Racism during the 2012 presidential election will be an issue because there is a group of racially-motivated white people who voted against Obama because he is Black and who opposes his presidency solely because he is Black. That racism nucleus of mad white Americans has never supported racial equality. In fact, their political representatives voted against both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. The loudest voices of right-wing talk radio and cable television such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Fox News commentators, appeal directly to that core with racially tinted messages as the right-wing of the Republican Party continues to do. You may recall that there were blatant signs of racism at the most heated town hall meetings during the summers of 2008 and 2009 including many Tea Party signs that carried overtly racial messages.
In addition, the radical “voter suppression laws” enacted by Republican Governors in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maine, Minnesota and Missouri is yet another example of overt racism because it primarily affects African Americans, young voters, working poor, elderly and the disabled. The Republican Party knows that this segment of the American people helped to elect President Obama and other Democrats in 2008, and the Party is working very hard to stop them from voting in 2012. Before this year, most states allowed voters to use all kinds of identification, even utility bills, to get a ballot. Not anymore. Now a non-expired, state-issued photo ID is necessary.
Many African-Americans believe that President Barack Obama is being disrespected by a racist White America. The continued involvement of the “birther” movement that raises doubts about Obama’s citizenship, the uproar over President Obama speaking to the nation’s school children about studying and working hard and, of course, the disrespect shown toward the President by a white Congressman from the South, Joe Miller, who yelled “you lie” during the President’s State of the Union address in September 2009 and whose pathetic apology catapulted him in becoming a fund-raising icon. Recent examples of overt racism include Newt Gingrich’s frequent attacks on President Obama as a “food stamp president” and his claim that African Americans are content to collect welfare benefits rather than pursue employment. Campaigning in Iowa, Rick Santorum’s statement, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money” is yet another example of a remark characterized by blatant racism by another Republican presidential candidate. These comments were so “over the top” that it prompted 45 Catholic leaders to issue a letter this past Friday to Gingrich and Santorum, themselves Catholics, urging them “to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail.”
John Gehring, the Catholic outreach coordinator at Faith in Public Life, highlights the idea of “intrinsic evil,” adding that “a lot of people look at Catholic teaching and think about abortion as being a preeminent political issue, and that is true, but the bishops are also very clear that racism and torture — where Santorum is very bad on, Santorum has been an apologist for enhanced interrogation — are an intrinsic evil.” Gehring also stated that Gingrich and Santorum’s “rhetoric around class and racial issues is in many ways out of line with Catholic social teaching.” “That is something Catholic voters will be concerned about,” Gehring says, “particularly given that both Santorum and Gingrich have not been shy about talking about the importance of their faith from a personal perspective and also how it shapes their political views as well.”
Color Lines, which reports on racial justice issues, reported this past Thursday that, “Gingrich argues that the reason so many people are on food stamps is not that the economy has thrown millions into poverty, but rather that lazy black families are getting on the dole and don’t want to work.” Earlier this month, Gingrich told an audience in New Hampshire, “If the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.’” Color Lines added, “Gingrich’s attack on the food stamp program is not surprising; it’s the kind of politics that he’s been helping to perfect for over 30 years.”
Although much progress has been made in attempting to eliminate racism, many believe that there was a significant set-back when President Obama was inaugurated as the first African American President. Twenty-first century racism at its finest has emerged. The rage during the campaign and over the past 3-1/2 years have been unprecedented especially when you hear emotionally charged members of the white community say that they want to “take their country back” as though it has disappeared because there is an African American President in the White House. Many of us know that there are racist white Americans who will never accept a black or brown brother or sister in the White House and although we cannot call every disagreement an issue of racism, there is no question that racism still exists.
As we continue to embrace the 2012 Presidential election, there is no doubt in my mind that both subtle and obvious racism behavior will be displayed. President Obama will not play the race card and his only expectation is to be judged as a president and not as an “African-American president. However, Republican right-wing white voters have so much hatred for President Obama that they are more interested in trying to remove him from office rather than be concerned about the radical policies that will definitely be implemented under a Republican administration, but that’s just my take.
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