Posts Tagged ‘Playing the race card’

President Obama and the race card

August 23, 2010

President Obama at the Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Fla.

Ever since Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President, he has been accused on a fairly regular basis of “playing the race card.”  This is a great example of the principle of accusing your opponent of the very thing of which you are guilty.

It is Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Andrew Brietbart and the rest of the radical right, not President Obama, who are the ones who are trying to make every issue a racial issue.

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said during the campaign that Obama was a threat to “the white power structure that you and I belong to.”  Rush Limbaugh said Obama’s election was a form of affirmative action. Glenn Beck has said repeatedly, based on nothing at all, that Obama is a “racist” who “has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”  His economic stimulus plan, his health reform plan and his other initiatives have been called a form of “reparations” or “affirmative action.”

Black kids and white kids get into a fight on a school bus, and Rush Limbaugh said this is “Obama’s America.”  After the Haitian earthquake, Limbaugh said the reason Obama ordered aid to the stricken population was to merely to boost his credibility with “the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community.” Glenn Beck said during the Gulf oil spill that the problem is that Obama “hates white CEOs.”  Limbaugh said Michelle Obama’s expensive vacation in Spain escapes criticism because of a feeling “it’s only fair that people of color get a taste of the wealth of America.”

The latest and most absurd attack on Obama, by Commentary magazine, is based on an interview he gave to the South African Broadcasting Corp. about al Qaeda in Africa, in which he said terrorist organizations “do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself.”  Supposedly this shows that Obama only cares about attacks on black people, not on white people.

In this game, President Obama has no race card to play.  Whenever there is a conflict with a black person on one side and a white person on the other, he tries to keep out of it, even if the black person is clearly in the right, or a valuable political ally.  His enemies chip away at him, week by week and month by month. If he were to argue back, it would just reinforce the meme of white vs. black.  It is a lose-lose situation.

Barack Obama is not the first President to be the target of unrelenting attack.  It is not as if the right-wing media treated Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry with kid gloves.  But the use of race as a wedge issue is more than a problem for President Obama, it is a problem for the country as a whole.  Framing every issue as a question of white against black is deeply divisive.  It puts at risk all the progress toward racial tolerance of the past 40 or 50 years.  Unless there is a push-back, the conflict could become violent, as in northern Ireland or the USA itself in earlier eras.

(more…)