‘Hate Crimes’ explode across U.S. following election of Barack Obama, says the AP’s Jesse Washigton

The following is an Associated Press Article by Jesse Washington, originally published here:

Obama election spurs race crimes around country

Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting “Assassinate Obama.” Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been “hundreds” of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

One was in Snellville, Ga., where Denene Millner said a boy on the school bus told her 9-year-old daughter the day after the election: “I hope Obama gets assassinated.” That night, someone trashed her sister-in-law’s front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs, and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door, Millner said.

She described her emotions as a combination of anger and fear.

“I can’t say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it,” said Millner, who is black. “But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they’re capable of and what they’re really thinking.”

Potok, who is white, said he believes there is “a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them.”

Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old white Georgia native, expressed similar sentiments: “I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change.

“If you had real change it would involve all the members of (Obama’s) church being deported,” he said.

Change in whatever form does not come easy, and a black president is “the most profound change in the field of race this country has experienced since the Civil War,” said William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. “It’s shaking the foundations on which the country has existed for centuries.”

“Someone once said racism is like cancer,” Ferris said. “It’s never totally wiped out, it’s in remission.”

If so, America’s remission lasted until the morning of Nov. 5.

The day after the vote hailed as a sign of a nation changed, black high school student Barbara Tyler of Marietta, Ga., said she heard hateful Obama comments from white students, and that teachers cut off discussion about Obama’s victory.

Tyler spoke at a press conference by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP calling for a town hall meeting to address complaints from across the state about hostility and resentment. Another student, from a Covington middle school, said he was suspended for wearing an Obama shirt to school Nov. 5 after the principal told students not to wear political paraphernalia.

The student’s mother, Eshe Riviears, said the principal told her: “Whether you like it or not, we’re in the South, and there are a lot of people who are not happy with this decision.”

Other incidents include:

_Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: “Let’s shoot that (N-word) in the head.” Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

_At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: “Osama Obama Shotgun Pool.” Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. “Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count,” the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written “Let’s hope someone wins.”

_Racist graffiti was found in places including New York’s Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and “Go Back To Africa” were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

_Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted “assassinate Obama,” a district official said.

_University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. “It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork,” Houston said.

_Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

_Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

_A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted ‘Obama.’

_In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying “now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house.”

Emotions are often raw after a hard-fought political campaign, but now those on the losing side have an easy target for their anger.

“The principle is very simple,” said BJ Gallagher, a sociologist and co-author of the diversity book “A Peacock in the Land of Penguins.” “If I can’t hurt the person I’m angry at, then I’ll vent my anger on a substitute, i.e., someone of the same race.”

“We saw the same thing happen after the 9-11 attacks, as a wave of anti-Muslim violence swept the country. We saw it happen after the Rodney King verdict, when Los Angeles blacks erupted in rage at the injustice perpetrated by ‘the white man.'”

“It’s as stupid and ineffectual as kicking your dog when you’ve had a bad day at the office,” Gallagher said. “But it happens a lot.”

Associated Press writers Errin Haines, Jerry Harkavy, Jay Reeves, Johnny Clark and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

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Read this Susan Jacoby article: “The Worst Angels of our nature: Rage and Racism on the Campaign Trail

Susan Jacoby wrote the article below, published at http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/susan_jacoby/2008/10/the_worst_angels_of_our_nature.html:  (Definately worth a read…..)

“The Worst Angels Of Our Nature: Rage And Racism On The Campaign Trail

Like everyone else, I am worried about the economy and the financial panic I sense around me. But I am absolutely terrified–I tremble for my country–by the rage that has been expressed at Republican campaign rallies during the past two weeks. It is a rage that partakes of the worst forces in American history–xenophobia, racism, anti-intellectualism, religious fanaticism, envy, and utter contempt for truth and reason. Lest anyone suggest that this is a bipartisan phenomenon, I should point out that no one at Obama rallies is calling out for anyone to kill the other candidate. Worst of all is the behavior of Sarah Palin, a candidate for the second highest office in the land who stood on a platform, heard the cries of “treason” and “kill him” after her anti-Obama rant, and said absolutely nothing. She went on with her vile speech as if nothing had happened.

John McCain has belatedly realized that his campaign has unleashed forces that it cannot control; perhaps he came to that realization when he was booed at his own rallies for contradicting supporters who called Obama an “Arab” and a “traitor.” Pundits on the left and right (and Barack Obama himself) always preface their acknowledgments of McCain’s effort to calm the waters with an obligatory “to his credit.” Talk about unearned credit. McCain picked the rabble-rousing Palin as his running mate, and he picked her because she appealed to the far-right Republican base. Her speeches, with their accusation that Obama was “pallin’ around with terrorists,” followed by attempts to link Sixties’ radicals with the 9//11 bombers, leading logically to audience’s conclusion that Obama himself may be a terrorist, were certainly cleared by the Rovian McCain campaign strategists. That McCain is now recognizing that he may be inheriting the wind says nothing creditable about him. The least we can expect from respectable candidates is that they decry calls for murder and accusations of treason. You don’t deserve a gold star for doing that.

I am afraid, as others are afraid and reluctant to say so, that some unhinged Joe or Jane Six-Pack will pick up a gun and act on the passions aroused at these rallies. How can anyone who came of age in the sixties–whose youth was punctuated by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy, not be afraid? The ignorant and bellicose governor of Alaska badly needs a history lesson. Most of us demon liberals weren’t pallin’ around with terrorists during the sixties; what we were doing, too many times in our young lives, was mourning the loss of leaders who did try to speak to the better angels of the American nature.

The trouble begins with the notion that there is some special wisdom in the virtuous, uneducated Joe Six-Packs of this nation. I met my very own Joe-Six Pack (that’s what he called himself) a few weeks ago, and if he exemplifies the purported wisdom of ordinary Americans, we are in trouble that cannot be measured by any decline in the stock market. I wound up at the same table with Joe, the owner of a Polish delicatessen, in a packed bar as we waited in the Milwaukee airport for a delayed flight to New York. After volunteering the information that he was flying to New York for his niece’s wedding in Brooklyn, Joe said he wasn’t looking forward to the event because his niece was marrying a native New Yorker and they were “moving into some kind of hippie loft under some bridge.”

Then Joe started talking about the economy. He didn’t blame Wall Street nearly as much as he blamed ordinary Americans who, pursuing the dream of becoming homeowners, had obtained subprime mortgages with no down payment. “These people knew they couldn’t afford to pay back those loans,” he said, “and they didn’t give a damn because they hadn’t had to put down any of their own money. So they’re losing nothing when they get kicked out. No money down, and they’ve been getting free rent for as long as they’ve lived in the house.”

How, I asked, did Joe figure that people had been getting “free rent,” since most of them had been making mortgage payments–at increasing interest rates–for years. Wasn’t it possible that many of the homeowners facing foreclosure had simply not understood what it would mean for their monthly payments if the rate on the mortgages went up by, say, 5 percent? Wasn’t it possible that they thought they could make their payments when they signed the mortgages but subsequently lost their jobs? Or that someone in the family got sick and piled up medical bills that lend to bankruptcy?

“Don’t you believe it,” said Joe, whose face literally turned purple with rage. “So maybe they made payments for a while, but they were a lot lower than rent payments would be. That’s always the excuse with these people, that they’ve been unlucky, that they’re poor little victims.”

“These people.” I wanted to ask who “they” were and what separated them from “us,” but I didn’t have to. He exploded again. “You have a whole group of people who don’t really want to earn what they have. These bad home loans, they’re like special treatment for blacks who want to get into the best universities. You want it, you don’t have to work for it, the government will give it to you.” As soon as I boarded the plane, I took notes detailing everything about this conversation.

I hope that this Joe Six-Pack was just one Joe Six-Pack, and that there are many other blue-collar Americans who do not share such views, reeking of class and racial resentment and absent any awareness of the ways in which unexpected blows of fate can derail the honest efforts and hopes of hard-working people. We will, I suppose find out on Nov. 4. The fate of our nation rests on the hope that a majority of Americans are not as uneducated and angry as my Joe Six-Pack. I do know that a real leader ought to challenge such ignorance, wherever it exists, instead of praising is as an example of down-home American values. Any politician who provides fuel for the worst sort of American fire, or remains silent in the face of bigotry and threats of violence, is a disgrace to this country.

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