Maybe We Should Have Elected a White President After All

There is no doubt that this country is not ready for a Black President.

Nor would this country ever be ready for any non-white or non-male president until we actually went ahead and elected one–ready or not–and then made the necessary adjustments. And that could have been what would have happened with the historic election of Barack Obama.

Except it didn’t.

Join me, if you will, in a moment of utter, deep cynicism. That would mean you thinking, for just a moment, exactly like I think every second of the day. This will be painful for you, unless you are already where I am. In my world, I see almost every nationally elected Republican, almost every one of the teabaggers at the town hall meetings, and almost every one of the strutting libertarians with their strap-ons (because they don’t have real ones) as a racist. I also see half the liberals that I know as racists. I see almost every white person who lives in the suburbs and who has a job and an income with benefits as a racist. I probably think you are a racist. You may think I’m over doing it, you may think I’m being unfair, you may think I’ve oversimplified, and you may think I’ve got it wrong.

I have oversimplified, but I’m not overdoing it, I’m not being unfair, and I don’t have it wrong. It is you that has it wrong and that is the problem. Standing by and letting what we are seeing happening on the national stage and doing nothing about it is plain and pure complicity.

I’m thinking about the response to health care reform. The most active of them all, the teabaggers and the Republicans in office, each and every one, are reacting not to anything about health care, but rather to the fact that our president is a black man, and they are reacting to little else. Proposals that the Republicans have made themselves over the last decade are being touted as attempts to kill grandma or take away our freedoms or introduce socialism. There is nothing rational in what the teabaggers and Republicans are saying. Not. One. Thing.

Does any of this mean that we have prematurely elected our first black president? No, of course not. That is all to be expected. That would all be part of the transformation our country will go through to make the election of non-white-male presidents (in some combination) plausible rather than jaw-dropping remarkable.

The problem is not that the crazy right wing is upset and screaming at us from the back of the room telling us to shut up. The problem is that the rest of the country, or at least a significant number of individuals, especially in elected office and in the media, are not calling this what it is. Yes, there have been hints, here and there, of racist undertones and overtones, but the spade is not being called a spade. As it were.

And the reason is disgusting. The reason that the mainstream press and numerous elected officials are not identifying the town hall teabaggers and the anti-health care Republicans as racists is because the ground has been prepared to make sure that when someone does call someone else out on racism in the mainstream public square, that act…the act of identifying racism…is considered just as bad as the racism itself. It is called “playing the race card.” The whole “Oh, now you’re going to play the race card, aren’t you!” gambit was developed, prepared, and inculcated into society over the last 15 years (really, 14 years…since the OJ Simpson trial), so now racism has a place at the table. Where it does not belong.

Over the last 24 hours (as I write this on Monday) the public option part of health care reform has been taken off the table. I can hope, tell myself, guess, fantasize, that this is just a strategy, and that the public option will be back. I can figure that this is just to give some time for the famous Obama grassroots organizing to get up to speed, and that the public option will be in the health care bill and will be voted into place. But I doubt it. I strongly suspect that the golden opportunity, which comes around very 12 to 20 years, has been lost once more.

I will die before there is a good health care system. My daughter will reach middle age or even old age before there is a good health care system.

Fuck you all. That includes you, Barack.

This message has been brought to you by the five largest health care corporations in America, who finished this day of trading on Wall Street between one and two points up, on a day when overall trading was down over 200 points.

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72 Responses to “Maybe We Should Have Elected a White President After All”

  1. August 19th, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Mike Haubrich, FCD says:

    Steven Crowder is out there making videos mocking the idea that there has been an angry mob. Because it didn’t happen in Denton, it didn’t happen anywhere and the liberal media are making it all up to make conservatives look crazed.
    The new tool of propaganda for the right wing is to say “Who? ME? No, I am the rational one here. It’s the leftiist ObamaNaziCrats who are insane!”

    Watch…

  2. August 19th, 2009 at 9:57 am

    peter says:

    America deserves what it gets. A failing public school system, a failing health care system, failing infra structure – all to justify the god given role of the “free market” and “free enterprise” with the propensity to inflict environmental damage to the good of the “free private entrepreneur”.
    Deeply embedded racism just helps support this self destructive freedom of an economy that had run rampant over the interests of the public, and then had to be bailed out by the same public.

  3. August 19th, 2009 at 10:03 am

    PolicyWonk says:

    You know, I always thought you were way over the top with ideology, Greg, but now I think you need help. I support national health care and votoe for Obama, but this post is intellectually diseased. Seriously, seek help now.

  4. August 19th, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Abstruse says:

    *Slowclap*

  5. August 19th, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Well, Policy Wonk, since you always thought I was over the top, that you think I’m being over the top now hardly merits comment. But I do appreciate the comment.

  6. August 19th, 2009 at 10:26 am

    T. Hunt says:

    One of the main themes of the movie ‘Blazing Saddles’ comes to mind…

    Bart just couldn’t be sheriff.

  7. August 19th, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Dan J says:

    I will die before there is a good health care system. My daughter will reach middle age or even old age before there is a good health care system.Fuck you all. That includes you, Barack.

    I could not agree more, particularly with the “fuck you” part. I always hold out hope that maybe this time we’ll get some politicians who aren’t already bought and paid for by the commercial-industrial giants. My hopes are always dashed on the steps of the Capitol. Fuck the Republicans, fuck the Democrats, fuck the Independents, fuck the Libertarians, fuck the Greens, and especially fuck the health insurance companies.

    That said, on to the racism aspect. My primary job involves daily contact with midwesterners who are enjoying their “golden years”. Their ages range primarily from early 60′s to late 90′s. I would not doubt in the slightest that any single one of them would (in private) acknowledge that they have fears and apprehensions about a “black man” being President. Heck, they have fears and apprehensions about a black man entering the room they happen to be sitting in!

    Is our country racist? Hell yes? Is it deplorable? Hell yes? Are the politicians ever honest about their racism? Fuck no! (Their honesty about anything is in doubt.) So what are they doing? They’re playing up to any other fears, real or imagined, that they can drum up. They’re still a bunch of fear-mongering, hate-mongering pricks who “want their country back”, and I have to work diligently to repress the urge to slap each and every one of them upside the head with a two-by-four while shouting “You’re too fucking stupid to be in control.”

  8. August 19th, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Rei says:

    The theme of this rant is,

    “Everyone impedes progress except for me.”

  9. August 19th, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Grifter says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s racism. You don’t know their heads, or their reasons. They could just as easily be being idiots because he’s a Democrat…remember, the Republicans had all the power for several years and managed to royally cockup the country…they’re probably afraid that they’ll go the way of the Whigs if they aren’t careful, and have to try to keep this very much a 2 sided argument, by being as shrill as possible.

    Could it be racism? YES. Are you right for calling it such? NO. In fact, it’s just as bigoted of you to say it must be racism as it theoretically is of them if it is racism. It’s called the “race card” when it’s played for effect, not truth. Would it be hard to prove for sure that it’s racism? OF COURSE. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. That’s part of rational discourse, is that you don’t accuse people of distasteful things unless you can back them up.

  10. August 19th, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Rei: The theme of this post is “I’m tired of people denying racism as an issue by simply sidestepping it”

    Grifter: I have to disagree with you. This is not the reaction one gets to democrats. This is the reaction we get to a black man sleeping with your sister.

    . Are you right for calling it such? NO. In fact, it’s just as bigoted of you to say it must be racism as it theoretically is of them if it is racism. It’s called the “race card” when it’s played for effect, not truth.

    No. The evidence for a racist overtone and thrust for these groups is strong. The evidence that we have been trained to have a kneejerk reaction against “the race card” is … well, in your own words.

    There is much more to it than racism, including Republicans simply not being in charge any more and getting all snitty about it. But race is a big factor.

    Consider a test of the hypothesis. Find the staging grounds for a few groups of these astro-turfing teabaggers, where they partk their personal vehicles before going to the rallies. Examine the decals and bumper stickers. You will find the nazi-era helmet motif, the southern flag motif, etc. in larger proportion than, say, the parking lot at Target (as a control). Don’t you think?

  11. August 19th, 2009 at 11:59 am

    CyberLizard says:

    I think that this is really the first wave of the zombie apocalypse; mobs of brain dead creatures trying to suck out the brains of the rest of us. I’m getting my shovel and chainsaw and heading for my underground bunker.

    Serious question now, for you older folk: do all generations have their periods of “the sky is falling”? Has the wingnuttery ever been this loud and in charge before? It seems like that it would have been worse to have gone through the McCarthy saga, but then I didn’t go through it. In other words, is it really as bad as it seems or have we, as a nation, gone through similar times before and not gone off the deep end?

    I’m not being very coherent, sorry. I just have this sense of impending doom and I want to distinguish between actual doom and my mind’s projections.

  12. August 19th, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Dan J says:

    That’s part of rational discourse, is that you don’t accuse people of distasteful things unless you can back them up.

    I guess it’s rather unfortunate that I did not have a recording device for the year preceding the 2008 Presidential election (and many months afterward). If I had possessed and used such a device, I could have provided you with the voices of many individuals proclaiming that they would never vote for a “black man” (some language was not as nice) for President. All I have are anecdotes that go nowhere toward “proving” racism, but that’s how it goes.

    Rational discourse? It is possible to have a rational discourse with some people. Unfortunately, many of the people who have completely embraced the hatred and misinformation being shoveled at them are anything but rational.

  13. August 19th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    So, Grifter, you don’t call people Nazis, fascists, tyrants or anti-American. You don’t accuse them of entering public office under false pretenses. You don’t accuse them of trying to destroy a way of life that doesn’t exist for most people. You don’t accuse them of hating white people.

    Or do you only avoid calling them racist? Despite the race baiting, Jim Crow-era depictions of Obama, mock lynchings, denial of his country of origin, denial of his religion of record and blatant use of racial epithets?

    Bullshit that we don’t know what this is and can’t see plenty of evidence for it. If you’re not seeing it, you’re not looking. Before you go accusing Greg of bigotry, go have a look at what this reactionary right is actually saying about the president, and I don’t mean what the suits are saying to the talking heads on the news. Engage before you dismiss.

  14. August 19th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    ERV says:

    What? This is a good thing. Racist psychos freaking out and not making any sense is a good thing. It means that 1) they are trainable, 2) theyve lost.

    It is not socially acceptable for them to stand up in a town hall meeting screaming ‘NIGGER LOVER! NIGGER LOVER! HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THE POLICIES OF A NIGGER, NIGGER LOVER???’ They know that. So they call Obama ‘Hitler’ or a ‘Nazi’, instead of a nigger. It doesnt make any sense, but its something for them to scream their hate out.

    They cant scream ‘REPARATIONS! HEATH CARE IS REPARATIONS FOR NIGGERS AND THEIR NIGGER BABIES! I AINT PAYING FOR NO NIGGER BABIES!’ So they say that heath care reform is killing grandma. It doesnt make any sense, but its something for them to scream their hate out.

    But they cant scream nigger.

    They lost.

    Theyll lose more.

    :)

  15. August 19th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Jared says:

    Greg, your cynicism is always welcome, you always give society so much credit, more than it deserves, I think. Do you really think they have the capacity to realize that their reactions are actually racist, or, for that matter, that their arguments have any kind of logical basis? I think this is a failure, not of the media, but of our educational systems, both public and private, in educating individuals on how to make valid arguments rather than “debates.” I, personally, think many debates are useless as they rely upon rhetoric and not substance; “facts” and “statistics” are easily obtained rectally without any interest in evidence. Our society is full of emotionally charged individuals not understand what the cause of their anger is. Many individuals neither understand nor care to understand the world outside of their own little spheres. Racism, bigotry, sexism, these are all very acceptable to many people because they do not understand these are the causes of many of their behaviors. I’m not saying they aren’t intelligent people, in fact, many are, I’m saying they don’t think very deeply and rely upon intuition rather than reality.

    In short, your judgments assume they know what they are doing is racist, sexist, or selfish; I don’t think they even realize it.

    /rant

  16. August 19th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Basta says:

    I don’t even know what to say about this.

    Barack Obama is a smart man, capable of running a country. He’s probably the most intelligent of the candidates for the last election. His policy, though, won’t create a better system in the long run. I don’t think reform is a bad thing–we NEED reform. But not the stuff our current administration has proposed.

    Do you call me a racist for thinking that? Then I call you one too. Now we’re equal. Discussion aborted.

    The far right-wingers aren’t doing things correctly at the town hall meetings. But I can’t say I disagree with them. How about trying to look through my eyes–something that I’m sure will be difficult for you, cemented in your twisted beliefs. Do you have any idea how hard it is to watch people using the wrong means to defend something you agree with? You wouldn’t, as you’re as much a radical as the worst of the Right. You call me a racist? You say “fuck you all. That includes you, Barack.” And then you expect me to believe that it’s ME who is the fear-monger. That it’s ME who is spouting illogical hate speech. That it’s ME offering no solution to the problems we face now. God. I’ve lost what little respect I had for the far left. That’s right. I thought about an hour ago that my party was the more illogical of the two. Now I know it’s not. Still not the best, but better. Thanks for removing my self-doubt; this is liberating. Now allow me to tighten my strap-on a bit and go outside for a little while.

  17. August 19th, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Nathan Myers says:

    Greg, are you saying things would have gone differently in any significant detail if Hillary were president and trying to reform healthcare? Would it be sexism, then, instead of racism?

    The racism is a rallying cry that some people respond to, but what I see is a managed population being managed. If it takes racism to move them, the managers will use racism. If sexism, sexism. If fear of hispanics in our midst, fine. If fear of Russia, China, Japan, India, Africa, the French, fine. The real question is, who are these managers? Following the money, they are those corporations that stand to lose from truly progressive policies — insurance companies, drug companies — and their owners.

    The real threat to the owners is not successful institution of progressive policies. Those can always be gutted when the pendulum swings back. The real threat to them is to be shown to be ignorable. Once they are seen not to be a source of terrible retribution for failing to obey, their power will collapse, because they have nothing else. They see this as their last stand, and they’re pulling out all the stops, and working all the keys and pedals furiously.

    Talking about racism doesn’t get any closer to the essence of the matter. It’s just one of the pedals.

  18. August 19th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Basta, Greg’s saying to you what I recently said to moderate conservatives about the threats of violence. If you’re not fighting the racism, if you’re lending this behavior legitimacy by allowing these people to speak for you without demanding they change their behavior, you’re part of the problem. If you allow the racism to continue for the sheer political expediency of it all, does your judgment of one black man as competent make any difference?

  19. August 19th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Of course the main point of my post is lost because the premise is being questioned. Nathan, your question is not very relevant. The answer is no, and who cares?

    That these yahoos are crazy is obvious. That the level of their reaction is enhanced by racism is clearly true.

    The point, however, is not that. The point is denialism of that racism being the bigger problem. And I think that while the point is being missed, it is thus proven.

    ERV: Good point, it does make me feel a little better. And meaner. In a good way.

  20. August 19th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Dan J says:

    Do you call me a racist for thinking that?

    Certainly not. You see, you’re one of the people with whom it’s possible to have a rational conversation about the topic.

    The key word, in my opinion, is “thinking”. The people who are up shouting at the town hall meetings, using words and phrases like “nazi” and “death panel” and “i want my country back” have not thought about the issues. They have been told by the people they trust (the people who tell them that they should want their country back) that they should prefer idea “X”. Very simple, and no thought involved. They’ve followed the same recipe for decades (and longer). To “think” about an issue might mean that they could come to a different conclusion than what the group is supposed to have. To differ on any one of the issues would mean that they aren’t a “real” member of the group.

    So, for me, the “Fuck you” still stands. It stands for all the paid-for congress-critters on both sides who refused to allow even the hint of a public option. It still stands for all of the supporters of said congress-critters who consistently refuse to allow even the hint of a public option to be allowed as part of the discourse on the subject. It stands doubly for those on the same side of the argument as the racists for not pointing to the racists and calling them out as such.

  21. August 19th, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Grifter says:

    Wow. See, this is why I made my point. There are LOTS of racists. Did I even say that it was likely racism? Why, yes, yes, I did.

    I also didn’t at any time bring up being “American”.

    “Despite the race baiting, Jim Crow-era depictions of Obama, mock lynchings, denial of his country of origin, denial of his religion of record and blatant use of racial epithets?”

    Really? Wow, I guess I missed where the Republican Congresspeople did any of that …oh wait, they didn’t. They may have brought up questions about his birth (which were valid QUESTIONS until the evidence was shown, btw, though more than enough evidence has been shown now so it should be a moot point) and the questions of his religion were valid INITIALLY, though QUICKLY answered and again should be moot. (Please bear in mind that I’m an agnostic atheist and don’t care what religion he is…but the initial question was a fair one to make, though once he answered it became stupid to continue asking it)

    My only point was that, though racism might be likely involved WITH THE CONGRESSPEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE LEGISLATION, don’t go bandying it about…I’ve met a lot of people who are opposed to universal health care who don’t give a shit about Obama’s race. Who are, themselves, black. Who are hispanic. Who are white. Sometimes race doesn’t factor in. Sometimes other factors do. I concede that there’s a LOT of racism in the country, and I never denied that…all I said was, saying “They oppose his policies because he’s black and not because he’s a Democrat or because they disagree” was unfair. Granted, I may think they’re being obstructionist idiots, but I’m not necessarily going to call racism until I’ve found that truly the MOST likely scenario.

    Oh, and also, they may be FLAMING racists, but they could still disagree with him for completely different reasons. DON’T say it’s racism alone unless, for example, he addresses all their ‘concerns’ which we may find ridiculous but which they’ve said are important to them.

    “I guess it’s rather unfortunate that I did not have a recording device for the year preceding the 2008 Presidential election (and many months afterward). If I had possessed and used such a device, I could have provided you with the voices of many individuals proclaiming that they would never vote for a “black man” (some language was not as nice) for President. All I have are anecdotes that go nowhere toward “proving” racism, but that’s how it goes.”

    Again, I’m sure they did. I’m an EMT, and one of our orientation questions is “Do you know who the president is”. Trust me, I’ve heard it. But I haven’t heard the comment “That jigaboo” from any lawmakers. And the article specified the lawmakers.

    “Bullshit that we don’t know what this is and can’t see plenty of evidence for it. If you’re not seeing it, you’re not looking. Before you go accusing Greg of bigotry, go have a look at what this reactionary right is actually saying about the president, and I don’t mean what the suits are saying to the talking heads on the news. Engage before you dismiss.”

    I’ll quote the article now: “The most active of them all, the teabaggers and the Republicans in office, each and every one, are reacting not to anything about health care, but rather to the fact that our president is a black man, and they are reacting to little else. Proposals that the Republicans have made themselves over the last decade are being touted as attempts to kill grandma or take away our freedoms or introduce socialism. There is nothing rational in what the teabaggers and Republicans are saying. Not. One. Thing.”

    I AM ENGAGING. Do I have to be inflammatory to make a point? Fine. You’re an idiot. You need to think before you speak and actually read the article and my comment in context of it. The writer was saying that ‘the response’ was bad, but then was talking about the lawmakers specifically. Yes, there are racists. Yes, there are a LOT of racists. Yes, they’re idiots. Yes, they’ll fight what our president does just on the basis of his skin. But there are also those who will resist what he wants to do because he’s a Democrat. Or because he is going against the rich Health Insurance industry. These are bad reasons, too, but they’re NOT RACISM. That’s my only point. This article says that anyone who goes against his health plan is doing it for racism, and I call shenanigans on that. Especially as regards to the lawmakers; they have much more evil reasons than simple racism to be obstructionist, and I think when you play the ‘race card’ in this manner, it demeans it. It makes it so that when someone really says “Look this is clearly racism” they get lumped with the people who say “I’m totally right so therefore you’re racist.”

    Are some of the lawmakers racist? Almost CERTAINLY. And point them out. Point out what they’ve said and done that’s racist. Because it should be pointed out. But don’t make blanket statements with no basis in fact or logic like “There is nothing rational in what the teabaggers and Republicans are saying. Not. One. Thing.” Really? Here’s one: they have a point in saying that it marches us down the road closer to socialism. Now, considering all the nanny-stating the government does already, I think that it’s a little late to be bitching, but so it goes. It’s still a valid point, and you can understand their cold feet, can’t you? It will make a big difference in the size of government. As an independent myself, I think that both parties are stupid…but I support universal health care because I figure considering all the money that gets taken from me for other crap, the government can give me something that really matters to my life. (Granted, there are other services, but they’re a little less…indispensable than medical care). There are other arguments whose validity you can question, but that make rational sense.

    Keep in mind also, that the Investors Business Daily thought that Stephen Hawking would never have received care/survived in the UK, under their system… because they didn’t realize that HE’S FROM THE UK. Stupid? Yes. But if it was true, and they thought it was (you can say that they should have checked, and you’d be right, but they still thought it was true. Incompetence is not malevolence), and IF IT HAD BEEN, it would have been a good argument. It wasn’t so it wasn’t.

    You can yell at me all you want, but I understand that the world is full of people who argue against good ideas for stupid reasons, and those reasons aren’t always race. I know that this article was born of frustration, and I don’t blame the writer for being frustrated. But at the same time, if we let someone we agree with be unfair, we can’t be as mad when the other side isn’t fair either.

  22. August 19th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Grifter says:

    Sorry folks, guess I typed slow, so my response seems weird considering that there’s a bunch of responses in between.

  23. August 19th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    becca says:

    The question is, why is there so much more opposition here than there was to the bailout? The bailout provoked an enormous amount of moaning and groaning, was in many ways ridiculously rapid and poorly thought out, and a complicated amalgamation of good policy, bad policy, and policy that has yet to make up it’s mind.
    Do you think people are imagining white neighbors who work at car factories benefiting from the bailout and black “others” benefiting from healthcare?

    “There is much more to it than racism, including Republicans simply not being in charge any more and getting all snitty about it.”
    Don’t underestimate this factor. I think it’s why Pennsylvanians still don’t have a budget passed (granted, here it should read “self-styled fiscal conservatives” who come in both blue and red flavors, rather than republicans)

    Granted, even to the degree the root causes of opposition aren’t racism (and Nathan makes a compelling point), the fact that the totally batshit whackaloons show up and most people are NOT just creeped out beyond the point they’ll stay at the rally is disturbing. Our tolerance of racism is excessive.
    See exhibit: comment 16 (@Basta- if we NEED reform [and we do] go out and get thee to a senator. Maybe it’s just cause I’ve got Specter around, but they *are* listening. Or go to town hall meetings and keep the batshit whackaloons from the floor by talking louder *and* more rationally. But don’t hold out for a perfect plan tomorrow when we need a better-than-status-quo plan today.)
    @ERV- the trouble is when sound-minded people can’t call out the batshit whackaloonery loudly enough. There’s only so much Jon Stewart can do.

    But fuck you Barack? He’s already screwed up in ways that matter a great deal to me personally; things I might say that to him for. But this? This is hard. If you really think calling things (even the most batshit whackaloons) racist will get *him* anywhere after the Gates affair, I’d like to hear why. He’s pretty much doomed to take the high road. And healthcare reform was going to be an Epic Battle anyway. Whether we’d gotten Clinton or anybody else.

  24. August 19th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Nathan Myers says:

    There’s more opposition than to the bailout because the bailout served the interests of the Owners, where public health care doesn’t. Full stop.

    Once you get the sense of what “managed population” means, American politics becomes much easier to understand.

  25. August 19th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    As Nathan points out, lets not forget to importance of the fact that this event … the astroturfing … is bought and paid for by the CEO’s of the big companies, to whom the government fed piles of money.

    And what are they going to do with that money? HAVE LOTS OF BABIES!!!!!

  26. August 19th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Becca, suprizingly, I think you missed the connection between my opening statement (deep cynicism) and my closing statement (fuck you all). Maybe I should have not bothered with all the in-between words.

  27. August 19th, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Susannah says:

    As a Canadian (white variety), I’ve been wanting to say this for a long, long time. There is something weird and possibly racist about labeling Obama as a “black man”. He is no more black than he is white. Why is it that any small admixture of “black” (usually brownish) people in someone’s ancestry makes him/her “black”? Why doesn’t a white parent make the child “white”? (In which case, tracing back, many, if not most of the US’ “black” population would really be white; how many white men fathered “black” children, back in the day?)

    We could equally well call Obama “Caucasian”. Or “of mixed ancestry”. Why not the simple, and accurate, “human”?

  28. August 19th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Mike H says:

    You can cram your race card right up your ass.

    I dislike Obama and his policies because they are all about expanding government control and that’s the ONLY reason.

  29. August 19th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Gwenny says:

    Not to be a whiny woman, but I think it’s sad that America would elect ANY man before it would elect a woman. How long will the US be the one of the few first world nations who has not had a woman as its executive officer?

  30. August 19th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Kate from Iowa says:

    Susannah, to understand what makes the President black (as opposed to any other possible combo) just google “One Drop Rule”. I guarantee you’ll find something, and it’ll no doubt be very ugly. I think it’s one of our particulars here (I dearly hope that the US is the only country that blatantly ignorant and hateful) that even “one drop” of black blood in your ancestry makes you (as ERV has put it) “one of them niggers.”

    I sincerely hope that it’s only us. It would be to depressing even for me it more than one country seriously thought this way.

  31. August 19th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Jared says:

    Susannah, you reminded me of a study on how we classify people and it turns out we have several visual cues and several behavioral cues which we use, they were, if I remember correctly, in order of strength
    Gender
    Ethnicity
    Age

    They then controlled for ethnicity with another experiment which resulted in the following:
    Gender
    Political Affiliation
    Age

    They arrived at these ranks by seeing what two individuals were often misidentified. After these two separate experiments, a final one was done resulting in:
    Gender
    POLITICAL AFFILIATION
    Ethnicity
    Age

    The authors speculated that ethnicity was a means of identifying group affiliation in tribal societies, making it useful for ingroup/outgroup identification.

    Anyway, as far as your statement of “why ‘black’”? It’s because of the old “one drop rule” and it’s kind of a holdover among the public. Wikipedia has a decent article on it, although it misses out on how it was utilized in the Crow era.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-drop_rule

  32. August 19th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    PolicyWonk says:

    Well, Policy Wonk, since you always thought I was over the top, that you think I’m being over the top now hardly merits comment.

    Calling something over the top isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What I think you are being now is completely unsound. There’s a difference. I just worry about you, man. You’re gonna pop a blood vessel or something.

  33. August 19th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Over the top was the whole point….

  34. August 19th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Tony Pelliccio says:

    Obama’s skin color doesn’t make a damned bit of difference to me. What makes a difference is what Candidate Obama said, and what President Obama is doing.

    He clearly has the mandate he needs to effect change in health care and gay rights, but he won’t do it. It’s like he’s politically paralyzed.

  35. August 19th, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Susannah says:

    Kate and Jared;
    Yes, I’ve seen the One Drop rule. And it is ugly.

    Trouble is (and OneDroppers will scream); we all come from the same origins. In Africa. That makes us all black, doesn’t it?

  36. August 19th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    D. C. Sessions says:

    The whole “Oh, now you’re going to play the race card, aren’t you!” gambit was developed, prepared, and inculcated into society over the last 15 years (really, 14 years…since the OJ Simpson trial), so now racism has a place at the table.

    It’s quite a bit older than that.

  37. August 19th, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    DC: Is it? Details please. I’m not sure I heard the race card phrase before J.C. used it on the Dream Team, but I may have just missed it. I’m sure things somewhat like this have always been around, but as a presumed part of virutally all public conversations in which race might come up? I’m sticking with my story until proven otherwise, but quite willing to be shown wrong.

    I’ll wait here while you go get references and stuff.

  38. August 19th, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Dan J says:

    Okay, I found one reference to “the race card” (not referring to horse racing) which pre-dates the Simpson trial.

    “Racism after ‘race relations’” by Robert Miles
    Routledge, 1993

    From the Introduction:

    The idea that ‘race’ is a contemporary problem is a customary observation in Britain, North America, Australasia and beyond. Newspaper headlines report that ‘Race riots hit Los Angeles’, that there is a ‘Race bias in employment’ and that an ‘MP plays the race card’.

    Could JC have borrowed a term already in use in Britain that the US public was not familiar with?

  39. August 19th, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Very interesting….. Of course, this is 93, and the trial ended during 95, so we’re talking pretty close in time.

  40. August 19th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Dan J says:

    Yes, the tactic has definitely been around for a while, but the term “race card” (outside of horse racing) seems to be rather recent. I found a 1994 reference and a 1992 reference which lead me to think that the source is definitely the UK. The Simpson trial seemed to be concurrent with its rise in use in the US. I see many references (re: Simpson or not) from 1996 to the present.

  41. August 19th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    OK, good, and still interesting. Now, what is the evidence for, or how would you demonstrate, the tactic being around earlier?

  42. August 19th, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Dan J says:

    [Now I'm getting in over my head! LOL]

    I don’t have a great deal of personal knowledge in this area, but from what I’m reading this evening, southern Democrats are accused of playing the “race card” in order to solidify the electorate from the Civil War through to recent times. The bi-partisan support of the Civil Rights acts in 60 and 64 fell apart by the 66 elections, leaving the Democrats to (rightfully, IMO) call out the Republicans for being racist (’68 and ’72). The Republicans seemed to play more on the fears of the post-new-deal boomers, who were already alienated by the Democrats and their support of civil rights.

    Were the Democrats really playing the race card, as some accuse them of doing? I guess that depends on what context you want to use. They’re very different applications, as I see it, but still playing a “race card” of sorts. On one side, you’re counting on people being disgusted at someone else’s alleged racism. On the other side, you’re counting on people being racist at heart.

    Were the Democrats deliberately and falsely accusing the Republicans of being racist? That’s probably debatable.

    When Jesse Helms played up to racists fears of caucasian voters in 1990, was that playing the race card? I’d say yes.

  43. August 19th, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    There is a very interesting piece coming out in tomorrow’s NYT comparing the current situation with that of the late 50s through Kennedy’s assassination, complete with yahoos showing up at political events with their guns.

  44. August 19th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Dan J says:

    I’ll definitely have to look for the NYT piece. All of this reminds me of how many more things I want to learn about, but haven’t yet taken (or found) the time to study.

    I recall a “class” that I took when I worked for a fortune 500 company many years ago. The “class” was about diversity in the workplace. Since we were not “at work” I didn’t have to wear my uniform. My earrings and tattoos put me among the “diverse” during the class. Everyone was caucasian except the guy leading the class. He made it all a lot of fun (for me at least), and I hope I learned a few things then that have carried over to now.

  45. August 20th, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Gabby says:

    This must be a joke, right? Or are you just an idiot?

  46. August 20th, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Gabby, did you have a specific objection, or would you just rather not think about this?

  47. August 20th, 2009 at 3:11 am

    Torben says:

    Is the present behaviour of right-wingers really all that different from what we’ve been seeing earlier?

    Aren’t Republicans vilifying their opponents just like they’ve been doing it for the past 15 years? And aren’t the media and Congress Dems letting them get away with it like every day of the past 15 years?

    I won’t disagree that Republican and Big Pharma leaders use not-so-latent racists as “useful idiots”, but how does this differ from the utter dishonesty of the entire premise behind the teabaggers? How does it differ from Karl Rove’s despicable stunts? Wouldn’t it be closer to the truth to just claim that present-day Republicans will stoop to any low in order to gain the slightest of political advances? Given reports of how Congress Republicans feign homophobia they don’t feel in order to rally the base, this seems a more reasonable explanation to me.

  48. August 20th, 2009 at 9:35 am

    James Hanley says:

    almost every one of the strutting libertarians with their strap-ons (because they don’t have real ones) as a racist.

    Well, as a libertarian who voted (albeit with deep reservations) for Obama, I’m glad you said “almost every one!” Or perhaps, because I don’t strut, I’m not in that category? And I’ve fathered three children–I must have a real one! Or at least I did at one time (perhaps it fell off when I became a libertarian?).

    But if I may be serious for a moment. I do not support national health care. I support an actual free market in health care (contrary to received wisdom, we do not have that), that presumably would offer more consumer-driven health plans with government provision for those unable to participate in the market. That is, handle it like we handle housing and food. On the other hand, despite my opposition, I can’t work up real outrage about the prospect of national health care. I’ll be fine, the government won’t be monitoring my nicotine, caffeine and alcohol intake, and those currently less well off than I am will benefit. I think there’s a better way, but I can live with it.

    As to your other point, I agree. The conservatives and those libertarians (not all of us, just them) are indeed despicable racist bastards.

  49. August 20th, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Deen says:

    Speaking of knee-jerk reactions, I’ve seen quite a few people here who apparently felt an urgent need to assert that for them it’s all about Obama’s policies. Do they feel addressed by Greg’s post? If the shoe fits, wear it.

  50. August 20th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    I would like to see more discussion about policy than about crazy batshit accusations about non-existing policies.

  51. August 20th, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Tom K Ann Arbor says:

    And I thought I was bad : ) There are a couple of things. 1) Race and racism are metaphors for anger and fear expressed as aggression. Metaphors such as these are often used by those who wish to manipulate large groups of people for purposes of power. In this case, our current debate over health care more often than not resembles modes of fear than of logic: all too human, the thirst for power, ratings and market share, substituting material value for human worth and in the process throwing Jefferson, and Adams and Washington and any other American founding ideal of real freedom out the proverbial window.
    Secondly, about the logic of the current debate: we know that the problem is complex, right? So why can’t we simplify the problem? We have been looking at the health care problem as if all health care is the same. It’s not.
    There’s everyday, routine care such as preventive care, office visits, prescriptions, that sort of thing.Federally sponsored non profit regional or state exchanges that negotiate group rates for this kind of care would make it competitive by lowering the price if the law said they could. How much does a law cost anyway? Especially if we redefined the mission and capability of current State, Federal and Local health care administration?
    As for major catastrophic disease, disability or injury requiring lengthy hospital stays and more expensive drug interventions, since this type of health care doesn’t happen all the time, if the Federal government offered special catastrophic health care coverage to compete with the Insurance Company’s catastrophic health care clauses, then the Insurance company’s would have to create similar catastrophic plans to compete. This would again lower the overall cost.
    And as for other health care concerns of the more controversial nature, how much would it cost to rewrite existing health care privacy legislation to expand the scope beyond the Doctor Patient relationship to include by federal law provisions for homelessness, mental illness and abortion all of which already come under the purview of the Department of Human Services?

    Basically, why are we trying to reinvent the wheel? The solutions to our problems are all right there and they actually won’t cost that much provided we re organize what we already have and change the law to give that reorganization some real societal, cultural and political impact.

    Thanks
    Tom K.

  52. August 20th, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Bob says:

    I have a hard time taking Greg seriously.

    Seriously.

    This is some kind of dorky game, say something completely ludicrous with just enough serious content to give it a hint of ‘truthiness’, get people riled up and come back with some cryptic bullshit to draw the controversy out longer.

    Whatever, dude.

    Let me lay something on you. I’m a racist, I’m a sexist, I’m a classist. And you know what? There’s not a fucking thing I can do about it. I’m not some robot, some inanimate, mechanical drone. You want unbiased? Go talk to a fucking brick. Brick don’t care.

    Me, I’m formed by my experiences and the damaged brain chemistry I’m cursed with. You don’t like it? Tough. I’m doing the best I can. Or maybe I’m not. I don’t know half the time. Either way, you, me & everyone else are in the same boat so I don’t see why I should take any shit over it.

    I don’t know what you want Greg. Pageviews? A pony? I don’t really care, but maybe you should ask yourself that question and think about the answer.

    To a tomorrow better than today — best regards,

  53. August 20th, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Paul S. says:

    Perhaps people are reluctant to call all of Obama’s critics racist because, well, they aren’t.

    You complain that nobody is willing to confront the issue of racism, and then go on and make ridiculous generalizations which basically amount to “everyone who disagrees with me, everyone who comes from a different background than me, is by definition a racist”. I suspect that this kind of attitude is exactly why so many people don’t take racism seriously anymore. For years, pretty much any conservative who disagreed with certain key policies (affirmative action being a good example) was accused of being racist as a knee-jerk reaction, regardless of the actual reasons that they disagreed with it. When a serious issue like racism is used as a throw-away, knee jerk dismissal of anyone who disagrees with you, it starts to lose its force. More and more people start seeing accusations of racism as a cheap political trick or an indication of desperation. This is a very bad development, because it allows real racism to survive and even have a resurgence. It’s basically like the “boy who cried wolf” – if you make enough untrue accusations, people tend to NOT believe you after a while, even when your accusations are true.

    Undoubtedly some of the people denouncing Obama really are racist. Undoubtedly many of them are not, even if their arguments are weak for other reasons.

  54. August 21st, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Mike Haubrich, FCD says:

    I wish to state for the record that Mike H @28 is not me.

    To those who disclaim that they are racist yet dislike the plan – remember that this is not Obama’s plan anyway. I’ll also take your word that you are opposed to it based on the perceived economic/political aspect of having the government do its job in promoting the general welfare but going too far with this idea of helping the working class afford medical care.

    But in your “Hey, man! It’s not me that’s racist!” I don’t hear any denouncement of the very real element of racist hatred towards the president. It is highly visible in this big fight we have on our hands, so while you may not have any personal culpability for promoting racism, you are not fighting the racist element.

    I know people who think they are being personally attacked for being white whenever Al Sharpton comes on the TV following a racial incident. I had one guy say to me “Hey, I wasn’t a slave-owner. Why am I being blamed for this?” Shoe fits, dude?

    The conservatives who don’t like the plan for it’s serious problems, not the phony ones, need to step it up and, as Stephanie requests, to tell those bastards who are merely generating noise to shut up and sit down. If you want a civil discourse on it, corral your own crazies.

    Nathan, responding to irrational discourse with calm, patient reasoned responses only works when the irrational are ball-gagged. You keep on trying it your way, okay? We’ll see how much progress you make against a blubbering idiot wishing for her white, suburban, flag-waving, niggers knowing their places, apple pie and fireworks on The 4th, church-going America.

    Someone has to shout down the idiots and call them for what they are.

  55. August 21st, 2009 at 7:27 am

    a daughter's mother says:

    Greg, grab yourself a big dose of the Stephanie Miller Show. The idea of racism isn’t being denied everywhere. They label it such every day, and throw in just enough comedy to make it ALMOST bearable to listen to. It helps keep me sane(r), and some days is the only way I can take my daily serving of politics. What? You work from 8-11 AM? Try the podcast.

    Don’t let yourself be turned off by the fart jokes. There are far more interviews with congressmen and senators. Sure, there’s a sound effects box – it’s radio. And so what if their listeners have submitted a hundred different versions of “You’re a lying sack of crap,” including in Nimibian. OK, fake Nimibian. The humor is always well pointed with a very sharp stick. You’ll come away informed of what’s going on on both sides, with lots of chances to giggle at the idiots, and ideas of why they are idiots and how to counter them. And then maybe, just maybe, you can stand to make it through another day. At the very least, you’ll know there are lots of good people out there fighting the good fight. And that’s something.

    And by the way, it’s not just racism, it’s greed.

  56. August 21st, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Mike H FCD: I am shocked. SHOCKED! by your comments on my blog and this blog. Then, I look and see it is the other Mike H. Bummer.

    He’s a funny guy, though. (I mean, he IS a parody, right?)

  57. August 21st, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    V says:

    Essentially, your little rant’s basic premise is that anyone — including specifically libertarians, whose whole ideological platform is a minimal reliance on the use of government — who opposes a policy supported by a black president is a racist. You are a fucking moron. Off yourself.

  58. August 21st, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    D. C. Sessions says:

    DC: Is it? Details please. I’m not sure I heard the race card phrase before J.C. used it on the Dream Team, but I may have just missed it. I’m sure things somewhat like this have always been around, but as a presumed part of virutally all public conversations in which race might come up? I’m sticking with my story until proven otherwise, but quite willing to be shown wrong.

    Sorry, I can’t provide public sources — just that the “race card” rhetorical gambit was already in use in private conversations when I was an undergraduate — and that was almost 40 years ago.

    If I had to speculate, I’d say that the term was coined during the major Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and 70s but not in use at the national level. When things quieted down (relatively speaking) after Nixon gave us other things to stress over, it lay dormant until another round of heightened press coverage for racial tensions in the 90s.

    So barring a serious job of etymological research, I can’t give you anything precise.

  59. August 21st, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    DC: See comments above by Dan for some research on this.

    V August, no I didn’t say that. Yes, it’s possible that I’m a moron. No, I’m not going to kill myself.

    I don’t mind death threats or innuendos from you, but don’t try that on any of my co-bloggers or the commenters or I’ll kick your ass.

  60. December 22nd, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Ron says:

    It’s not racism, you ninny, it’s *politics*.

    Just like Republicans suffered from Clinton Derangement Syndrome in the 90s, Democrats suffered/suffer from BDS and now the Republicans suffer ODS By Proxy (since directly criticizing a half-white man is political suicide).

  61. December 30th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Monado says:

    Greg, there’s just one thing to do: encourage your daughter to learn French (extra immigration points), get a higher degree (ditto), and move to Canada. Or marry a Canadian.

  62. January 11th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Nick Gardner says:

    “I dislike Obama and his policies because they are all about expanding government control and that’s the ONLY reason.”

    I guess you forgot about the Patriot Act. Or are you opposed to that as well? We could find some common ground on that issue if you are.

  63. January 16th, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Yahzi says:

    It’s not racism, Greg, it’s selfishness. And oddly, you exhibit your fair share of it here.

    People (specifically liberals) aren’t against health care because they are racist. They are against it because they don’t want to pay for it. All those middle class people aren’t racists, they’re just indifferent to the suffering of others. All they want is their TV and their car and to pay as little for it as possible.

    Which matches you: you want great change and political reform, but only if it’s cheap. If it’s hard and expensive and takes a long time, then you’re going to throw in the towel just like all those other people.

    Oppression is not so much an overt effort by the minority as it is a lack of effort from the majority. Complaining that other people are only interested in what profits them is absurd, since you’re trying to change their behavior to your profit. Instead, let’s focus on explaining to people how our positions profit both sides. It’s the same way you save the rain forest; not by appealing to people’s nobility, but by showing how environmentalism is actually more profitable.

  64. January 18th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Yahzi: You would benefit from reading all the words instead of whatever it is you are doing, before painting someone with your broad brush.

  65. May 24th, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Raven says:

    Good grief, Greg @ 64, don’t you think you’ve been painting-with-a-broad-brush yourself, from the top of this thread?

    And I’m asking that as an Obama voter and volunteer.

    Not everyone who disagrees with you has base motives for doing so.

  66. May 24th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Sorry, Raven, but I’m not going to buy into the watering down of a general recognition of racism in the teaparty crowd and much of the anti-obama crown in general. You shouldn’t either.

  67. May 24th, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Raven says:

    Greg, let’s start drawing distinctions among that “anti-Obama crowd”, because not all of them were always “anti-Obama”. You may recall Obama had very high popularity polls on taking office, which later sank. Were those who cheered him on, earlier, racists then?

    A lot of them Hoped (and Believed) for Change because Obama hit very hard on the Social Justice buttons, against what the Bush Administration was doing in Iraq (the 16 months are up in which he promised to bring troops home), against torture, against imprisonment without trial. And now Obama has gotten the Supreme Court to approve his holding prisoners in Bagram beyond the reach of the Constitution; and he has a program to assassinate US citizens away from any battlefield without any trial, on his orders alone. Was this what we voted for? Was this what Obama campaigned for?

    Then there are the hard-core, always-anti-Obama, McCain/Palin voters; call them Republican or Tea Party or Right Wing or whatever you like, they were never going to vote for a Democrat of *any* color, anyway. Didn’t vote for Kerry in 2004, or any previous white Democrat; so how is it racist that they didn’t vote for a black Democrat, either? What they are is *partisan*.

    To be very clear here: I’m utterly opposed to the GOP and its Tea Party bulldog. I think letting them back into power would be catastrophic for America and the world. But right now Obama and the Democratic Party are only somewhat better by comparison, which really irks me as a lifelong Democratic voter to say — they should be shining examples, and they are not — they have shamefully gone along with authorizing the abuses of the Bush Administration, which strictly speaking should make them all (along with their GOP colleagues) liable to prosecution at War Crimes Trials.

    I wanted better; I expected better; and I thought I was voting for better. I didn’t get it. That doesn’t make me “anti-Obama” now. Not while all the alternatives are still worse. But I am indeed “anti” some of his policies. Aren’t you? Assassination, at least?

  68. June 2nd, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Monado says:

    If you look at pictures of tea-bag parties, you’ll see that everyone visible is a paleface.

  69. June 8th, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    plum grenville says:

    “the strutting libertarians with their strap-ons (because they don’t have real ones)”

    Greg, you do realize don’t you that insulting (or denying) somebody’s manhood is sexist? Why, oh why, is the ultimate insult to a man telling him that he’s like a woman? Think about the level of contempt for women that implies. It’s right up there with that Jewish prayer which says, Thank you God for not making me a woman.

    I would also be interested in knowing why you think the situation would be completely different if Hillary Clinton was the president pushing for health care reform. Racism and sexism are not identical, but they’re both ugly and irrational – and useful to manipulators of public opinion.

  70. June 9th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Greg Laden says:

    In some ways, it might be worse with Clinton, given her prior involvement in health care. But my strong suspicion is that she would have seen her second stab at it as a challenge, and risen to it.

    In the end, of course, Obama did pretty well. And this post is not about him or about him being president. It is about the ubiquitous racist attitude in the teaparty and libertarian movements. And I agree with you that racism and sexism are very different things.

    I utterly disagree what an emasculating insult is a feminizing insult. To assume that link is … well, it is doing exactly what you were suggesting I was doing. But I can see where someone might think that.

  71. June 17th, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Kirth Gersen says:

    Do I think there’s a component of racism in some of this? Hell, yes. Do I think it’s the only element, or even the primary one? No.

    Thinking scientifically, we have an independent variable (race), and a dependent variable (right-wing vitriol and obstructionism). We need to control our variable, so let’s pick two subjects (of different race) who are nonetheless similar in terms of party and prominence.

    So, is the hatred, vitriol, and obstruction levied in Nancy Pelosi’s direction not at all comparable to the abuse that Obama gets? I’d say it’s almost as bad, in some cases worse. Of course, Pelosi arguably deserves a lot of it, but that shouldn’t enter the equation if, in your estimation, the right-wingers aren’t rational to begin with, and are acting primarily out of racism.

  72. June 17th, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    I didn’t say that race was the only factor. I said everyone was being racist. You are correct in that the teabaggers are very capable of being assholes outside the context of racism. Sexism works too!

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