Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

Insights navigation:

[ Insights ]

RSS feed

Don Williams comments

On Obama and fears we dare not name
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   01/07/2008)

At a recent going away party, a tall and sparkly friend came up to me and said, "Are you believing Obama's win in Iowa?" Her eyes were wide and dream-enhanced. "Oh, I'm so hopeful. I'm staying home Tuesday to watch the New Hampshire primary results. He could be so good for this world. He could change the way others see America."

The condescension of my reaction caught even me by surprise: "Oh honey, why set yourself up for this fall? Do you think our country is ever going to let Obama's family be the First Family?" Then I named my greatest fear when it comes to Barack Hussein Obama.

I won't name it here. Why speak the horror that's counterpoint to a song Obama inspires in the heart of America?

You know the fear I'm talking about. It's the kind that goes unnamed until it reaches perverse consummation in black, point-blank headlines and mournful anchors' faces.

We've known others who swept America off her feet with youthful looks, charisma and idealism. How well you know their fate. So let's leave it at this: When I look at Obama's family, I can't bring myself to believe America will allow these sweet, attractive people of color to occupy the White House. I pray that I'm wrong.

So I'll mention, in passing, my second greatest fear: A dark campaign laced with personal attacks against Obama, exploiting his name, his race, his youthful experimentation with drugs and other revelations from his varied background.

I truly hope that fear is a function of my age and false wisdom grounded in the dark history of the country that shaped me. The reality that no person of color's ever been elected president, or even come close. The memory of stolen elections, the official lies that got us into wars. The dark shadows cast not only by the South but by American capitalism generally, a system founded on slave labor.

I consider the Swift-boating of John Kerry. Big Media's joyful complicity in spreading lies about Al Gore. The push-poll campaign to make South Carolina voters believe, in 2000, that John McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock.

I consider all the bad jokes, pop songs that mention "towel-heads" and the understandable, if reflexive, reactions to that word, "Hussein." In this context, Obama's very name becomes a negative. The seven syllables found in Barack Hussein Obama add up to a dark strata Republicans are sure to mine next summer and fall, should he win the nomination. Yes, you've heard too much about it already, but more's coming. His name rhymes too precisely with the unwieldy but toxic phrase, "Iraq Hussein Osama." It contrasts darkly to an aw-shucks American-sounding name like Huckabee, and a battle-tested moniker like McCain.

Yes, I've pointed out before that these are shallow reasons to vote against a qualified candidate, but then, we're talking about a media and electorate who put Dubya within spitting distance of the presidency in 2000 against one as qualified and visionary as Al Gore. Spitting distance was close enough for voter fraud and five Supreme Court Republicans to seal the deal.

While Obama has huge support and has surged to the front in Iowa and New Hampshire, with Oprah Winfrey's help, she could end up hurting his chances in the general election, as her presence underscores the color issue.

Do I exaggerate? Perhaps. I was accused of as much when I asked, rhetorically, "Can you vote for a black man?" in a column prior to Harold Ford's race for the seat now held by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. Ford, a polished, handsome, moderate candidate lost by a substantial margin, following TV spots with racist overtones, in a year when Democrats nationwide took control of Congress. In the general election, if not sooner, the privacy of the voting booth could prove pivotal in bringing out America's repressed racism.

On the other hand, my tall, sparkly and hopeful friend recently emailed with anecdotal evidence that many Republicans she knows are seriously considering casting their lot with Obama.

To me, it sounds too good to be true. Color is sure to be a pole around which many will rally as way leads to way, and our lost nation either finds the road out of a dark wilderness or wanders forty more years until this generation---and maybe everything else---passes away.

I pray that I'm wrong and that Obama becomes the face and name that awakens in all of us long-dormant visions of a better America and a better world.