Posts Tagged ‘Race card’

Which side is playing the race card?

October 8, 2012

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic Monthly wrote:

Since 2009 there’s been a conservative obsession with proving that the real Obama is a black radical who has it in for white people.  That intention runs through the conspiracy theories that Michelle Obama was caught on tape talking about “whitey;” the story about Obama hugging a critical race theorist while in law school; Newt Gingrich’s demagoguery during the Trayvon Martin case; Rush Limbaugh’s insistence that in Obama’s America it’s permissible for blacks to beat up whites on school buses; Dinesh D’Souza’s insistence that Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist; and other stories too.

These conservatives don’t care that President Obama’s actual record on racial matters is anything but radical.  Nor do they care that his reelection poses zero threat to white people as a class.

It isn’t any proposed policy change that gets them going.  There isn’t any sound, substantive reason that they focus on racial controversy.  They’re just race obsessed.  Racial angles are constantly emphasized in right-leaning media because that’s what the conservative audience wants, every bit as much as the average New York Times reader wants a very different sort of race-focused journalism.

On the right, ethnic studies is treated as an illegitimate discipline for the race-obsessed; but positing that Americans are supporting Obama’s reelection because of a psychological aversion to black people failing?  That is totally acceptable speculative commentary.

“This guy is whipping up race hatred and fear,” Tucker Carlson of The Daily Caller said on Fox News.  So according to Carlson, Obama said some stuff in 2007 that should totally shock us because nothing like it has been part of his rhetoric as president; those words would remain totally obscure if not for Carlson; but it’s Obama who is “whipping up race hatred and fear,” for telling a black audience that the federal government did less for Katrina victims than other natural disaster victims, in part because they were poor and black.

For conservatives, complaining that college administrators do less to accommodate students because they’re white is perfectly respectable commentary, and anyone who says otherwise is enforcing political correctness; but a specific critique of disaster relief dollars shortchanging blacks is “whipping up race hatred,” and labeling it beyond the pale isn’t political correctness run amok at all.

That’s completely right.  If anything, President Obama is more fearful than a white President would be of doing anything that might be interpreted as favoring black people over white people.  Obama is not a secret black nationalist, or a secret Muslim, or a secret radical socialist.  Nor is he a mediocrity elevated by black solidarity and white liberal guilt.  He is a highly gifted politician who is a brilliant and effective defender of the status quo (which is why I do not intend to vote for him).

Trying to stir up racial antagonism is harmful to American society.  The use of racial antagonism by the right wing is a red herring to divert the attention of the American public from the fact that Governor Romney is just like Obama, or worse, on all the issues that matter.

Click on The Daily Caller Video, President Obama and the Race-Obsessed Right for Conor Friedersdorf’s full post.

Click on Fear of a Black President for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts about President Obama and American attitudes about race.

Click on President Obama and the race card for my earlier thoughts.

Click on Ted Rall’s Rallblog for more from this cartoonist.

This was edited slightly on Oct. 9.

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.