Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No, White People, it IS About Race!

Hatin' On the President is Driven by More than the Health Care Debate

By MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director, Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

First it was the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, in his own home, at the hands of an irate white Cambridge Massachusetts police officer. Our nation's first Black President jumped into the fray and took more than a little heat from white journalists and politicos alike, when he characterized the actions of the arresting cop as "stupid" and did an about-face damage control maneuver by inviting the officer and the professor to join him over a few beers in the White House garden.

Now, and arguably more seriously, politicians, prevaricators, and pundits alike, and even a former American President, are stirring the cauldron of race in the aftermath of the boorishly vulgar remark of "liar" that spat from the lips of one Joe Wilson – an otherwise undistinguished Republican congressman from South Carolina – where, apparently, some of the good citizens have yet to realize which side did, indeed, lose the Civil War.

All of this has led to some visible shifting of the tectonic plates of American racial discourse. Black folks (and apparently, most Democrats as well), were mortified to hear the President of the United States shouted at as a "liar" in the middle of an important speech to a joint session of the United States Congress. And Conservatives, nearly all of them white (with a few colored folks thrown in the mix for their amusement), are rallying around the good South Carolina Congressman as if he were he were some modern incarnation of Patrick Henry.

Give me liberty, or give me thinly-disguised racial animosity fronting as "free speech".

But this incident is more than an apparent breech of political etiquette in Washington, D.C., a town for dainty dialogue between the contending parties.

Neither is it some random verbal outburst that can be forgotten after the apology that President Obama got from the offender.

It is, in my view, symptomatic of not only a deep racial division, but a malignant racial animus that still simmers in the melting pot of U.S. culture.

As Black folks have known all along, former President Jimmy Carter, himself a Southerner, was right on point when he mentioned the deep resentment that Obama stirs up in the hearts of many European- Americans.

Consider the constant vilification of Obama as a "Nazi", or a "Communist", or someone with a deep-seeded hatred of white people (the last accusation, from Right-wing media talkster Glen Beck being totally baffling in light of the racial identity of the President's late mother).

Add to that the "Birthers" who assert that Obama is not really an American citizen at all, and the weapons that frequently appear in public when the President appears before not-so-friendly public gatherings, and you get the impression that all of this goes beyond legitimate political disagreement over health care issues.

This is, straight up, about hatred, and a particularly toxic strain of that old American virus that evidenced in the political and social corpus of the nation.

It even has an effect of the "responsible public opinion leaders" who claim-falsely, in my opinion, that their anti-Obama positions are not motivated by racism.

Just a few weeks ago, the hate-spewing Washington Examiner ran a cartoon that depicted a gigantic eared caricature of the President, dressed in a while lab coat, calling one of his opponents a "Nazi" in full view of a medical diploma earned from "Karl Marx University".

Of course, Black folks know that even the most egregiously obvious white racists would never refer to themselves at that. In fact, it's much more strategically suitable for many whites to pretend that they have no fear or dislike of a Black President (or in the immortal words of Public Enemy, fear of a Black planet). Their frequent claim is simply that Obama, as a "liberal", is simply too far to the political Left for their liking.

The freedom of political association, and the right of dissent, should be sacrosanct privileges in this, and any, democratic form of government.

Not all disagreements with current administration policies are rooted in racism, of course, and Congressman Wilson has every right to disagree with President Obama's policies, even if his positions seem to be influenced by notions of racial (and class) privilege.(Wilson, for the record, supported the movement to keep the Confederate battle flag on the South Carolina state flag.).

But the Joe Wilson incident should be a wake-up call to white people and people of color alike.

It speaks volumes to the sad reality that racially fueled animosity in public life is very much with us. It is fed by both unchanged notions of white superiority and the concomitant fear of real black authority and political power.

President Obama would, I believe, wish that this weren't true, because he has an abiding, optimistic belief, in the inherent goodness of America. But it is also worth noting that Congressman Wilson has received, as a reward for his boorish and imprudent public remark, more than a million dollars (and counting) in new campaign donations and pledges, presumably from the folk who share his sentiment about President Obama

We may wish that this situation were otherwise, and that political disagreements – even heated ones – are driven by things other than color privilege, hatred, and prejudice. But Mr. Wilson represents haters, not political dissidents. And we should all be wise enough, and vigilant enough, to understand the dangerous reality of race in America.

Racism has not been swept away because some white people are in denial of it. It is all too real, and it is being galvanized by the election of a Black man to the office of the Presidency of the country. And anyone who grew up in the segregated South, as I did, clearly understands that some white people don't have to resort to using the "N" word in public to demonstrate that they regard you that way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Racist Attacks Against President Obama

Dear Friend,

As racist attacks increase and protestors continue to bring guns to presidential events, it is strikingly clear that President Obama is vulnerable to harm. Are the Secret Service and the FBI doing enough to protect him? Are they confronting those who threaten our president?

Ronald Kessler, a veteran investigative journalist and conservative who recently authored a book about the Secret Service, notes that funding cutbacks have already left the first African-American president in U.S. history particularly vulnerable. The book, which alleges that the cash-strapped Secret Service is endangering the president by cutting corners, has sent shockwaves through Washington.

We cannot allow funding problems to weaken the organizations charged with protecting the life of our nation's president. It is time for Americans of every stripe to insist that the Secret Service and the FBI operate at the highest levels of effectiveness.

I just signed a petition to ask Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure that efforts of the Secret Service and FBI to protect President Obama from escalating threats are expanded and fully funded. I hope you will, too.

Please have a look (HERE) and take action.