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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Racism Re-visited

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DESPICABLE!  Need we say more?  YES.  It was not just the outfit, or that a clown was wearing it, it was the remarks over the loudspeaker that put this whole matter into the area of racism.

According to CNN, a voice was heard over the loudspeaker working up the crowd and saying, "We're going to stomp Obama now."
The remarks were carried over the loudspeaker system, but were made by a rodeo clown.
"As soon as this bull comes out, Obama, don't you move," the voice said. "He's going to getcha, getcha getcha, getcha."
"Hey, I know I'm a clown," the voice said. "He's just running around acting like one. Doesn't know he is one."

This is mockery.  This is wholly uncalled for.  This is blatant bigotry.  But it’s not the only time we have seen it, either covertly or discretely displayed.  Let us take stock of this pernicious movement to mock and demean our President.

Joe Conason wrote in a recent NY Times article the following:

“What made so many of us proud of our country on Jan. 20, 2009, has increasingly provoked expressions of hatred from the far right. That is troubling, but not nearly as troubling as the behavior of conservatives who excuse, embolden or simply pretend to ignore the bigots surrounding them.  But this summer has seen several loud and ugly outbursts of very real racism—including threats of violence against the president of the United States—that go well beyond the utterance of any single word. As if suffering from a facial tic, leading figures on the right cannot seem to suppress their inner Klansman these days.”

It is perhaps safe to say, as one commentator did, that “white antipathy toward the President has brought forth an outbreak of racism not experienced at such a level since the 1950s and '60s. Joe Conason has put his finger right on it. These people commit acts that demean the President as a black man. They are racist actions, pure and simple.”

Let us revisit some of the outright mockery and bigotry that has shown itself in the years of Mr. Obama’s Presidency.

1)  Obama is not a U.S. citizen. It is perhaps the “birthers,” and their tales of conspiracy, that have garnered the most attention.  Because of this fact, we do not need to delve into this topic very deeply to know that this is racist bigotry that tries to display a black man as a foreigner who is not one of “us,” and who is therefore not worthy of the Presidency.  Birthers have consistently refused to accept as valid the documentation released by Obama that shows that he was born in Hawaii. Why is this racist? New York Times columnist Timothy Egan explained that the birther movement “has little to do with reality and everything to do with the strangeness of Obama’s background — especially his race."

Here is a somewhat stranger version of this whole birther topic, told on a blog that claims to be an Obama Timeline.  Note the attempts to attack the birth of Barack Obama by demeaning his father and his mother, as well as indicating that he was not a natural born citizen of the U.S.A.  Wonder how the author would evaluate Senator Ted Cruz’s dual citizenship status?  Is he too, “arguably not a natural born citizen?”

Part I of The Obama Timeline
”Barack Obama Jr. is born on August 4, 1961 to Stanley Ann Dunham (1942–1995). Ann Dunham… had married Obama’s father, Barack Obama, Sr. (1936–1982), on February 2, 1961. Obama, Sr., a pro-Soviet Marxist, was a Kenyan studying at the University of Hawaii. Dunham met him in a Russian language class in the fall of 1960, as he was starting his second year at the university and she was beginning her first. Obama, Sr., an Arab-African Muslim by birth, but an atheist by admission, already had two children with a woman in Kenya named Kezia (b. 1938). The senior Obama may or may not have been legally married to Kezia. Some have speculated that their marriage was only a tribal marriage, and therefore not legally recognized. Depending on his marital status in Kenya, Obama’s marriage to Dunham may not therefore have been legal.
Obama states he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. If that is the case, he was then both an American citizen and a British citizen at birth because his father was a citizen of the protectorate of British East Africa. Because the region had, in 1961, not yet declared its independence from Great Britain, Obama was, like his father, a British citizen under Section 32(1) of the British Nationality Act of 1948. Both Obama, Sr. and Obama, Jr. then automatically became citizens of Kenya when that independent nation was formed in 1963. Obama’s British/Kenyan citizenship automatically expired when he turned age 21, but he was born with dual citizenship and split loyalties, and thus was arguably not a natural born citizen of the United States.”  

2)  Obama is a Muslim.  This rumor became widespread around the time Obama first announced his run for president. The argument was that he attended a Muslim school in his youth and that his father was a radical Muslim. Various photos featuring Obama wearing Muslim-influenced clothing helped fuel this rumor.  A more specific charge was that, while living in Indonesia as a child, Barack Obama attended a Madrassa (Muslim school) for 4 years. 

Nadra Kareem Nittle, at About.com Guide, comments:
“Rumors about Obama being a Muslim persist, despite his declarations to the contrary and the very public scandal surrounding his former minister the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts faults racism. She remarked on ABC’s ‘This Week’ that a fifth of Americans believe Obama’s a Muslim because it’s unacceptable to say, ‘I don’t like him ’cause he’s black.’ On the other hand, ‘it’s acceptable to dislike him because he’s a Muslim,’ she declared.
Like the birther movement, the Muslim conspiracy movement attempts to highlight the fact that this president is different. He has a ‘funny name,’ a so-called ‘exotic upbringing’ and Kenyan heritage. Rather than point out their distaste for these differences, some members of the public and of the opposition Party find it convenient to label Obama a Muslim, which serves to marginalize him and undermine his fitness to lead the nation.” 

3) Obama as subhuman or animalistic.  Nadra Kittle also points to this example of racial bigotry and states:
“Before and after his election to the presidency, Barack Obama has been painted time and time again as subhuman in graphics, email transmissions and posters used to undermine him. While it’s nothing new for politicians to be turned into caricatures, the ones used to criticize Obama frequently have racial overtones. The president has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist and a chimp, to name a few. The image of his altered face has been shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt

imageJemima and Uncle Ben. The depictions of Obama as ape-like have arguably sparked the most controversy, considering that blacks have been portrayed as monkey-like for centuries to suggest that they’re inferior to other groups. Still, when Marilyn Davenport, an elected official in the Republican Party of Orange County, Calif.,

imagecirculated an email depicting Obama and his parents as chimps, she initially defended the image as political satire.”  Underneath the picture was written: "Now you know why — No birth certificate!"

“What did the Fox News host, Glenn Beck, mean, exactly, when he shrieked: ‘It’s like the damned Planet of the Apes. Nothing makes sense!’ Is there any other way to explain the grotesque new best-seller by radio host Laura Ingraham, ‘The Obama Diaries,’ where, among other things, she depicts first lady Michelle Obama eating ribs at every meal?

Similar symptoms of this spiritual sickness can be seen across the country now, even in amusement parks and church carnivals, where small children are being exposed.
“At the Big Time fair held by Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Roseto, Pa., a game called ‘Alien Attack’ featured ‘an image of a suited black man holding a health care bill and wearing a belt buckle with a presidential seal,‘ at which players were encouraged to aim their popguns. Anybody who hit the cardboard figure in the head or the heart could win a prize. Irvin L. Good Jr., owner of Goodtime Amusements denied that the figure represents Mr. Obama.”

“Meanwhile on the New Jersey shore, patrons of the Seaside Heights boardwalk could hurl baseballs at a black, jug-eared Obama figurine, winning a prize if they managed to smash it. As seen in a video posted on the Gawker website, this object closely resembles the grinning “lawn jockey” statuettes that used to festoon suburban lawns in a less decent era.”

The Arizona Republic reported that hundreds of dissenters chose to model their insulting and extremist behavior before some of Phoenix's youngest residents. Assembled outside Desert Vista High School, they mocked Obama's race, singing "Bye Bye Black Sheep" in spirited synchronization. One "patriot" went so far as to deprecate our commander in chief by pronouncing him "47 percent Negro," while another, held a sign that read, "Impeach the Half-White Muslim!"

4)  Obama as lazy or incompetent.
Former Clinton Advisor and current Fox political Advisor, Dick Morris, claimed as early as December 18, 2006 on FOX that Obama had never introduced a Bill in Congress.
Obama had been the primary sponsor on 152 Bills. Additionally, more than 14 bills that Obama had sponsored or co-sponsored have become law.
This accusation has raised it head many times, by many personages, saying that the President doesn’t work with Congress, that he takes too many vacations, that he leads from “behind,” that he frittered away chances to help rebels in Libya, Syria, now Egypt and who knows where else!  His latest vacation respite in Martha’s Vineyard produced many comments about his withdrawal from world events (especially in Egypt).

The attempt by Daryl Issa and his committee to pin certain scandals on the President basically went nowhere, but served to embolden already bigoted attitudes about incompetency.  The only “scandal” that has struck a viable chord surrounds the collection of phone and email records by the NSA, and that has more to do with laws passed by the Congress and a tendency of “spy” networks to keep things secret than it does with some sort of incompetency on the part of the President.  It raises the issue of individual liberties versus national security and is a conundrum we must all address. 

5) Barack Obama has ties with terrorists.
ALLEGATION: Obama is sympathetic to domestic terrorists, since his home in Chicago is in the same neighborhood as 60's radical William Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn, and the two have also worked together. Ayers and Dohrn, former members of the radical Weather Underground, a group that carried out a string of bombings of federal buildings, spent 10 years as fugitives before all charges were eventually dropped. Ayers and Dohrn both eventually became professors in Chicago.
FACTS: In 1985, Obama worked on the Developing Communities Project, a Chicago group which tried to empower the poor through grass roots organization and is based on the community organizing tradition of Marxist Saul Alinsky. Alinsky was friends for a time with Al Capone, and his followers included Cesar Chavez and several anti-Vietnam protesters. 
Starting in 1995, Ayers and Obama worked with the non-profit Chicago Annenberg Challenge on a vast school improvement project, which invited cities to compete for $50 million grants to improve public education. While Ayers was working to bring the grant to Chicago, Obama was recruited onto the board. Additionally, from 1999 through 2001, both Ayers and Obama were board members on the Woods Fund, a charitable foundation...” 

6)  Not only is he flawed, but he is power-hungry and violence-prone.
“In high school, playing basketball offered him some companionship, though he often felt he didn’t completely belong with his peers. To try to fit in, he also tried drinking, smoking pot, and experimenting with cocaine.”

“The Obama administration has already launched six times as many drone strikes as the Bush administration in Pakistan alone, killing hundreds of innocent people and devastating families
“By signing the ‘anti-terror’ bill the president could end up being worse than his Republican predecessor on civil liberties.” (Obama Fact Sheet PAKALERT Press.com)

In a Monday, July 15, 2013 Post by Spandan C, he writes that David J. Sirota (an American liberal political commentator and radio host based in Denver; a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, Democratic political spokesperson, and blogger) is trying to say that Barack Obama is hunting down Arabs, just as Zimmerman hunted down Trayvon because of his skin color.  He is equating the black president's actions in war with an armed vigilante's pursuit and murder of an unarmed teenager because he presumed guilt by skin color. And in that equation not so subtly lies the thinly veiled caricature of black men as violent, vindictive, indiscriminate killers.”

7)  There are some who just say bad things about him and his race.

“You lie” was one.  “He hates white people” is another.  But, perhaps nothing tops it off like the November 10, 2012 private Facebook slur about President Obama that got a California woman fired and reported to the U.S. Secret Service.  The inflammatory and racist comments by Denise Helms, age 22, prompted management at Cold Stone Creamery to terminate her employment over her offensive comments and the public’s backlash.  The racial slur was posted on her Facebook page shortly after Obama won a second term over Mitt Romney: "And another 4 years of the (n-----). Maybe he will get assassinated this term..!!"

Some Conclusions:

Three of the Most Racist Anti-Obama Political Attacks
By Nadra Kareem Nittle, About.com Guide

When the president’s opponents use racial stereotypes to undermine him or suggest that he’s lying about his origins because he’s different—biracial, bred outside of the continental U.S. and born to a Kenyan father with a ‘strange name‘—an undercurrent of racism is often at play. As former President Jimmy Carter said in 2009: ‘When a radical fringe element of demonstrators …begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler…people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African American‘.”

Monday, August 16, 2010
Racists Called Out by Joe Conason (writes for the New York Observer).
The depths of the racism being expressed by today's right wing is consistent with its white nationalist history.  We are at the stage we were in the 1950s and '60s in terms of expressed white antipathy toward the nation having a black president. In the Reagan years a majority voted for Reagan because of his miserable record on racism. Out of power, many of these white nationalists are desperate. And today, they are buttressed by Fox News, talk radio and the Internet where even the most extreme white supremacists are able to organize and spread propaganda.  It is time for conservatives to step up and denounce the racism that is again disfiguring our country in their name.”

I offer my own conclusion by way of a personal experience.  On Thursday, August 22, 2013, I had the privilege of meeting, shaking hands with, and having a picture taken with,  President Barack Obama.  I searched for the ill-bred, animalistic, incompetent, power-hungry, white race-hater and lazy personage that right wing bigots keep spewing forth about this man.  Instead, I found a warm, engaging, sincere person of substance who appeared to have none of the flaws attributed to him.  Laziness was certainly not part of his grueling schedule for that day!  With some politicians, you can sense right away that they are not sincere or at least not interested in you or what you have to say.  Not so with President Obama.  He focused on me with laser sharpness, and made it clear that he appreciated the work that the organization I represented had done, and he thanked me for my leadership.  I am convinced from meeting him, and from all that I know about him from books, policies, videos, news reports and interviews, plus reports from people close to him, that this is a man of value, virtue and veracity, unlike so many of the politicians, pundits and nay-sayers who spew their venom at him whenever they get the chance. 

It is fair to ask, I think, how many of these haters and bigots have ever even met, or talked with, the President?  If they have not, then on what basis do they make personal judgments about him?  (Policy judgments and criticisms are one thing; personal attacks another thing entirely!).  Can anything they say about his personal nature have any validity, since their utterances seem to be based solely on stereotypes, epithets, and prejudices about the color of his skin? 

50 Years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

When segments of our society – especially the Right-Wing -- cannot bring themselves to respect the President of the United States because of his skin color, that dream has not been realized.

When the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, is burdened and festooned with the hatred and disrespect of  a bigoted segment of our population because of his skin color, the day of fair judgment based on character has not arrived.

The work of obtaining equal freedom, equal justice and equal rights is not the burden of one race alone; it is the mission of all races working together for the betterment of humankind.