Racism in politics is nothing new. But over the past half century it has been pushed more and more into the closet, so to speak. Now, with a black man in the white house, racism is on full display. Sure, a lot of racist statements are still couched in coded language that allows the speaker to deny being in any way racist. But more and more often we see blatant racism peeking out from behind that closet door.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney flew to Indianapolis to speak at an American Legion convention. NPR interviewed Bobbie Lucier from Manassas, Virginia regarding the upcoming election. Approximately one minute into this recording, you can hear her say,

I don’t like him. Can’t stand to look at him. I don’t like his wife. She’s far from the first lady. It’s about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady and looks like a first lady.

What distinguishes Michelle Obama from every other First Lady in our nation’s history, of course, is that she is black. And though most people wouldn’t say so – particularly into a microphone – there are far too many people who believe just as Bobbie Lucier believes.

More often than at any time in past few decades, that ol’ closet door is being ripped from its hinges, and racist statements are being voiced without hesitation. I suppose it is better this way. At least it is clearer who is focused on policy disagreements among the candidates and who remains focused on the color of the First Family’s skin.

I look forward to the publication of Gather at the Table in October. Sharon and I will “launch” our book with appearances in Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, and Richmond, Virginia, followed by Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland. All are within driving distance of Mrs. Lucier’s home.

Perhaps… nah.

I’m hopeful, but I’m also realistic. We have a LOT of work to do to heal this nation from the traumatic legacy of slavery.