Since CNN was kind enough to share my blog as a link to their story yesterday I received quite a bit of feedback from readers on both sides. Passions ran pretty hot but one question in particular prompted me to respond. That was the question by my blogging friend Jim Thornber.
“If I disagree with you, must it be racially motivated, or could it simply be that I disagree with you? You are African American and I’m not. So what? If you disagree with me, does that mean you don’t like white people?
Is it possible for me to disagree with President Obama simply because I disagree, or must there be, in you opinion, some inkling of racism mixed in there? Just wondering.”
I would like to answer my friend Jim’s question.
Jim, you ask a great and wonderful question. One I am happy to answer.
Let me frame it this way. You are indeed correct that they call me African-American and that they call you white. It is also true that as an African-American I disagree with other African-Americans all the time. I have disagreed with liberal and conservative African-Americans in politics and in media. I disagreed with Kanye West and Serena Williams over the last few days. I don’t consider myself racist by any means towards African-Americans. So the short answer to you my friend is, “No.” Certainly in this great nation of ours you have the right to disagree with black folks for whatever reasons your principles compel. However, you are not the person I was talking about in my post. You are not the person Carter was referring to in his comments.
The people we are talking about started making their voices known after Obama won the democratic nomination. When it became apparent that he had a chance to win the presidency, folks like Sara Palin got the racial party started when she said that Obama was not an American like she and her followers are. (code language to be sure) This continued with congregant rants during town hall meetings and speeches by Sen. John McCain when folks shouted things like, “He’s a Muslim!, or “Off with his head!” Americans mind you.
The people we are talking about are like the guy in Florida who had on the T-Shirt that said, “Nigger please! It’s called the White House,” during the election.
The people we are talking about joined and increased numbers for hate groups. They bought guns and assault rifles at an alarming rate, so much so that places like Wal-Mart ran out of ammunition. The people I am talking about get their que from Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to name a few. These guys fan the flames of racism like no other. Then quickly hide their hands as if they did nothing.
I am talking about are the ‘birthers’ who questioned the president’s citizenship as yet another reason to attempt to delegititimize him and his holding the office.
Jim let me tell you. I had occasion since the election to visit a couple federal buildings since January. When I see that picture of President Obama it trips me out. I saw all of the election results and the inauguration. But seeing that picture of the president in that official federal format is still quite unbelievable to me. I am so serious when I say that. Well likewise many other American can’t wrap their brains around it either. But it affects them differently. I may say, “Wow! Unbelieveable.” They may say “WTF?! Oh hell no he ain’t my president.”
With that as a backdrop here is where I agree with Carter.
I argue that race is what made Joe Wilson comfortable making his remarks. Certainly I knew that Bush was lying about 9-11 being related to Iraq. I was not unique. Other House members knew this. They knew it would cost billions of dollars and thousands of American lives and yet while he made those speeches neither of them thought it righteous to shout the man down and call him a liar.
I didn’t agree with a lot of what Bush did. I didn’t watch most of his speeches because I felt they were mere lies and propaganda. But I’ll tell you what. If the man while he was president walked in the room I’m standing up and giving him the honor the office is due. I’m addressing him as ‘sir’ and ‘Mr. President.’
If you’re not familiar, and I am sure you remember some of my blogs before that detailed some of the pictures and cartoons that have been put on the internet. For example, one show the president dressed in Muslim garb while the first lady totes an assault rifle as they fist bump one another. Another show the front lawn of The White House with watermelons planted abroad. Another depicted the president as a witch doctor. Yet another show two police standing over a dead monkey they had shot. The police then make references to the stimulus package. I could go on but you get my drift. We got wind of these pictures as politicians on the right passed them around to each other in email. Each time they were caught they claimed, “What me, a racist?”
The same people who create and promote these cartoons and caricatures are the same people who believe these stereotypes. These are the same people who tried to turn out the healthcare town-hall meetings. These are the people who are making the most noise; not people like you who may or may merely disagree and take the president to task intelligently.
As far as Joe Wilson goes, we have enough evidence of his own work and words where he fits the description of a racist. As Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column:
“The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president.
But let me say this. Let’s say Wilson isn’t a racist for the sake of argument. He feels comfortable in doing what he did because he knows that he comes from a constituency of people who believe that his actions were justified. He like McCain/Palin early in the campaign against Obama rode the racist base with as much momentum as he could muster. McCain later backed off and tried to quell that base when it became bad press but by then he couldn’t close that barn. Republicans know full and well that a large part of their base is racist and furthermore they are easy to scare and rile up. These politicians at best play on the hatred and fears of such people. It’s a strategic easy sell. The Right is not willing to challenge or risk losing that base. So at the very least they are ‘accessories to racism’ if they don’t personally agree. What you see now is a result of said tactics. Carter, a white man from Georgia no less, is merely calling them out for who and what they are. I happen to agree with him.
Finally, I understand that many are fatigued at the mention of racism. I fit that description as well. I am often reluctant to even discuss this because most won’t even admit that there is still a problem. (Just read some of the comments on yesterday’s post.) Others are perfectly comfortable saying, “Sure racism exists,” as long as we don’t address anything specific that happens. If cops shoot a black man in the back shouting the “N” word many whites and a few conservative blacks will say, “Hold on now, this doesn’t necessarily mean its racist.”
Look, I am not trying to lecture you on race Jim. I know you are a better man than that. I am answering your question still believe it or not. The healthcare debate for you and others like you who may disagree is different from the rants going on out there. I have a few issues I disagree with the president about. I expected to when he won the office. I expect that of any president. Who am I? Still my behavior is in tact.
People like you are not the ones drawing the pictures, carrying guns into meetings, calling the president ‘Hitler’ and ‘socialist.’ In the healthcare debate the name ‘socialist’ is the new ‘nigger.” People like you are not keeping their children from class because they don’t want the president to ‘put his agenda on them.’ This is a different breed and they are making the most noise. They get the most media coverage.
These people don’t disagree with the president. They hate the president for who he is. They feel the country is slipping from their control and, “My God Obama is going to help lazy black people get healthcare. Pretty soon we are going to have to swim with them and then they will sleep with our women.” Trust me it always goes back to that.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If white Americans want people like me to stop talking about racism, all they have to do is police themselves and other whites who step out of line. Check those who speak lies and promote hateful stereotypes. But unfortunately I don’t see the rage in white folks in trying to do that. They rather I just shut up and be glad slavery is over at least.
People can call Carter ‘peanuts’ or whatever. That’s certainly easier to do than to grapple with what the man is saying.
What is that saying about “De-Nile” not being merely a river in Africa?
Well anyway, I hope I answered your question Jim.