Racism is Certainly One Component of Disrespect Towards President Obama
Posted Sep 18, 2009

Racism is Certainly One Component of Disrespect Towards President Obama

by Sheila Musaji

President Jimmy Carter made a statement that the recent tone of disrespect towards President Obama might have a racial component. 

This immediately led to an emotional debate - yes, he’s right - no, he’s crazy - the lefties are trying to stifle legitimate debate by equating genuine disagreement with policies with racism and playing the race card.

It seems to me that Carter has hit a nerve.  Of course some folks disagree with some of President Obama’s policies and have a right to criticize and to express their point of view, and even to attempt to influence the direction of future policy decisions.  That is all well and good.  And those whe engage in honest debate about policies, about the nature of our democracy, about the environment, or the economy, or particular issues are on solid ground.  There is nothing racist in disagreement.

However, the current climate has gone far beyond simple disagreement or even righteous indignation about a particular issue, and it is difficult not to see that for a very vocal and visible fringe group of Americans racism is certainly one component of their anger.  There are certainly many components of the rage expressed by this group, but at least one of those components is showing itself to be race.

Carter is certainly not the first to have raised this issue, and this has been an issue since Barack Obama began his bid for the Presidency.  Last year we had the satirical New Yorker Obama Cover about which I wrote“The recent New Yorker satirical cover cartoon manages to put in one place all the racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic junk that has been put out there about the first African-American candidate for the Presidency of the United States.  Probably most regular readers of the New Yorker will recognize the intent as exactly what the editor says it was:  “The intent of the cover is to satirize the vicious and racist attacks and rumors and misconceptions about the Obamas that have been floating around in the blogosphere and are reflected in public opinion polls.””  The five most racist “cartoons” involving Obama have even been ranked by Politics Daily.

Activists at a conservative political forum, the Values Voter Summit snapped up boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap.  The Sacramento County Republican leaders took down offensive material  on their official party Web site that sought to link Sen. Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden and encouraged people to “Waterboard Barack Obama” — material that even offended state GOP leaders.  The mayor of Los Alamitos, California came under fire for an e-mail he sent out that depicts the White House lawn planted with watermelons, under the title “No Easter egg hunt this year.”  A Republican women’s club in San Bernardino County, California sent out a newsletter with a photo of Barack Obama surrounded by fried chicken, watermelon and ribs, sparking widespread outrage and rebuke from GOP leaders and Democrats.  Rush Limbaugh played a parody song “Barack The Magic Negro” on his show.  There was a racist Obama billboard in Missouri.  There were the Obama “monkey” tee shirts, and the Ohio man who hung an effigy of Barack Obama in his front yard.  Circulating via email, a photo taken of a window of the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida featuring a display of Barack Obama books into which a book named ‘Monkeys’ has been inserted. 

Back in July, Chris Parry of the Vancouver Sun in an article entitled Conservative Free Republic blog in free speech flap after racial slurs directed at Obama children discussed and quoted some remarks made on the Free Republic site: ”“A typical street whore.” “A bunch of ghetto thugs.” “Ghetto street trash.” “Wonder when she will get her first abortion.”  These are a small selection of some of the racially-charged comments posted to the conservative ‘Free Republic’ blog Thursday, aimed at U.S. President Barack Obama’s 11-year-old daughter Malia after she was photographed wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign on the front.  The thread was accompanied by a photo of Michelle Obama speaking to Malia that featured the caption, “To entertain her daughter, Michelle Obama loves to make monkey sounds.” ... “Could you imagine what world leaders must be thinking seeing this kind of street trash and that we paid for this kind of street ghetto trash to go over there?” wrote one commenter.  “They make me sick .... The whole family… mammy, pappy, the free loadin’ mammy-in-law, the misguided chillin’, and especially ‘lil cuz… This is not the America I want representin’ my peeps,” wrote another.”  This FreeRepublic.com website earned a spot in Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Persons in the World” segment after waiting all of three days to step in and take action on a message board thread full of such racist comments.

Some individuals have called the president’s domestic agenda “economic fascism”, called the President an all-controlling Fascist leader, a socialist, a communist, compared to Hitler.  The birthers claim that Obama is not an American, and their are even Pastors praying for the President’s death.  Frederick Clarkson also pointed out in an article entitled “ Pray For Barack Obama To Die And Go To Hell”: The Story The Media Missed that the Pastor of Chris Broughton who was one of those recently in the news for showing up armed at an Obama speech: “Chris Broughton, 28, made national news when he showed up to protest a speech by President Barack Obama in Phoenix, Arizona with an AR-15 automatic rifle slung over his shoulder and a handgun.” ... “The night before Broughton’s fifteen minutes of fame, he attended a fiery Sunday sermon by his pastor, Rev. Steven L. Anderson, at Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. Rev. Anderson, also 28, explained not only “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” but also why he and God both want the president dead. “When I go to bed tonight,” Broughton’s pastor declared, “Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.”

Signs from the 9/12 Tea Party march in D.C. ranged from simply unkind - “bury Obama care with Kennedy” - to conspiratiorial - “where’s the birth certificate”, “Obama is a Muslim”,  and “don’t kill Grandma” - to vaguely menacing “violate our liberty at your peril”, “keep pushing us and find out what happens” -  to really over the top - “we came unarmed (this time)”, Obama waving to al-Qaeda saying “whoa boys, I’ll take it from here”, “hang em high, traitors in Congress (and a list of names), “Obama is the anti-Christ”, a picture of Obama slitting the throat of Uncle Sam - and of course, there were Confederate flags and outright racist signs “What you talkin about Willis?”, “Homey don’t play dat” .  Earlier Tea Parties had the same sorts of signs - “Sieg Heil Herr Obama” (with picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache), “Barack Hussein Obama the new face of Hitler”, “Chairman Maobama”, “Obama’s plan, white slavery”, “We need a Christian President”.  Huffington post has a list of the 10 most offensive, but other sites found other signs that they found just as offensive, including “The zoo has an African and the White House has a lyin’ African!”.  A news report called “Is the Tea Party Racism Going Too Far?” showed my personal vote for most objectionable - a sign depicting President Obama as an African witch doctor.

A Councilman in Atwater, California named Gary Frago forwarded a series of emails which used racial comments and imagery to criticize the president.  According to an article about this incident:  “The Merced Sun-Star obtained 7 e-mails sent between October 2008 and February 2009 to city workers and other prominent citizens racially deriding President Obama, the First Lady and blacks in general. ... Some compared Obama to O.J. Simpson while others suggested that “nigger rigs” should now be called “presidential solutions.”   

As I said in an article about the ridiculous reaction to President Obama’s school speech:  “I have to agree with Joan Walsh about the motivation for this response:  “Wrong. I never imagined the outbreak of right-wing crazy that Obama’s gesture would provoke, and this time it’s hard not to see racism behind the hysteria. The message is “Obama’s coming for our children!” the standard cry against scary boogeymen in every culture. I mean, really, what besides Obama’s race could make him so scary to these people? That he’s a Marxist socialist fascist Nazi? I’d argue that the only reason those extreme epithets have taken hold goes back to reason No. 1: Our first black president is provoking some outsize and irrational reactions.”

To see race as one component of the current level of vitriol in our national debate seems reasonable.  Not all disagreement is racist, but certainly some of the “disagreement” needs to be called out for what it is.  And, I can’t imagine anyone not seeing the sentiment behind any of the items listed above as anything but racist.  If former President Carter gets us talking and thinking about this issue then he will have done us all a favor.  As a nation, we can never move forward until we acknowledge this 800 pound gorilla in the room.


Anatomy of Racism, Habib Siddiqui http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/anatomy_of_racism/
As Race Debate Grows, Obama Steers Clear of It http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/17/us/politics/17obama.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&ref=politics&adxnnlx=1253183238-nQfv0mf3t+Ixm4sEAeXGXw
Attacks on Obama Highlight Racism and Islamophobia , Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/obama/
Boy, Oh Boy, Mauareen Dowd http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/opinion/13dowd.html?_r=1
Jimmy Carter racism charge triggers next US race debate, Patrik Jonsson http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/09/16/jimmy-carter-racism-charge-triggers-next-us-race-debate/
Carter Adds His Voice to Race Debate After Wilson’s Outburst http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/09/16/carter-adds-his-voice-to-race-debate-after-wilsons-outburst/
Carter’s Racism Charge Sparks War of Words, Kate Phillips http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/carters-racism-charge-sparks-war-of-words/?hp
Conservative Activist Forwards Racist Pic Showing Obama As Witch Doctor http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/07/conservative_activist_forwards_racist_pic_showing.php
Social Networks Help Republican Racism Go Viral (with slideshow) http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2009/07/obama_racism.html#photo=10
Cosby agrees with Carter racism claims, Jordan Fabian http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/59201-cosby-agrees-with-carter-racism-claims-
The Death Spasms of American Racism, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_death_spasms_of_american_racism/
Drudge, Limbaugh, and the Sad Return of “Racial America”, Will Bunch http://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-bunch/drudge-limbaugh-and-the-s_b_287939.html
Eliminationism in America, David Neiwert http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/eliminationism_in_america/
Facing up to what lies beneath, Anne Davies http://www.theage.com.au/world/facing-up-to-what-lies-beneath-20090918-fvcy.html
The Favor Jimmy Carter Did Us All, Eugene Robinson http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/17/AR2009091703566.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
Head in the sand, Clarence B. Jones http://www.huffingtonpost.com/clarence-b-jones/head-in-the-sand_b_291225.html
Is Conservative Obama-Bashing The New Racism?, Bakari Kitwana http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bakari-kitwana/is-conservative-obama-bas_b_279775.html
“Islamophobia’s” roots in anti-black racism, Tariq Nelson http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobias_roots_in_anti_black_racism/
Islamo-Obama Phobia: The Latest Update, Dr. Robert D. Crane http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamo_obama_phobia_the_latest_update/
Rush Limbaugh segregation comment heats up racism debate http://www.examiner.com/x-19632-Salt-Lake-City-Headlines-Examiner~y2009m9d18-Rush-Limbaugh-segregation-comment-heats-up-racism-debate
Mainstream Racism Only Becomes An Issue When It’s Convenient, Ray Hanania http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/mainstream_racism_only_becomes_an_issue_when_its_convenient/
Obama Speech Controversy Is About Socialism? (Guess Again), Mary C. Curtis http://www.politicsdaily.com/2009/09/07/obama-speech-controversy-is-much-ado-about/
Obama and Racism - Part II, Robert Salaam http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/obama_and_racism_part_ii/0017546
Obama and the Politics of Race, M. Shahid Alam http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/obama_and_the_politics_of_race/
The only acceptable racism left: Islamophobia, Abdul Malik Mujahid http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_only_acceptable_racism_left_islamophobia/
President Carter is Right: We Do Have a Racism Problem in America, MPAC   http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/president_carter_is_right_we_do_have_a_racism_problem_in_america/0017563
Race Issue Deflected, Now as in Campaign http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/16/AR2009091601802_2.html
Race issue back to the forefront of American politics, Sheldon Alberts http://www.canada.com/news/Race+issue+back+forefront+American+politics/2009254/story.html 
Racism and War: Overcoming Us and Them, Ramzy Baroud http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/racism_and_war_overcoming_us_and_them/
Republican Critics of Obama’s School Speech Stoke the Fires of Bigotry in America, Mario Almonte http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mario-almonte/republican-critics-of-oba_b_279533.html
Racism and President Obama http://www.theweek.com/article/index/100661/Racism_and_President_Obama
Western Racism Will Cost It Money, Farish A. Noor http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/western_racism_will_cost_it_money/