“President Obama’s Impact On Racism”: Exposing The Reality Of The Continued Normalization Of Racism Ignored For The Last 40 Years
A lot of pundits have suggested that the presidency of Barack Obama has polarized the racial divide in this country. And there’s some truth to that. At no point in my adult life has race been more front and center as an issue than its been over the last 6 years. And so the question becomes whether this President has moved us forward or backwards when it comes to the racial divide in this country.
From the 1970’s through the early 2000’s, most white people could simply ignore the question of racism. There were times it came out of the woodwork and surprised us – like the reaction to the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trail. But if we were successfully able to segregate ourselves from the every day lives of black/brown people, we could reach the conclusion that the Civil Rights Movement had tackled that problem and it was time to move on. When it came to politics, that included both white conservatives and liberals.
Then we elected our first black president. Leonard Pitts suggests that has led us to a moment that resembles something in our recent past.
Six years ago, there was wistful talk of a “post-racial America.” But today, we find ourselves in the most-racial America since the O.J. Simpson debacle. It’s not just income inequality, voter suppression and the killing of unarmed black boys. It’s also the ongoing inability of too many people to see African Americans as part of the larger, American “us.”
Most of them no longer say it with racial slurs, but they say it just the same. They say it with birther lies and innuendo of terrorist ties. They say it by saying “subhuman mongrel.” They say it by questioning Obama’s faith. They say it as Rudy Giuliani said it last week. They say it because they have neither the guts to say nor the self-awareness to understand what’s really bothering them:
How did this bleeping N-word become president of the United States?…
The day the towers fell, Giuliani seemed a heroic man. But he has since made himself a foolish and contemptible one, an avatar of white primacy struggling to contend with its own looming obsolescence.
And the question once famously put to Joe McCarthy seems to apply: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Those same events led Ezra Klein to write about Obama Derangement Syndrome.
But then, that’s why Obama Derangement Syndrome is different than Bush Derangement Syndrome: it’s not really about Obama’s presidency. It’s about Obama himself. It’s about his blackness, his father’s foreignness, his strange name, his radical pastor. Obama’s presidency is in many ways ordinary, but the feelings it evokes are not. There is something about seeing Obama in the White House that deeply unsettles his critics. Obama Derangement Syndrome rationalizes those feelings.
I don’t know that much about Klein’s personal life other than that he’s young, smart, liberal and wonky. So I don’t want to make this all about him. But for the cohort he represents, it’s obviously pretty difficult to continue to ignore the reality of racism in this country as we watch the reaction to this President.
And so I am reminded of what Derrick Jensen wrote in The Culture of Make Believe.
Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, “normal,” chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.
Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.
The presidency of Barack Obama has threatened the normalization of racism that allowed too many white people in this country to ignore it for the last 40 years. It’s now out in the open and time for us to reckon with it.
And so I’ll repeat the question Pitts asked: “Have you no sense of decency, sir/madame?
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 1, 2015
So here we are at the start of a week after the country witnessed Rudy Giuliani doing a backstroke through the gutter of American politics. Apparently desperate for attention, the former mayor of New York jumped out of his seat at a gathering of wealthy Republicans who had assembled at the 21 Club in Manhattan in order to do a loud, please notice me, clown act.
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say,” Giuliani began his wrecking ball speech, “but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”
(Let’s pause right here in this off-the-cliff assault by the former mayor to remind everyone of something Obama’s loudest critics always insist is the case: This is not about race because it’s never about race when it comes to nut-boys attacking the President of the United States. Sure!)
“Going after patriotism is one thing,” Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, was saying, “but the really, really bad stuff is, ‘He wasn’t raised the way you and I were.’ There’s only one connotation for that kind of stuff and that’s directly out of what some people were saying in the Alabama of the 1960s.”
From mid-morning September 11, 2001, and for many days to follow Giuliani was an admirable figure. He provided his city and his country with a wall of courage, resolve and determination to stand straight and move forward through the shock, the death and the ashes of what terror had done to America’s most visible city.
He behaved nobly. Attended hundreds of funerals for the fallen. Stood like a sentry, a permanent reminder in those awful days of that awful Fall that America would not–could not–be defeated by a cult of religious zealots who prayed for the death and demise of the United States.
Now, all these years later, he has evolved into a pathetic, political version of Jake La Motta.
La Motta, another New Yorker out of an earlier time, was “The Raging Bull” who fought his way to the world middleweight championship. He lost his middleweight title to Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951 after one of the great prize fights of all time.
So La Motta decided to jump up one division in the hope of greater success. He joined the light heavyweight ranks. He was out of his league, out of his class and, soon, out of the ring completely.
But he loved the lights, the publicity, the attention, the fleeting fame that still surrounded him in New York. With some of the money he made with his fists, he bought a couple bars and ended up entertaining friends at bar-side and acting as both owner and bouncer too.
Punch drunk and clinging to a sad celebrity, he tried to be a stand-up comic but his act was sad, stale, and simply not funny. He was married seven times. He was a grifter, his best days all in history’s rear-view mirror.
Now, in this corner, wearing completely contemptible trunks, from the village of his own mind and memory, we have Rudy Giuliani wallowing in a bucket of resentment. He too is out of his league, punching way above his class.
In the other corner, we have the President of the United States, who emerged in the big ring on the evening of July 27, 2004. Then, Obama had been chosen to give the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention held in Boston.
“Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, “ Obama told the crowd, “America, that’s shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him.”
“…My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or ‘blessed,’ believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success.”
“…I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”
Four years later he won the presidency and four years after that he was re-elected President of the United States. His judge will be history. The verdict of his daily fight against constant opponents named global terror, fear, economic inequality, global warming, inequitable tax codes, inadequate health care, an incompetent Congress and a claque of politicians determined to destroy rather than simply defeat him will be rendered on some day down the road.
The clock on Rudy Giuliani’s end of days began ticking as soon as he walked out of City Hall. He ran for president once, his candidacy going up in flames nearly the moment he first opened his mouth. Now he’s opened it again and all that emerges is bitterness and a contempt that borders on hate. What a brutal end; a self-inflicted TKO.
By: Mike Barnicle, The Daily Beast, February 22, 2015
“Je Suis Barack”: Barack Obama’s Accomplishments Must Always Remain In The Forefront Of The American Mind
You’re probably familiar with the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, an effort launched by veteran right-wing activist Grover Norquist nearly twenty years ago to promote, in perpetuity, the idea that Reagan was the modern-day equivalent of the Founding Fathers. (I first heard about this project in early-2007, when then-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick rejected Norquist’s call to issue a proclamation naming February 6 “Ronald Reagan Day” in the Bay State).
Those who endlessly promote Reagan’s “accomplishments” argue that they have to do so because progressives have a vested interest in tearing Reagan’s legacy down. (Of course, what they don’t acknowledge is that there’s so much to tear down!) The right’s argument is pure projection. In reality, it is progressives who must go the extra mile in defending the legacy of Barack Obama.
This November marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Reagan’s victory over President Jimmy Carter. For the past thirty-five years, Carter’s legacy has been relentlessly vilified by the right, with insufficient defense from the left. Sometimes, it seems as though progressives are ashamed of Carter—a man whose foresight on energy was remarkable, a man whose commitment to peace was unshakable.
Progressives cannot allow Barack Obama’s legacy to be relentlessly trashed the way Carter’s legacy was. Quite frankly, we need a Barack Obama Legacy Project, one that will recognize, today, tomorrow and forever, his true significance to America and the world.
With two years remaining in his term, a compelling case can be made that Barack Obama is one of the greatest presidents of all-time. Look at the track record: an economy resurrected, Osama bin Laden brought to ultimate justice, the Iraq War ended, millions of Americans finally accessing health care, dramatic advances in equal treatment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, two brilliant Supreme Court appointees, sweeping economic reform, and an energy policy that, while imperfect, nevertheless takes the climate crisis seriously.
He accomplished all of this despite raw hatred from “birthers” and Tea Partiers who went to bed every night dreaming of seeing Obama’s black body swinging from a tree—as well as that of his father, for being uppity enough to marry a white woman. He accomplished this despite hyper-partisan media entities that smeared him as a Marxist from Mombasa. He accomplished this despite being unfairly blamed for the dementia and depravity of a right-wing Congress.
Obama hasn’t been perfect. (We’re still waiting for that Keystone XL veto, sir.) Sometimes, he has frustrated those who seek more peace and more justice. Yet on the whole, he has been a blessing for humanity.
He has brought us through the worst financial heartache since the Depression. He has brought us through incidents of shocking gun violence. He has brought us through racial discord sparked by those who so obviously killed Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner because they saw these men, subconsciously, as proxies for the President.
Generations from now, children should read about the courage and conscience of Barack Obama, his passionate love for this country, his commitment to the hurting and the hungry and the hopeless. Generations from now, Obama’s name should grace public schools and federal buildings. Generations from now, his name should be honored in the same way we honor the names of Washington and Lincoln and Roosevelt and Kennedy.
Those of us who were honored to live in the Era of Obama have a moral obligation to inform those who will be born after this era of just how great this man was, just how proud this man was, just how wise this man was. Did your grandparents tell you about how FDR boldly led this country? You must tell your grandchildren the same story about Obama’s equally bold leadership.
We must never allow what Obama meant to this nation to be forgotten or distorted. A courageous man shattered the ultimate glass ceiling. A man who recognized the insanity of Iraq concluded that wayward war. A man who understood the risks of a warming world fought for solutions to the problem of carbon pollution. A man who recognized the importance of health care reform brought millions of Americans from the savagery of sickness to the hope of health. A man who knew the immorality of injustice sought equal treatment for the LGBT community as well as communities of color.
Obama’s legacy must be cherished and defended. It is the legacy of a black man who worked tirelessly to protect Americans of all colors. It is the legacy of an American who tried to expand the blessings of liberty to every citizen. It is the legacy of a man who overcame the vicious lash of hyper-partisanship. It is the legacy of a man who was crucified over and over, but rose from the grave every time.
The hope and the change were real indeed. Barack Obama’s accomplishments must always remain in the forefront of the American mind. Is this a project progressives can accomplish?
Yes we can.
By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 24, 2015
I briefly mentioned Michael Gerson’s “Are Democrats Stuck in 1979?” column yesterday, but wasn’t in a big hurry to smack it down. It’s precisely Gerson’s history as the rare conservative willing on occasion to criticize his party’s extremism that probably makes this sort of claim that the other side is even more extreme inevitable.
But some editor or maybe even a history-conscious intern might have warned Gerson that choosing 1979 as the mythical apogee of Democratic liberalism was a bad idea. That’s a year in which a Democratic president began to prepare for a re-election campaign by pushing for a balanced budget and a big increase in defense spending, even as liberal icon Ted Kennedy headed for a humiliating defeat in the primaries.
In any event, here’s the tiresome assertion that really annoys me as a veteran of the New Democrat thing:
President Obama has now effectively undone everything that Clinton and the New Democrats did in the 1980s and ’90s.
Gerson’s not real specific about this claim, though I assume part of his argument would involve resuscitating the Romney-Ryan campaign’s lie that Obama had “gutted” welfare reform. But what else?
Since Gerson appears to assume that Clinton was strictly about appropriating conservative themes, I guess he cannot come to grips with the fact that the Affordable Care Act was based on the “managed competition” model that a lot of New Democrats preferred to Clinton’s own health care proposal, or that Obama’s “cap-and-trade” proposal was relentlessly and redundantly promoted by the New Democratic think tank the Progressive Policy Institute. Just about everything Obama has proposed on tax policy, education policy, infrastructure policy, trade policy and even national security policy has been right out of the Clintonian playbook. Has Gerson noticed that Obama’s not real popular with people on the left wing of the Democratic Party?
Well, never mind; I guess the Obama-the-lefty construct, threadbare as it is, was necessary for Gerson to set up the heads-we-win tails-you-lose proposition that HRC needs to move the Democratic Party to the right or accept that “the political achievements of her husband [have] been washed away.” I do believe Obama was the first Democrat since FDR to be elected twice with a majority of the popular vote; that ought to count for something.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, January 7, 2014
Politics in a democracy is a team sport that leans heavily on individual high performers. This explains the paradoxical closing of President Obama’s most difficult year in office.
He ends 2014 in surprisingly buoyant spirits, having proved that he still has the power to push policy in new directions in foreign affairs and on issues ranging from immigration to climate change.
But his underlying political position is weaker, meaning that Obama and his aides are aware that changing the trajectory of the nation’s debate and the fortunes of his party are among his primary obligations over the next two years. Just as Ronald Reagan’s legacy was secured by the presidential victory of George H. W. Bush in 1988, so does Obama need a Democrat — at the moment, this would seem to be Hillary Clinton — to win in 2016.
In the short run, Obama has demonstrated that the term “lame duck” has its limits. Over the seven weeks since the Democrats’ pummeling in November’s midterm elections, the president has moved forcefully to show he will use all the power he still has.
He used executive action to legalize the situations of up to 5 million undocumented immigrants and in doing so created a political problem for Republicans. They are split on the immigration question and will greatly weaken their ability to appeal to Latino voters in 2016 if they are too aggressive in trying to reverse what Obama has done.
He reached an agreement with China setting ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gases. It was a signal, his senior aides say, that acting on climate change will be a central focus of Obama’s final two years in office.
And last week, he upended 53 years of American policy by opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. Republican opposition was fierce. Yet, as on immigration, Obama’s opponents will have difficulty altering the course he has set unless they win the presidency in 2016. And by then, both initiatives may be too widely accepted to uproot.
In the meantime, Obama continued with negotiations to stop Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, even as some of his older bets were paying off. The Russian economy is reeling from sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine (and from low oil prices). An approach seen by its critics as not tough enough is beginning to show its teeth.
The health care website, whose crash was an enormous political and practical problem for Obama and his party in 2013, is working smoothly. The fact that so many Americans are interested in obtaining health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, his aides argue, is a vindication of the effort Obama put in to passing it. And the economy continues to hum with the unemployment rate at its lowest in six years while gas prices are also sharply down. This year is set to produce the largest increase in payrolls since the late 1990s.
Thus did Obama’s good mood at his news conference on Friday defy the political obituaries that proliferated after the election. “My presidency is entering the fourth quarter,” he said brightly. “Interesting things happen in the fourth quarter.”
But in that quarter, Republicans will control both houses of Congress, and Obama will have to work with them just to keep the government running. He will also have to pick his fights. A senior administration official said the president would lay out bottom lines — one imagines especially on health care and financial reform — where he cannot compromise with the GOP and will count on congressional Democrats to uphold potential vetoes.
On the economy, Obama will try to square a circle that flummoxed Democrats in the midterms. His aides say he wants to highlight what’s working in the economy while also making clear that ending wage stagnation will require government to invest in variety of areas, including infrastructure, education and economic development. Democrats can also be expected to press fights on issues related to employee rights, including overtime rules, the minimum wage and family leave.
The irony is that while Republicans can certainly make life more difficult for Obama, the president and his party can also make life more difficult for the newly empowered GOP by casting them as obstructing broadly popular measures.
Obama has shown he can still accomplish a lot on his own. The harder test will be whether he can advance ideas and arguments that strengthen the ability of his allies to sustain his policies beyond the life of his presidency.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 22, 2014