Playing the Race Card? Deal it Face Up

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On Facebook and all over the Web, all the time, you find the most ridiculous and repulsive things about President Obama: he’s anti-Christian, un-American; he’s either a socialist or the opposite, a fascist, or sometimes a communist, but ever a tyrant; he’s a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer; he hates America.

RacistObamaPic13 Why don’t you guys just say what’s really on your minds? He’s a nigger.

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There, my right-wing adversaries. I said it for you. Feel better now? I think so, because your subtext is about as subtle as a bulldozer. It’s just not a secret.

You’re not racist and this isn’t true? Yes, it is. I’ve been to the hunting camps and fishing docks where you fellows get out in the woods and think no one can hear you – no one who is offended, that is – and you talk about it out loud. You say the word there, don’t you? You get it right off your chests, but somehow, sadly, you don’t feel that much better for all that long. It’s like sex: the release feels so good, but the remembering of it is nothing like the doing, so you have to do it again and again.

But wait! You can’t be racist because you love Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas, right? Wrong. That’s like saying the Confederates weren’t anti-semitic because they had Judah P. Benjamin as a cabinet member. He was useful, that’s all.

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Let’s look at some of the stuff you guys put up on the Web, for all to see:

Here’s an article from def shepherd: “Racism Is Alive and Well: 35 Incredibly Racist Anti-Obama Images.”

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Now look at how perverse you can be, calling the president a racist for having uttered the mildest truisms: here from RightWing News.

And an example of the odious stuff mixing rigid patriotism and grotesque forms of religion: here from freerepublic.com.

Here’s what Larry Klayman, who advocates violent overthrow of the government, had to say at a Tea-Party rally featuring Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin: “. . .demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

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Every politician, you may say, needs to develop a thick skin, because if you take a stand you’ll find some enemies. That is true. It is also true, however, that the sheer lunacy, the preposterous nature of this stuff, sets it far apart from the norm. Barack Obama is a communist? Come on. This is the guy who bailed out Wall Street and, so far, has overseen the criminal prosecution of precisely zero people responsible for the economic meltdown.

He’s a terrorist sympathizer? What, and bin Laden is still alive? Really.

He won’t compromise? He didn’t even try for a single-payer solution to the health-care financing problem, and when he was attacked for a public option, he dropped it without a fight.

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Listen: Mr. Obama is not a left-wing president. He is not a center-left president. He is, if anything, a bit right of center. Don’t ask the crazy right about that. Ask a genuine liberal. Among liberals, this is not a secret.

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So where does all this goofy stuff come from? That he’s a Muslim. That he’s not an American. That Obamacare is the end of American freedom. It comes from a deeper place and darker than most of his opponents want to admit. It comes in very large part from racism. Jimmy Carter, arguably the only great president in recent memory, said so and got pilloried for it. Well, Carter, as usual, was right.

RacistObamaPic48If you think you can’t be a racist because you don’t feel outright hatred toward a people most of the time, think again. Hatred is only the tertiary stage of the affliction. Racism has at least three parents: fear – fear of an uprising from the oppressed, which can rob you of a perceived status; jealousy that someone from the oppressed class has succeeded; and contempt for a class of people because of their misfortune. Feel the least bit of jealousy or fear? Contempt? Be truthful with yourself.

Racism is not noticing someone’s color, even as a first data point. It is not recognizing group characteristics of ethnicities, even ones you don’t much like. It is fearing those differences, and acting on the fear or developing beliefs informed by fear and jealousy.

One other word while we’re on this. The president is half white. That’s probably reasonably close to the proportion of Caucasian genes in a lot of his right-wing adversaries, if they knew or admitted their own family backgrounds. That this is such a huge thing, and even that Mr. Obama had to choose to live as a black man or white, speaks to the vise grip America‘s original sin still holds on the society. Far from signaling a post-racial world, his presidency has served to bring a lot of bigotry into view, and to show how very much work there is yet to do on the Great American Issue.