Republicans can’t defeat the actual Barack Obama on the merits for innumerable reasons, so they’ve decided instead to run against a completely fictional President. His name is Barack X and he’s an Islamo-Socialist revolutionary who’s coming for your guns, raising your taxes, slashing the military, apologizing to other countries and taking his cues from Europe — or worse yet, Saul Alinksy!” Bill Maher
While criticisms of a president are normal, even healthy and desirable if a democracy is to thrive, the admonitions ought to have some basis in reality. The recent formation of the SuperPAC, Fight Bigotry, has gone off the deep end accusing President Obama of being racist against white people. They’ve become a one-stop shop for actual racists to consolidate their financial power against the president under the guise of combating bigotry. It’s quite Orwellian. What better way to hide your own racist inclinations than by throwing out false accusations and sucking up as many donations as you can for it? Considering this President has been incredibly stalwart in his response to unmitigated racism from large portions of the American public, the notion that he harbors bigotry towards white people is laughable. There is no better evidence than how invariably race-neutral he has been in his policies (some may say too neglectful of the need to proactively address race issues in policy). Overall, it is indefensible to try to build a fundraising juggernaut on any premise that he is biased against white people.
The alleged evidence of the President’s racism against whites is so scant as to make the accusation ludicrous. The Fight Bigotry Super PAC capitalizes on only one legitimate mistake the President’s administration (not Obama himself) has probably made, in deciding not to prosecute the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation. Videos pretty much capture a “group” of very few individuals being intimidating. However, the Justice Department has similarly not pursued more widespread cases of voter intimidation that occurred during the 2010 election that are largely associated with Tea Party members.
Supporters of the Fight Bigotry Super PAC point to the formation of African Americans for Obama as evidence that our President hates white people. Are they similarly accusing him of bias against the young since another group formed was Seniors for Obama? Perhaps he’s against anyone who hasn’t served in the military since he formed the group Veterans for Obama, or perhaps he hates men given his group, Women for Obama? President Obama has even gone out of his way to make speeches to the black community where he makes points such as, “I am not the President of Black America.”
Otherwise, the Fight Bigotry Super PAC tries to reach back to Obama’s days in Chicago in Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church. Occasionally listening to a black theologian expound on the ongoing issues of racism in this country is hardly proof of the President’s so-called negative feelings about white people. Some of their other “proof” of his bigotry is merely aimed at the audacity of a black man asserting his concerns about the ongoing struggles of African Americans in this country, such as his astute speech on race in America or his comments in both the Henry Louis Gates affair and the Travon Martin tragedy. According to John Jackson, author of Racial Paranoia, the President was responding to these incidents based on pointing out the de cardio racism that was inherent in each of them. De cardio racism is defined by Jackson as
“What the law can’t touch, what won’t be easily proved or disproved, what can’t be simply criminalized and deemed unconstitutional. It is racism that is most terrifying because it is hidden, secret, papered over with public niceties and politically correct jargon. It is a very powerful way that many Americans think about race today, as a subtle by-product of the ineluctably human fact that people feel things they’ll never admit.”
Jackson contrasts de cardio racism with the de jure racism of legalized slavery or de facto racism of modern segregation. He is identifying the racism that lies beneath the surface in American life (in people’s hearts, hence de cardio) and there is plenty there to find. For example, researchers have been studying implicit racism using the Implicit Association Test (you can take it yourself here). It measures unconscious racial bias by asking test takers to quickly make associations between positive or negative words and either whites or African Americans. After testing over a million Americans, they find that fully 48% of Americans show a strong preference for white people with another 25% showing a moderate or slight preference for white people. Nearly two out of three white Americans show a moderate or strong bias toward whites, and remarkably so do nearly half of all black Americans. What this means is that large numbers of us can’t stop making associations between African Americans and negative words.
Anyone who wants to understand why Henry Louis Gates reacted in anger to being questioned by a police officer about trying to get into his own home, or why so many African Americans (and others) suspect that George Zimmerman would not have shot Travon Martin if he were white, needs to read Dr. Jackson’s book. He carefully explains that African Americans (and other people of color) may appear to be “paranoid” about the way they are treated by white people, but it is because they have every reason to be. Racism is often subtle today and an African American can never really be sure if he or she was pulled over by the police officer looking targeting speeders or because the officer thought stopping a black person would mean searching for drugs and confirming stereotypes that blacks are criminals and drug abusers. The recent stop of TJ Holmes for mysterious reasons is a case in point.
Meanwhile the President has faced unprecedented racism. The examples are too numerous to list comprehensively. Just a few include the racially tinged insults like Pat Buchanan’s reference to the President as a boy (and now Joe Walsh has called him son), warnings that his wife shouldn’t get uppity, and Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn invoking the term, “tar baby.” Then there are the unprecedented shows of disrespect such as the shout of, “You lie,” from Republican Joe Wilson, boos from the NASCAR crowd for Michelle, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s finger in his face. The religious community has been quick to step up as well with prayers for the President’s death (remember Pastor Steve Anderson and his sermon from the pulpit dedicated to praying for Obama’s death)? Of course, there are the constant barrage of internet exchanges steeped in racism as well such as these or the hate sites identified on Facebook.
His ability to remain stoic with all of the racism directed at him is yet another reason to respect President Obama. If anything, the Left should be starting a Super PAC with an anti-racism theme. Instead, we have to contend with a right wing fiction that capitalizes on the racism that persists in the hearts of many Americans, particularly conservatives.
Deborah is a former social work professor who taught social policy, mental health policy, and human diversity. Proud to be called liberal, she happily pays her taxes after being raised in a home that needed long-term welfare. Contrary to the opinion of many, she is living proof that government investment in children leads them out of poverty having received services from Head Start to Pell Grants. Deborah works with low-income, first generation, and disabled college students who are at high-risk for dropping out of college in a program designed to help them graduate. She lives with her husband, stepson, and an aging cat.