Last summer, I wrote about the subject of “racism,” and while that term continues to be a sensitive topic for discussion, I had to consider if I really wanted to approach this subject again. After careful consideration, however, I have concluded that a significant number of events that have occurred over the past few years have produced ample evidence for me that twenty-first century racism has increased significantly. Racism and the “Jim Crow” era has resurged with added vitriol and hate among the Republican Party.
The purpose of this article is not to imply that all white Americans are racist. On the contrary, most are loving American citizens who believe strongly in equality for all. In fact, President Obama would never have been elected to two terms if it were not for an estimated 43% of the white population that voted for him.
According to Wikipedia, the exact definition of racism is controversial because there is little scholarly agreement about the meaning of the concept of “race” and because there is little agreement about what does and does not constitute discrimination. I belief that the definition of racism is simple—racism occurs when a person or a group of persons prohibits another person or group from exercising their civil rights. Racism is generally exhibited in one of two forms – subtle or blatant. Subtle racism occurs when the affected person or persons are not aware that they have become victims of racism. Blatant racism occurs publicly. Subtle racism existed for much of the twentieth Century, but once an African American President and an African American Attorney General became part of the highest political offices in the land, blatant racism emerged from remission.
Racism is nothing new to African Americans and other minorities. As a 72 year old senior citizen, I have personally experienced both blatant and subtle racism. I entered Federal Service in 1961 and witnessed discrimination in hiring, promotion and work assignment practices. African Americans were typically assigned to the docket, mail room or messenger pool, regardless of how they scored on Civil Service and Federal entrance examinations. After the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Federal agencies were required to establish hiring goals that opened a number of opportunities for African Americans. That was also a time when Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Officers were hired to monitor progress. Although these events were welcomed by African Americans, they were not readily accepted by some members of the white community. At my Federal agency, some of my white colleagues would barely acknowledge African American employees within the confines of the building, and completely ignored most when passing them on the street. However, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, when six days of riots erupted in Washington, DC, suddenly, white sentiment changed; politeness and courtesies were finally extended to African American employees. It was unfortunate that a riot produced these results.
Much progress had been made in attempting to eliminate racism; however, there was a significant set-back caused by members of the Republican Party when President Obama was inaugurated as the first African American President and re-elected to a second term. Overt racist attacks have become even more blatant through congressional Republican verbal assaults on the President, the Attorney General, and some African Americans in Congress. We shouldn’t forget that a racist 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 personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Fox News and others continue to enhance their appeal directly to that constituency with racially tinted and bigoted messages.
The lack of respect for the Office of the President and Attorney General is unprecedented. Congressional Republicans want to impeach Obama apparently for the crime of being President while Black. For over six years, “all manner of conservatives including libertarians, Republicans, and teabaggers have been obsessed with one topic and they have spent every waking minute preoccupied with how to turn back time and pretend Barack Obama was never elected as President of the United States,” according to a Huffington Post article published in August 2013. The article went on to say that it, “is unclear if the conservative obsession with the President is borne of their belief that a certain race shares attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable and inferior, or if they just cannot accept that the majority of Americans chose an African American man to lead the Executive Branch of government, whatever their dysfunction’s cause they are a danger to the nation and its people. The danger, of course, is that Republicans’ obsession has made governing this country nearly impossible that in 2011 alone cost a million jobs, over $19 billion, and a credit downgrade according to rating agency S&P, and yet Republicans and their supporters remain fixated on the President and anything connected to his administration. We must also remember that in 2013, the Republican Party shut down the Federal Government costing the taxpayers 24 Billion dollars.
Last year, Texas Republican, Rep. Blake Farenthold told constituents that Republicans have enough votes in the House to impeach the President. “It is another indicator that Republicans and their dysfunctional supporters consider an African American as President an affront to their racist sensibilities that drives their obsession with nullifying the results of two elections. The reason Republicans have not impeached the President is they have absolutely nothing to indict him for and they know it. For the record, being twice-elected is not an impeachable offense, and being Black while President does not qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors regardless assertions by conspiracy theorists (birthers)” according to the article.
Last August, Michigan Republican Kerry Bentivolio became one of the latest House Republicans to suggest that he would like to impeach President Obama if he could find the “evidence” to make it stick.
“You know, if I could write that bill and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” he said in response to a question at a town hall meeting reported on by BuzzFeed. “I feel your pain, I know, I stood twelve feet away from the guy and listened to him. I couldn’t stand being there, but because he is president I have to respect the office. That’s my job, as a congressman, I respect the office.” “Until we have evidence, you’re going to become a laughing stock if you’ve submitted the bill to impeach the president because number one you’ve got to convince the press,” the congressman said. “And there are some people out there no matter what Obama does he is still the greatest president they have ever had. That’s what you’re fighting.”
Impeachment had been a popular demand at GOP town halls around the country during the congressional recess. Here is what Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution defines as offenses warranting impeachment and removal from office: “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Impeachment is not designed as a political bludgeon used to bully a president from the other party. The remedy for removing a president from office for policy disagreements is at the ballot box, not the impeachment vote. Whether conservatives like it or not, Barack Obama will be President of the United States until noon on January 20, 2017. Then Republican conservatives can then attack Hillary Rodham Clinton as she finishes delivering her presidential inaugural address.
Congressional Republicans are also attempting to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder, and even voted on June 28, 2012, to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress for failure to cooperate with the investigation into the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal. It is the first time Congress has taken such an action against a sitting cabinet official. The only “impeachable” offense Republicans can muster up against Holder, however, is because of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the state of Texas’ Voter ID law the state claimed was designed to prevent voter fraud, and, of course, because Holder is Black.
Columnist Leonard Pitts wrote recently in The Tennessean that if slurs against Obama are not racist, what is? “Recently on “Fox News Sunday,” moderator Chris Wallace posed this question: Has race played a role in the often-harsh treatment of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder? Wallace was reacting to a clip of Holder strongly hinting that a testy encounter with House Republicans was part of a pattern of race-based abuse of himself and the president.”
Some of the panelists framed their answers in political dimensions, i.e., what does this mean for the midterms? But Brit Hume and George Will responded directly.
Has race played a part? Heck, no. Said Hume: “This strikes me as kind of crybaby stuff from Holder. My sense about this is that both Eric Holder and Barack Obama have benefited politically enormously from the fact that they are African-American and the first to hold the jobs that they hold.”
“Look,” added Will, “liberalism has a kind of Tourette’s syndrome these days. It’s just constantly saying the word ‘racism’ and ‘racist.’ It’s an old saying in the law: If you have the law on your side, argue the law, if you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have neither, pound the table. This is pounding the table.”
Pitts wrote, “And here, let us remove Holder from the equation because, frankly, the question I’m here to ask is more pertinent to his boss than him. I just wish Messrs. Will and Hume would explain one thing:
You say race has played no role in the treatment of President Obama? Fine. What would it look like if it did?
I mean, we’re talking about a president who was called “uppity” by one GOP lawmaker, “boy” by another and “subhuman” by a GOP activist; who was depicted as a bone-through-the-nose witch doctor by opponents of his health-care reform bill; as a pair of cartoon spook eyes against a black backdrop by an aide to a GOP lawmaker, and as an ape by various opponents; who has been dogged by a “tea party” movement whose earliest and most enthusiastic supporters included the Council of Conservative Citizens, infamous for declaring the children of interracial unions “a slimy brown glop”; who was called a liar by an obscure GOP lawmaker during a speech before a joint session of Congress; who has had to contend with a years-long campaign of people pretending there is some mystery about where he was born.
There’s much more, but you get the drift. So I wish those men would explain how, exactly, the treatment of the president would differ if race were indeed part of the mix. What misbehavior would make them say: “OK, this is definitely about color of skin, not content of character”? Because from where I sit, much of the behavior toward Obama would need white hoods to be more blatantly racial than it already is.
Before and after his election and re-election to the presidency, Barack Obama has been vilified as subhuman in graphics, email transmissions and posters used to undermine him. He has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist, a non-American citizen, and a chimp. The image of his altered face has been shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. The depictions of Obama as ape-like sparked the most controversy, considering that blacks have been portrayed as monkey-like for centuries to suggest that they’re inferior to other groups. When Marilyn Davenport, an elected official in the Republican Party of Orange County, Calif., distributed an email depicting Obama and his parents as chimps, she initially defended the image as political satire. Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, had a different take. He pointed out to National Public Radio that the image wasn’t a cartoon but photo shopped.
“And it was crude and it was racist,” he said. “And cartoonists are always sensitive. We want to make people think—we even want to tick people off occasionally, but we don’t want our symbolism to overwhelm our message. …I would never show Obama or an African American as a monkey. That’s just racist. And we know the history of that.”
A very recent example of a blatant racist comment was made by Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy who made a series of inflammatory bigoted remarks reported in the New York Times. This is the “domestic terrorist” who gained a host of conservative support from Fox News and others regarding a showdown this month with the Bureau of Land Management over paying for grazing rights for his herd.
Bundy, a registered Republican with 14 children, said to the Times, “I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.” It is good to see that some Republican leaders are backing off their support of Bundy after he made this series of racist remarks.
As civil rights activist Pauli Murray once cautioned, “Racism is like a deadly snake coiled and ready to strike, and one only avoids its dangers by never-ending watchfulness.”
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