I used to play a game back in 2008 leading up to and following the presidential election. During that time I worked as a donor services technician at the American Red Cross - I drew people's blood for a living. Every day I went to work and interacted with new and different people, the vast majority of which I would not see again for months, if ever. This afforded me a little bit of leniency in my interactions with them. I generally strived to constrain my conversations to neutral topics, but if they happened to bring up politics, and I happened to express a viewpoint that they didn't like, it wasn't the end of the world.
Let me tell you about this game. It was good times.
Step 1: Wait for one of my donors to express a dislike for Barack Obama.
If you don't recall the political climate in 2008 let me refresh your memory a little. There was a presidential election going on, and the Democratic Party had decided to run a candidate named Barack Obama in their bid to occupy the White House. Barack Obama had become a well known political figure four years previous due to the fact that he had won a U.S. Senate seat in the state of Illinois. During an election where only 54% of the state had voted for the Democrat's presidential candidate (John Kerry), 70% of the votes for the senate position went to Barack Obama. America was impressed. But not all of America.
Step 2: Express that I also didn't feel that Barack Obama's policies were right for our nation.
During the months leading up to the presidential election in 2008 there were, understandably, a lot of people who felt that Barack Obama was not the right candidate for the office. And that's okay. Was I one of those people? Well, no. I lied to my blood donors regarding this matter, and I did so shamelessly. The first MANY times I did this were with the intent of reducing conflict - blood flows better when you're relaxed; causing a donor to be tense from an argument about political viewpoints doesn't help the end goal of collecting blood and saving lives.
The majority of the blood donors that I spoke with during this time who expressed a dislike for Obama as president kept the conversation to topics of policy and platform and were able to express logical reasons for their feelings on this matter. Some of them, however...
Step 3: Wait until the donor said something racist about Barack Obama.
As the election drew closer and especially in the weeks after the election results became known, I kept hearing more and more offhanded comments about Obama, not regarding his political platform or the decisions that he had made as a member of the Senate, but instead regarding his skin color. And for a while I did my best to ignore these. But then one day, I told one of my donors...
Step 4: Reveal that when I had said I didn't think that Barack Obama was the right leader for this country, what I actually meant was that I planned to cast my vote for Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate who just happened to be a black woman.
I lied. Again. I honestly didn't know anything about the Green Party's platform at the time, but I was tired of hearing racist remarks from people. The first time I did this was at a blood drive where one of my co-workers who was working at the donor bed next to mine was black, and I realized that if I didn't say something to shut down what my donor was saying, I was complicit in their hate speech, and I was not comfortable with that.
Was this this right reason to take a stance? Probably not. Should I have acted a LOT sooner rather than turning a blind eye to the things that people had said to me previous to this point? Probably. Will I make the same mistake in the future and fail to address a racist comment in hopes of avoiding conflict? ...I would rather not answer that question right now.
But the point of the matter is this: It shut him up. The words I said made the blood donor that I was working with stutter comically and then go quiet for the rest of the donation.
Step 5: Watch as my donor backpedals awkwardly and tries to explain why what they said wasn't racist before falling into an awkward silence.
What was simultaneously the best and most angrifying part of this process was the fact that the more times I did this, the more apparent it became to me that there was a small but vocal subset of people who were perfectly happy with blindly assuming that anyone who didn't support Barack Obama must have ALSO done so AT LEAST IN PART because they didn't like his skin color. They felt that when I said that I didn't support his policies, I was actually communicating with them in a secret code, telling them that I also felt that Obama was wrong for the position at least partially because of the fact that his skin was a different color than my own.
And honestly, that's kind of terrifying to me.
How many times did I follow all five of the above steps through to completion? Maybe about ten. Not enough to make for a statistically significant sample, but definitely enough to shape my opinion that when people argue that Barack Obama is disliked for his political leanings alone and not at all for his skin color, they are either shockingly naive or, more likely, lying through their teeth.