NEW YORK - It's hard to believe that almost two years ago pundits were heralding Barack Obama's election as the start of America's post-racial era.
So far, that's not happening.
Besides sparking overt racism at Tea Party rallies, the election of the nation's first black president also seems to have spawned a stealthy, new form of racism – the kind that counts on people to be so predisposed to stereotypes about anyone who isn't like them until the truth no longer matters.
The latest, most glaring example of this new racism can be found in Forbes.
The business magazine recently allowed Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative ideologue, to pen a smear piece on Obama that is so loaded with lies and half-truths that it virtually invites readers to fill in the blanks with whatever fears they may have about him.
Perhaps the most glaring lie in the piece, titled "How Obama Thinks," is that the president was heavily influenced by his Kenyan father, Barack Obama Sr.
D'Souza seizes on the opportunity to "otherize" the president by attempting to smear him with his father's shortcomings: that the senior Obama was a regular drunk driver who was involved in accidents and that he was an anti-colonialist.
But the one failing of Obama's father that D'Souza doesn't elaborate on is this one: He abandoned Obama's mother when he was two. The president only saw his father one more time – when he was 10.
Any reasonable person would guess that it's highly unlikely that a 10-year-old would leave one meeting with a father he hadn't seen for eight years as a rabid anti-colonialist, much less an alcoholic.
And anyone who has read Obama's book, Dreams from My Father, would know that it's heavier on criticism about the elder Obama than adulation. Then there's the accusation about Obama's father being an anti-colonialist. To that I say: so what?
Anyone who has read King Leopold's Ghost knows that colonialism left much of Africa plundered and powerless – and anyone who knows anything about colonialism at all knows that it typically works out better for the colonizers than those who have to accommodate them.
Ask any Native American about that.
There are other problems in the article, problems too numerous to name here. D'Souza's piece has been rightly ripped by The Washington Post and theColumbia Journalism Review.
That seems to be the way of things these days. And it speaks volumes as to how far we haven't come when it comes to race.
When an otherwise respected publication such as Forbes allows an otherwise respected author like D'Souza to pile so many innuendoes and half-truths into a cover story, it says either one or two things. It says that this magazine believes a black president doesn't merit the same respect as others when it comes to presenting the truth, or that the public is more inclined to succumb to fears and stereotypes about Obama – so much so that when it comes to him, they don't have to let the truth get in the way of telling a story.
It's the kind of stuff that continues to fuel ridiculousness about Obama; ridiculousness about him being a Muslim – as if being a Muslim is like being a felon – and that he was born outside of the United States.
Right-wingers like former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has staked his political revival on Obama's political demise, praised the Forbes article.
It's the new racism.
It's not the kind that is expressed through signs and epithets. That's old racism. It's the kind committed by stirring up white people's deepest fears, fears like Obama being the son of a hostile, drunken African who hated capitalism, to marginalize him.
Until that stops, America won't ever move into a post-racial era, but will remain perilously stuck in a place in which no black person is owed any honesty or respect.
Not even if that black person happens to be the president.