POLITICAL RACISM September 18, 2009Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
The puzzle is not that the protests against President Obama are not racist, often overtly so, but that the president’s spokesman who wish to deny what would seem obvious.
They see the political cost of confronting racism as greater than pretending that racism is not at work. This is fairly typical of the way that White House is now working.
My conclusion is based on watching the following video. Notice the telltale responses of the young boys:
I find it hard to understand what the protesters are on about, and I suppose it has economic dimensions, but I expect it primarily racist in nature.
They see themselves (let me suppose) in their mental frame as the real Americans and all the rest as “others”, so they cannot accept that the President. So when little boy calls out in this video, “get out of here you un-Americans” that reflects his conditioning.
In practical political terms it means that working class Americans to some extent, perhaps with regional variations are disunited and cannot develop solidarity.
Jimmy Carter agrees about the racism. John Shoviland for ABC AM choses to frame Carters’ observation as a problem and not the plain truth:
And Mr Carter’s statement has done him no favours.
“An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity towards President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” he said.
“I think that an overwhelming proportion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, he’s African-American,” Carter, 84, told NBC television.
“I live in the South, and I have seen the South come a long way,” Carter added.
“But that racism inclination still exists, and I think it has bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but across the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.”
Mr Carter’s remarks have ensured that the issue remains central.
A slight wringing of the hands. Oh no, we can’t go there. Patrick Jonsson for The Christian Science Monitor does not hesitate:
So far, the reaction from the White House has been to downplay the role of race – an indication of real concern that too much name-calling could light a powder keg of opposition from a middle America that doesn’t see itself as racist. At his briefing Wednesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama doesn’t think that criticism of his policies is “based on the color of his skin.”
But it’s a conversation this former slave-holding nation may not be able to avoid, especially given 200 years of pent-up frustration, fueled by both real and perceived slights on a personal level for many Americans.
But it turns out “racism” is too a strong a word. Thomas Pettigrew is a psychologist from the University of California – Santa Cruz. Patrick Jonsson reports:
To be sure, says Pettigrew, there is some truth to the idea that at least a part of the American electorate – especially some in the old reactionary South that the Republican Party has successfully energized over the past three decades – may harbor some animosity towards an African-American president.
But rather than racism, “I call it a subtle prejudice,” he says. “The general idea is that people who don’t recognize it in themselves look for legitimate means to carry out their subtle beliefs, sometimes even without awareness on their part that they’re doing it.”
Subtle, subliminal prejudice whatever, racism is typically socially constructed attitude usually with political implications. The obvious political implication is that the working class is divided along racial lines. Who benefits from that?
At The Guardian, Lola Adesioye observes that not all the President’s opponents are racists. She might have included Chris Floyd’s comments, but at least in the international arena, Obama is acting as a real American president should.
My suggestion is that when people dehumanize others, sometimes which might be done inadvertently, it is necessary to confront them with it, and point out to them that dehumanization is a form of violence, that leads to further violence. The United States of America staggers on with its terrible legacy of slavery and its consequences without any process of reconciliation. At least in Australia and New Zealand, all we have to come to terms with is the terrible, tragic history of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people. And some progress has been made, or at least attempted.
Read Judith’s comments at her blog, The Being Brand, on her experience.
Nancy Pelosi observes that people should take some responsibility for the incitement they may cause by what they say. That is true and obvious, but try convincing some of the media performers. In a moralistic mode in my opinion we should always remember to consider the effects of public policy on people whoever they might be, and not least consider the effects our words might have.
Nicholas Guen at Club Troppo is on the case of a Southern Society long gone crazy by slavery, racism, and terrorism – a big boiling pot of violence.
Since I do not know very much about this history and that society,the comment from Silbey at The Edge of the American West, via Brad DeLong, is even more emphatic and maybe illuminating. What is to be done? Jimmy Carter has spoken out, and perhaps he had to.
Frank Rich at The New York Times, via Common Dreams, takes a different view arguing the reality of social inequality and worsening economic conditions is likely to create extremism, as it has in the past, but suggesting that Obama is right to ignore the racist subtext.