Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Uncovering the Race Card--Reluctantly

Joe Wilson's blurtout last week lit a fuse to set off a slow-motion exposure of race in the national anti-Obama rage.

Today the House Black Caucus takes the lead in censuring the South Carolina Congressman with what are clearly mixed feelings about dealing publicly with an issue that seemed to have been settled by the inauguration of a "post-racial" president only a few months ago.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn has refused to call the "You lie" outburst racist, skirting the issue by telling reporters only that Obama is the first president to be treated that way, but other members of the Caucus are less circumspect.

"We've got to realize," says Georgia Rep. David Scott, "racism is playing a role here. I'm hopeful that this will be a wake-up call for us to get it off the table."

Such ambivalence reflects ancient fears of feeding prejudice by calling public attention to it, a dilemma long discussed privately by Jews over anti-Semitism.

During the election campaign, Barack Obama avoided race until the furor over Rev. Jeremiah Wright forced him to make his cathartic speech on the subject, and last week he tried to dismiss the Wilson uproar by quickly accepting his "apology."

Yet, in the savagery of some of the opposition to the President's policies, the elephant in the room is roaring too loudly to ignore.

On the PBS News Hour last night, conservative columnist Ross Douthat acknowledged that "clearly Barack Obama's race plays some role in the kind of--you know, the kind of anxieties and so forth that are roiling the political right."

African-American moderator Gwen Ifill had asked black Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson about the violent opposition to health care reform, "Is there something about this presidency which brings that out?" and she had replied, "I don't know if it's this presidency; I hate to think that it is."

So do we all, but it won't go away by not talking about it. Time to revive the bromide about sunlight as the best disinfectant.


Holte Ender said...

When Obama was elected I read in one newspaper, "The end of racism in America". Anyone who believed that was living in a parallel universe.

G. Scott said...

Human beings seldom do things for just one reason.

Less-than-helpful comments from the Joe Wilsons and Ross Douthats aside, I think the Left greatly overestimates the racial component to Obama's opposition and greatly underestimates the plain revulsion at his politics and his tone-deafness when it comes to the kind activists with which he's surrounded himself all his life.

All because the former is easily countered; the latter not so much.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

So why didn't we get univeral healthcare under Clinton? Nixon? Heck, a hundred years ago when Teddy Roosevelt first mentioned it?

The race excuse only goes so far.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Ironically, Obama's (s)election and installation seem to have had the effect of STIMULATING the racist discourse which had been held in check, at least in public, for the past 40 years of affirmative action and political correctness...

It's as if the apparent repudiation of racialisms at the level of political leadership has led to the even more vicious recrudescences of the phenomenon among Murka's lumpen-prole-idiocracy...

Anonymous said...

I think it's less that racism is blocking healthcare reform and more that...

Just...ok - the right wing has always been built off of irrational emotions. It's feeling, not thinking. A big part of that is identifying your opponent as "other," as being not like you.

So, race is playing a role insofar as the right wing needs an difference between "us and them" to build their argument on. Healthcare is wrong because it's communist, and we're capitalists; because it's for poor black people, and we are hardworking whites.

It's not that this is about race - it's about the fact that the right wing has no point, no argument, no logic, no policy disagreements - just a gut feeling that different is wrong.

They are latching on to any and everything they can find about Obama to discredit him and his policies - it has nothing to do with what his policies are, only that they are different - therefore they say, "He is Muslim. He is Indonesian. He is Communist." He is anything but American.

And they HAVE to say that - they HAVE to argue about these imaginary differences because if they actually engaged the policies, if they actually listened, they would realize that they were wrong - that there is no argument. That there's nothing to object to.

Lower taxes on working people and provide health and safety to all Americans? No way! Barack Obama is different!

It's not about his race, but it's about finding ways Obama is not like "us." Race is one of those differences.

Willie said...

Do you not think that a mention of J. Wilson's past would be in order to justify why you might infer that something he did was racist?