hasn’t been sworn in yet, a Facebook group called “Impeach Barack Obama”-just one of many similar groups on the social networking site-has drawn more than 7,000 members.
“There’s no question that we have seen a rash of anti-Black hatred expressed in anti-Obama incidents,” says Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which monitors hate groups in the United Sates. “I think we are seeing the beginnings of what may shape up to be a major backlash. We’re not talking about a few hundred or few thousand people. I think we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people who find this election extremely difficult to swallow.”
Hostile reactions to Obama’s victory have also risen in the international community. “This marks the end of the White man’s civilization,” said Polish legislator Artur Gorski in a speech last week. “America will soon pay a high price for this quirk of democracy. Austrian journalist Klaus Emmerich said on Austrian television, “I wouldn’t want the Western world to be directed by a Black man.”
Potok of the Intelligence Project says that such sentiments are an unfortunate byproduct of racial progress. “The election of Obama represents a huge milestone in the history of a country with a terrible racial history,” he says. “And the bottom line is that progress doesn’t move forward in a straight line. You get these advances and then you get backlash, and I think that’s what we’re seeing.”