During the healthcare reform debate, Republicans claimed American healthcare was the best in the world and they were correct on many levels. Researchers and medical professionals have made great strides in preventing and treating many diseases and maladies that, only 150 years ago, were incurable and in many cases went undiagnosed because analytic tools were not yet available. However, there is one disease infecting nearly as large a segment of Americans today as a century-and-a-half ago and despite the best efforts of scientists, sociologists, and behavioral anthropologists, there is no apparent cure or treatment available. There have been great strides combating racial bigotry against African Americans, but any progress in staunching the disease came from government intervention at the behest of Civil Rights activists and not the medical field because this particular disease is passed down through environmental pollution and not genetics or biological factors.
This country was nearly ripped apart during the Civil War, and inherent in the slavery issue that caused Americans to slaughter other Americans is the notion that it is acceptable for one human being to own another, allegedly lesser human. Slave owners and their supporters suffered from white supremacy and the vile disease is so rampant in 2012, that two major Republican presidential hopefuls feel comfortable expressing their bigotry in public to pander to the racist voting bloc. One would think that in 2012, three years after Americans elected an African American as president, racism, as a disease, would be on the decline but unfortunately it is as prevalent as ever.
Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul are the outward expression of racism in the Republican Party, but they typify the conservative mindset that real, white American’s assets are stolen and given to African Americans as welfare, housing assistance, and food stamps. It is not that Republicans necessarily assail Black Americans as lazy, unproductive members of society as a matter-of-course, but thematically, they fallaciously attribute redistribution of wealth that allegedly benefits African Americans to President Obama. Their solution is their legislative agenda throughout 2011 that targeted the poor in urban areas with Draconian spending cuts to housing, food, and healthcare assistance in the guise of deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility. Of course, Republicans assailing poor minorities is nothing new, but statements from Gingrich and Santorum reveal many Americans’ beliefs that African Americans are lazy and prefer government handouts to good, living-wage jobs.
Gingrich implied that African Americans would rather have food stamps than a paycheck and offered to tell Black Americans “why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” Santorum made a similar prejudicial comment, only his bigotry was more direct and inflammatory against African Americans, and especially President Obama. He said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.” The code Santorum used was not wasted on racists and white supremacists because there is already a bigoted notion that the President was taking white American’s money and handing it over to his supporters in the Black community. Willard Mitt Romney’s religion taught that the “Black race” was cursed by god as a punishment until it was socially unacceptable.
There are few candidates’ comments that are not measured for efficacy prior to making a speech. Gingrich and Santorum know millions of white Americans harbor such hatred for President Obama and African Americans that it was worth all the bad publicity and criticism from the NAACP to make prejudicial comments slandering African Americans. The truth is that a majority of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants are white, and most are children and seniors. More SNAP recipients already have jobs that provide their primary source of income, but only 15% have incomes over the federal poverty level. Gingrich in particular has portrayed poor Americans as lazy, drug abusers who use welfare to take trips to Hawaii and although it is an unfair characterization and an outright lie, there are racists who believe it as if it was uttered from the mouth of god.
The racists that men like Gingrich and Santorum appeal to are best typified by vile people at a NASCAR event who booed First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden when they served as co-grand marshals to honor military troops, veterans and their families. Rush Limbaugh excused the characteristically racist booing by claiming the NASCAR audience was booing the First Lady not because they were racist, but because Mrs. Obama was “uppity.” It was a not-so-coded reference to an African American who was living above their rightfully appointed station as subservient and less-than legitimate.
Many Americans claim they are not racist and quickly point out that they “know” an African American or that their favorite singer or star athlete is Black. However, when the star rapper or athlete takes off their uniform, they are uppity, less-than-human, or “not one of us.” The portrayal of President Obama by birthers is that he is not like us or an interloper sitting in the Oval Office. It bears repeating that if racial bigotry and white supremacy was not rampant in the population, then Republicans running for office would never utter racist remarks or question the legitimacy of an African American President.
Racism is a vile disease perpetuated in certain cultures and is borne of generations of white Americans who inculcated bigotry in their children from birth. There are school programs that attempt to educate bigotry out of school children, but teaching tolerance propagates racism and white supremacy. The idea that a white student has to “tolerate” different races or lifestyles serves no other purpose than to fortify the false belief that African Americans are lesser human beings that must be tolerated like one puts up with unsavory neighbors. Behavioral and cultural anthropologists understand that it is normal for people to gravitate towards a group that is culturally similar, but racists take it much farther.
Many pundits claim that racism rose as a result of President Obama’s election, but they fail to recognize that his election gave the existing bigots legitimacy as if they were only reacting to Obama’s policies. However, the rise of the teabaggers and their “taxed enough already” and “Socialist tyranny” mantras was code for opposition to a Black man illegitimately sitting in the White House. The only reason President Obama entered office to outrage and instant hatred was simply white supremacy that informs racists that an African American is not qualified to be president because he is not white. If President Obama were white, he would be hailed as a tax-cutting, terrorist killing, business friendly, and right-leaning centrist that deserves re-election and a place of honor on Mount Rushmore.
It has been 149 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and reconstruction amendments that gave slaves rights all Americans deserve, but it took the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s to end discrimination against African Americans and if racists had their way, they would revert to pre-Civil War days where owning Black slaves was the order of the day. In fact, Michele Bachmann claims that African Americans were better off being slaves.
America has hardly progressed since the Civil War and the accompanying racism is a national shame. What is most horrendous is the people who are quickest to say America is exceptional and a land of unequaled opportunity and freedom are most likely Republican supporters who applaud GOP cuts to safety nets that aid minorities. Many of the same Republicans support disenfranchising minority voters because, in white supremacist’s minds, African Americans are not legitimate citizens worthy of voting rights that harken back to pre-Civil War.
It is tragic that 13.6% of the total U.S. population (as of July 1, 2009) is still treated as little more than slaves and it is despicable that major presidential candidates characterize them as lazy people who steal white Americans’ money in the form of welfare, food stamps, and housing assistance. Education and “tolerance” training in the schools is relatively useless when children go home to parents and community members who believe and teach that African Americans are illegitimate and inferior human beings that are only useful as athletes, entertainers, and were better off being slaves.
One can only hope that science develops a cure for racial bigotry and white supremacy, because it is a persistent disease that is metastasizing throughout America and continues being, after 149 years, the defining cause of shame and humiliation for what should be a great nation where every citizen is valued and given the same rights and opportunities regardless of color. America should and can be better than Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann, and their racist supporters, and until decent Americans stand up and say enough, this country will languish in white supremacy, racial bigotry, and hate that prevents it from being truly great.