The race for the White House has turned a horrific hue of ugly.

Last week at presidential rallies in Florida and throughout the Midwest, the climate in the auditoriums seemed dominated more by violent aggravation at Obama than wholehearted support for McCain.

When one woman at a Minnesota rally explained that she did not trust Obama “because he’s an Arab,” McCain immediately corrected her, showing the integrity expected of leaders in our country, and he was met with applause. When he later went on to assure his supporters that they need not fear an Obama presidency, however, he was met with a chorus of boos accompanied by husky shouts calling Obama a “Terrorist!” and “Liar!”

However, these outbursts may not represent the views of the bulk of McCain supporters. Many of those at the aforementioned rallies sat up a little straighter and opened their eyes a little wider in disbelief upon hearing violent and racially charged sentiments. Nonetheless, the comments illuminate the underlying and resonant racism remaining in our country despite progress America has made with the help of mid-20th century civil rights activists.

The people behind the McCain campaign needs to sit up and open their eyes and recognize the historical distinctiveness of this presidential race. The attitude toward race transcends party lines and reflects the leadership of those at the top. McCain’s correction at the Minnesota convention, “No, ma’am. [Obama] is a decent family man [and] citizen … He’s not an Arab,” is not enough, aside from the inherent racism and ingrained anti-Arab sentiment in that remark.

McCain and Palin need to set an example, not just for their own political party but for every American.

We cannot pin responsibility for this underlying feeling on two people like McCain and Palin, no matter how badly we may have the desire to do so. But when their campaign utilizes these underlying fears, they cannot be surprised when their tactics incite the behavior seen at their recent rallies.

The ugly politics displayed at the rallies need to be addressed directly and completely discarded, not just dodged.

The lack of attention paid to these fueled comments by the candidates paints a scary picture of the relationship between Americans and race. It proposes that these comments are habitual and grow out of a pattern that is more deeply engrained in American culture than we choose to acknowledge or want to believe.

What happened at those rallies does not appear to be a series of conscious outbursts with tremendous racial overtones. Instead, highlighting national denial of a massive and still-raw issue, they appeared to be a series of unconscious outbursts with tremendous racial undertones. We have morphed from a society that is outwardly racist and knows it to one whose racism is violently bubbling beneath the surface while we avert our eyes in distraction.

After Palin boldly called herself a “pit bull with lipstick” and McCain promised to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” it was a sign of spinelessness that they cannot send an equally bold message of antiracism and nonviolence to the country.

There is no denying progress the country has made toward fighting racism, but the leadership and attitude

at the recent rallies show that there is far more to be done.