This is a difficult post to write. But some issues, no matter how distasteful, must be faced squarely. Sadly, the numbers speak for themselves. Racism is on the rise in this country.
Why the dramatic rise in racism now? I cannot answer that. Perhaps the problem was here all along and we simply chose not to see it. It was easy to ignore in the months following the election when Obama’s favorability rating was over 70%. In the euphoria of his election, many of us became too complacent about racism. With a 70% favorability rating for the President elect, we were all too willing to overlook the 30% of racist Americans who remained. It was an easy mistake to make, the racists were outnumbered by more than two to one.
Few now remember that November 2008 to January 2009 was the golden age of the new post-racial post-partisan America, ushered in by the election of our new President. Our pundits in the mainstream media helped us to understand and appreciate the deep import of the election, and the possibility of finally turning the page on our racist history.
Maureen Dowd – Nov. 9, 2008:
“..we have images to share that are harmonizing, not polarizing — black and white students cheering and celebrating in front of the White House and the warm and fuzzy obsession about what kind of hypoallergenic puppy Sasha and Malia will get. It’s cool that President-elect Cool has gotten everybody chatting, even if it’s awkward small talk. And it’s fun, after so many years of unyielding barriers, to feel sentimental.”
“Obama’s victory creates the prospect of a new “real” America. We can’t possibly know its contours yet, although I suspect the headline is that it is no longer homogeneous. It is no longer a “white” country, even though whites remain the majority. It is a place where the primacy of racial identity — and this includes the old, Jesse Jackson version of black racial identity — has been replaced by the celebration of pluralism, of cross-racial synergy…It is a country that retains its ability to startle the world — and in a good way, with our freedom. It is a place, finally, where the content of our President’s character is more important than the color of his skin.”
“…when you personally know someone of the so-called other group, your likelihood to be prejudiced or doubtful of them seems to drop from about 90 percent to about 10 percent. In some respects, a president-elect, soon we expect to be the president of the United States, is almost a figure in the family of everybody in the country, almost as well known as some at least distant relative. Will this have a material impact in knocking down what remains of prejudice in this country?”
“But I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s a spirit and a bright, new hope for America within this country and around the world. And if Obama is elected, which I think he is going to be, then I think that will be the transforming race for the end of racism, and prejudice, and hatred between races in this country.”
As always, Jimmy Carter was far ahead of the curve, predicting the golden age of a post-racial America months before it came into being.
That was then. This is now. What happened? Perhaps it was just too easy to pretend the problem was not there.
Here are the facts. Racism has been rising steadily over the last few months. In recent polls, President Obama’s approval number has dropped from 70% to 50%. This means the percentage of racists in this country has risen from 30% to 50% – a 67% increase in only eight months! Even more alarming, close to one out of two Americans are now racist. We have reached a tipping point. If this trend continues, the racists will soon be in a majority. Now, more than ever, we need the pundits and sages of the mainstream media to speak out. Racism is so insidious, so deep rooted, that we may not even know whether we are racists, unless or until bloggers and pundits make that determination through psychoanalysis.
Some of those same strong media voices who were sweeping the racism problem under the rug in January, are finally sounding the alarm now that the full scope of the problem has been recognized.
Dowd – Sep 13. 2009:
Representative Wilson shouting from the floor? = Racism
“I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race… But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president …convinced me. Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.”
Bravo. How brave, this extraordinary willingness to make specific accusations of racism on the basis of nothing more than the imaginary voices in her head. Of course, it would be even braver if Maureen lived in a country, where, unlike here, she and her paper could be sued for slander. Sadly, some do not appreciate her principled stand against imagined racism. What are we to make of those such as blogger Clifton, who shamelessly asserts: “There is enough real racism in the world as it is; you are not helping anyone by making sh*t up!” Clearly Clifton is a racism denier.
KLEIN on Scarborough – Sep 11. 2009:
Protests in opposition to Obamacare? = Racism
“But the fact is that those kind of heinous arguments I think are a minor chord in the Democratic party, and they have been in the Republican party, but they are far more of a major chord. And I think that a lot of this, especially out in poor middle class white American is based in racial fears.”
Joe, keep speaking out. The administration is in denial over the real reason for the opposition to their policies. Your clear dispassionate analysis may yet snap them out of their dangerous delusions. What could they be thinking? Could anyone really believe that – a President who signs an earmark stuffed budget that quadruples the deficit, pushes through an almost $1T pork laden stimulus package that does not stimulate, takes over car companies, bails out investment bankers, institutionalizes the Bush/Cheney unitary executive, is pushing massive new energy taxes and wants an additional $1T in new health care entitlements – would raise strong opposition? Nonsense. Who could be opposed to such enlightened policies? The opposition is obviously racist. That is the only rational explanation.
“…in the Candyland world of racism dressed up as anything else, they will believe anything about the president and they will believe any rationalization, no matter how transparent, that what they‘re feeling is not racism… The White House green jobs adviser Van Jones resigned in the middle of a storm in a tea pot over the holiday weekend… A former chair for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights John Anner who was a friend of Mr. Jones has said what many are thinking here to quote it, “It struck me why go after this guy. He‘s a minor player. He has no power, no budget. Why take him? It‘s because he looks like Obama and he has all of those same attributes of being well-educated and he‘s an electrifying speaker with an elite education.”
I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to Keith Olbermann for stepping up yet again. The attack on Van Jones was so clearly rooted in racism that one must assume anyone who would suggest otherwise is also a de-facto racist. In this context, it was particularly shocking to me that Willie Brown, Democrat, former Mayor of San Francisco, frequent MSNBC contributor, and a man who worked directly with Van Jones would sadly be revealed to be a racist. From his column Sunday:
“The only question I have about Van Jones’ resignation as the White House green czar is why didn’t they call me before they hired him. You would think that, as part of the vetting process, they would have called the mayor of the city where he was from. I would have said, “Yeah, I know a lot about him. He’s really a pain in the ass. When he ran Bay Area PoliceWatch, he slanted every case to make the cops look as bad as possible. And while he might be talented enough, he’s totally and completely unreliable.”
Willie Brown – a racist. Who knew?
Jimmy Carter – September 16, 2009
Joe Wilson outburst, Protests, Obamacare opposition? = Racism
NYT – “The former president first weighed in on Tuesday during a question-and-answer session at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Mr. Carter responded to a question about Mr. Wilson’s eruption by saying that he did believe it was laced with racism. Coupling the Wilson remark with the images in recent weeks of angry demonstrators wielding signs depicting Mr. Obama as a Nazi or as Adolf Hitler, Mr. Carter said: “There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.” He lamented the tone of disrespect toward the current president, adding: “Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care. It’s deeper than that.”
Only Jimmy Carter could speaks with sufficient moral authority to attribute Joe Wilson’s outburst, tea party protesters and health care opposition all to racism. We need that clarity now more than ever. But the more these thought leaders speak out, the more racism deniers come out of the woodwork. As if they would know better than Jimmy Carter what real racism looks like. And again, the administration refuses to face reality.
With the ex-president adding his voice to the media voices speaking out loudly and clearly, perhaps we can beat back the scourge of racism once again. While we may never again return to the golden age of November 2008 to January 2009 when only 30% of the country were racists, perhaps we can at least reverse the trend and insure that the racists remain a minority of the voters in this country. Before it is too late – like – before the next election.
Notes on this post: As is often the case with my posts, the idea for this piece emerged from a recent comment thread here at the Donk. A version of this post was cross-posted at Divided We Stand United We Fall where it garnered some interesting comments, and was subsequently linked at The Crossed Pond generating an even longer and more interesting comment thread.