President Carter is Right: We Do Have a Racism Problem in America


Posted Sep 18, 2009      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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This week, President Jimmy Carter described Congressman Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) recent outburst during President Barack Obama’s healthcare speech as evidence of a renewed emergence of racism in America.  On Tuesday September 15 th, Wilson was censured by the U.S. House of Representatives for yelling, “You Lie!” at the President.

We don’t know what is in Mr. Wilson’s heart, but his actions are just the most recent troubling sign of the rising tide of hate in our country.

“There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president,” said Mr. Carter at a Q&A at the Carter Center on Tuesday.

Carter also cited several town hall meetings about health care, where the President’s picture was displayed as a caricature of Hitler.  During last week’s “Tea Party protests,” organizers told CNN that posters portraying President Obama as a witch doctor may be racist, but they reflect anger about where he is leading the country.

We have also witnessed the “birther” movement, which attempted to raise doubts about Obama’s citizenship. By now it has been dismissed as fraudulent, but the movement included even some members of the U.S. Congress. While the language around race has been muted in the mainstream, it has reached increasing louder decibels from the right-wing and the fringes.

Based on data collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there have been at least nine terrorist attacks attempted since Obama was elected. Out of nine attempted incidents, only three were prevented. One of these attempted incidents includes a serious attempt to acquire, assemble and detonate a radiological bomb.

In another report entitled, “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias” published by the SPLC last month, federal law enforcement officials are quoted as saying that the threat of right-wing, violent extremism is not as serious as it was during the Oklahoma City bombing, “But this is the most significant growth we’ve seen in 10 to 12 years.  All it’s lacking is a spark.  I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.” The official could not speak publicly about this terrorist threat.

In 2005, ABC News reported that 22 white supremacist groups were under investigation for domestic terrorism. Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, characterized these groups as “ticking time bombs… who have the capacity, skill and hatred to carry out acts worse than what Timothy McVeigh carried out 10 years ago.”

While the United States is gaining momentum in public diplomacy abroad and reasserting itself as a credible force for peacemaking in the Middle East, the nation must deal with the increasingly hostile and hateful rhetoric that has reared its ugly head in the ongoing health care debate.

MPAC will hold a special plenary session on “Race in America Today” during its December 5th convention, entitled “With Change Come Challenges.” The session will explore the evolving nature of race and racism, and its outcomes.  Racism in this new era of hope has definitely become one of the major challenges.


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