For the first time in history, this country has the opportunity to vote into the presidency a man with obvious African ancestry. Sen. Obama’s success demonstrates something that Americans should be proud of – namely, opportunity for all.

We are also faced with the extraordinary assertion from far too many quarters that, if we don’t vote for Sen. Obama, our reasons must be racist. It couldn’t possibly be because we don’t want a socialist president. It must mean we don’t like black people, or at least we don’t want black people in positions of power.

Oh please.

The term “racism” is bandied about today with such ease and hurled at people with such frequency that it’s worth examining the effects. These effects will certainly be important for Obama’s chances of winning the election.

According to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary, a racist is someone with “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

With few exceptions (and yes, obviously those exceptions still exist), most people in America no longer believe the nonsense that skin color determines intelligence, social skills, kindness, generosity, compassion and other human traits. Today, few people truly believe that skin pigment (or lack thereof) determines superiority.

Given the way the campaign rhetoric is flowing these days, I’m willing to hazard a guess that Sen. Obama will lose the election. Much of that loss will be due to his poor policy ideas and his less-than-honest answers about past associations. But a fair (and possibly decisive) portion of his loss could well be a result of racism. It won’t be because of an inherent prejudice in the hearts of the American people, but instead will be due to the self-inflicted bigotry brought about by the comments and accusations of the candidate, his staff and his extreme supporters.

The vast majority of American people aren’t racist, but they are getting sick and tired of being called such.

Most white people no longer give a hoot about someone’s skin color unless they are given a reason to think otherwise. If everything someone says or does is twisted and turned into accusations of racism, don’t you think folks are going to start getting annoyed?

Innocent words that have been part of the English language for years are now racist. Use the term “black hole” in the context of scientific phenomenon and you must, uh, automatically hate black people or something. And heaven help you if you like angel food cake but not devil’s food cake. Yep, it means you’re a bigot because, after all, angel food cake is white but devil’s food cake is black. Follow the logic here?

Get a grip, folks.

It is entirely possible that there will be a backlash against the race-baiters in this country because nobody likes to be accused or insulted over and over again for something they haven’t done. The Civil War ended 143 years ago. (For the record, the United States is the only nation on earth that has ever fought a civil war in main part to end slavery.) Civil rights in this country were fought and rightfully won decades ago. So how much longer can current economic, educational and societal difficulties for blacks be blamed on historic events?

I’m not saying there aren’t true racists in this country. I’ve met a few, and they aren’t pretty. But the days of being able to paint the vast majority of a population as racist merely on the basis of their dislike of a presidential candidate’s platform are over. People don’t want to put up with it any longer.

If there are any racists who will doom this election for Sen. Obama, it won’t be the ones with low melanin content. In watching all the stone-throwing and mud-slinging endemic in any national election, I’m left with one inescapable conclusion: Racism still sells. It sells books, it sells magazine subscriptions, and apparently some believe it can sell an election.

This manufactured bigotry has got to stop.

With few exceptions, nearly everyone in this country has the opportunity to rise up on the socio-economic ladder by making sound, sensible choices. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is. If you pursue educational opportunities as vigorously as possible, don’t break the law, dress and speak in a manner preferred by employers, defer having babies until you’re mature, married and employed, and other such choices (yes, choices – it’s up to you and within your power), then it’s almost assured that you won’t be held back from your vocational ambition on the silly basis of skin color. The only thing holding someone back at this point is attitude.

Some people hurl insults of the most breathtaking evil at other people, knowing full well that no one will dare to breathe a word of protest for fear of being called … racist. So the insults continue. I fully expect to be called a racist by some people reading this column. To those throwing stones, I say: Look to yourself. Does your judgment lie more with the color of skin rather than the content of character? Mine doesn’t. So who’s the racist?

I can honestly say that I like anyone – of any color – who is friendly, helpful, compassionate, decent and an all-around nice person. If you throw at me unfounded accusations of hatred, racism and bigotry … well, I don’t care what color you are; you’re a jerk.

Racism is a horrible, intolerable and (frankly) stupid concept with no more validity than the idea that blondes are dumb and Frenchmen make better lovers. That it remains with us at all is more the fault of those who profit by it than those who still believe it.

Let’s do our best to eliminate it on all sides, shall we?

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