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
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
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
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
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
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.