From the moment President Obama became a viable candidate in late 2006, heated rhetoric concerning race has become the theme modern politic. Black commentators questioned his “blackness”, Don Imus stated that he had a “Jew-hating name”, and Rush Limbaugh called him “the magic negro”. The Clinton’s infamous political strategy laden with racially charged divisive arguments later became the blueprint of official GOP strategy. Are we surprised have race problems in our country?
Race problems are as American as apple pie and no matter how much we like to lie to ourselves and pretend we exist in some sort of post racial utopia, the facts on the ground and in the media continue to show otherwise. It’s ridiculous on it’s premise to believe that after 400 plus years of slavery, Jim Crow, and other forms racial discrimination in our country against minorities, that somehow barely 40 years after the assassination of Dr. King, that after the election of America’s first black president that all wounds, mindsets, and ideas are healed and forgotten.
If anything else, I believe that the election of Barack Obama was a double-edged sword. On one hand, his election showed that as a nation we had taken a huge step forward in our racial legacy, but his election also showed that we still have a long way to go.
I don’t think there has ever been a President who has exposed how divisive, mean spirited, and outright bigoted some of us can be than Obama. Some of our most hated Presidents were criticized based on their political decisions, whether or not they were truthful, competent, or intelligent enough for the job. President Obama has been criticized on whether he’s really an American, the true nature of his religious beliefs, and whether or not he deserved an Ivy League education. It would be one thing if these criticisms were isolated to the far reaching corners of the internet, but these are mainstream discussions actually debated on major news networks and discussed as an important topic of debate in a major national political party.
What did President Obama do to deserve these types of criticism?
Some accuse Obama supporters, or liberal leaning individuals in general of looking for a racial issue at every turn, and in some cases the critics might be right. However, I believe that either through willful ignorance or plain denial that it is impossible for a rational adult to be unable to see the racial overtones in the charges levied against the President.
From day one, allegations against Obama have focused on whether or not he shares “our” values and allegations have been carefully orchestrated to point out that he is not like “us”. But how is “our” and “us”? What “values” are we talking about? I don’t claim to be astute at mathematics, but it appears to me that since the majority of the people making such arguments that question his parentage, nationality, religion, and education just happen to be overwhelmingly white, that must mean that at the end of the day this is a racial issue, i.e. 1+1=2. I have never heard of any other group of Americans claiming that Obama isn’t like them and not sharing their values, whatever that means.
We can dance around this topic for years to come, but what is painfully obvious is that if President Obama was actually President Jack Jacobs a white guy from Kansas who grew up in a single parent home on welfare, eventually raised by his war hero grandfather and mother, eventually making it to Harvard becoming the editor of the law review, only to continue his successes by becoming a Sate Senator, a US Senator, and then President, we would be making movies about his life story. He would be a national hero, icon, and in our celebrity and capitalistic culture his image would be used relentless to promote and sell American goods, services, and ideas to the world. I couldn’t imagine that we would be wondering if he was really American, questioning his parentage, or education, and I doubt we would even care if he believed in God or not. If we wouldn’t question President Jack Jacobs on these issues why do we care about these issues with President Obama?
We have several conflicts and wars we are engaged in, a struggling economy, and a rapidly changing Middle East and the shifting of global powers, but the national media is discussing the President of our nation’s citizenship as if we seriously believe that he somehow managed to fool everyone from educational institutions to the state and federal legislatures where he served. Do we actually believe that if he weren’t really a citizen he could have made it this far? Do we really believe that the Clinton’s who were looking for every opportunity to destroy his chances would have overlooked something as important as his Constitutional eligibility to run? Of course we don’t believe this madness, at least those of us who are reasonable people.
There are a contingent of Americans who I honestly believe outright hate this man because of his “otherness” also known as his non-whiteness. They compare him to monkeys, call him and his wife O-bammie (see mammie), and come up with every code slur they can without actually calling him and his wife niggers. They openly mock them with stereotypes calling his wife all sorts of offensive names, openly talk about the first lady’s body shape, and one can only imagine what’s being said in secret about their daughters.
This contingent in exit polls admitted that race was a factor in their decision in voting against Obama in 2008, this contingent also known as the GOP base are older, southern, evangelical, non-college educated, whites. They are angry, hostile, and most of their rallies look like either a raging lynch mob or a Sunday afternoon “picnic”. A sea of white Americans unified in their passionate hate against one man and his family.
We sit back and pretend this isn’t happening. We make excuses. We turn a blind eye to the GOP politicians who seize on this hate for their own gains, and we hope it will all go away. How can we look at the GOP polling where Donald Trump, a man with no political experience, is a serious contender for the GOP nomination leading present and former Governors by a wide-margin, and not see cause for alarm? Trump’s political platform is to capitalize on the Republican base’s ridiculous claims. Trump is more agitator than politician. The guy knows how to capitalize on the mob’s anger and steer them in whichever direction he wants.
America’s problem is not Donald Trump or even the crowds he’s being a puppeteer for. America’s problem is our continued amnesia concerning our racial history and the effects it has had on our national consciousness. Our day in and out willingness to bury our heads in the sand on issues relating to race have impacted our ability to discuss race relations openly and frankly. We have made it impossible to speak intelligently about these issues without being labeled a race baiter. Our belief in a proverbial “race card” a disarming mechanism akin to one placing their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and screaming la, la, la, la, la has become a viable strategy to avoid exposing racial truths.
It would do America and our politics a great deal of good if we just pulled the band aid off quickly on this issue and allow critics to bluntly state why they don’t like Obama. Let’s just draw the line in the sand and move on. Just as there were those who bluntly admitted that they voted for Obama because he was black, his critics should openly state that they oppose him because he’s black. It would save us all a great deal of time, money, and energy. We could stop filling columns and the airwaves with ridiculous amounts of words and conversations about issues I’m convinced no one really cares about or believes in on all sides. We all know Obama was born in America, didn’t cheat to get into Harvard, and isn’t a Muslim. We all know this and we have all known this since he appeared on the national stage in 2004. However, since critics can’t outright say it for fear of being labeled a racist, they have to come up with these crazy theories amongst each other as the only means to protest a black guy in the white house.
Either we will become honest about race or we will all need therapy when Obama is long gone. A black guy in the white house angers a bunch of white people. So what? Given our history, why is this such a taboo discussion? Is anyone really surprised?