The role of racism in health care debate

David Scott is hardly a racial rabble-rouser.

A veteran Georgia lawmaker before he won a Congressional seat six years ago, he represents a  working-class district in the Atlanta suburbs, where he has established himself as a cautious legislator who works hard to hew to his district’s moderate values. But Scott, who is black, is convinced that racism plays a part in the hysterical opposition to President Obama’s health care reform proposals.

“Racism is playing an extraordinarily unfortunate role in this,” he said in an interview Monday.

Many commentators, political analysts and fellow Democrats share Scott’s view that some part — perhaps just a sliver, perhaps more — of the right-wing assault on President Obama’s health care reform plans stems from a deep-seated racial antagonism toward the president. Count me among them.

Obama’s election was dramatic confirmation of a nation moving rapidly away from its racist past. But some Americans are obviously not happy about the more progressive country we’ve become.

The element of pure racial animus cannot be measured by polls or parsed in focus groups. It can’t be separated neatly from all the other fringe lunacy that has bubbled to the surface with the election of the first Democratic president since Bill Clinton — claims that include internment camps for political dissidents, the end of private enterprise and the confiscation of all privately-owned weapons.

But it’s impossible to overlook the virulent racism in e-mails and faxes sent to Scott’s office, ostensibly on the subject of health care. One fax uses the much-copied image of Obama as the joker, this time with the hammer and sickle stamped across his forehead, and the message, “Death to Marxists! Foreign and Domestic!” Below that, it addresses the congressman with a variation on the “n” word before beginning a lengthy diatribe which includes this declaration:  ”The folks are not going to stand for socialized medicine even though most Negros (sic) refuse to stand on their own two feet.”

Nor is it difficult to see the blatant racism in a handmade sign,  held aloft by one of the protestors at Saturday’s huge gathering of anti-Obama tea-partiers, that insists: “The zoo has an African (picture of a lion) and the White House has a lyin’ African.”

Clearly, it would be unfair to characterize any and all opposition to Obama’s health care plans as racially motivated. There are millions of conservatives who simply insist on private market solutions (though those have never worked) and who worry about the costs of the plan (though they raised no such objections to President Bush’s expensive Medicare prescription drug plan). They may lack ideological consistency, but they would raise similar objections to any health care reform proposed by a Democrat, regardless of race, gender or sartorial preferences.

For the sake of perspective, it’s also helpful to remember the wildly unhinged accusations that greeted the last Democrats who tried to reform the health care system, Clinton and his wife, Hillary. Not including the semi-legitimate questions over such things as their Whitewater investments, Clinton was accused of being a rapist, a drug runner, and, along with the First Lady, a murderer. I still remember when U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) shot a watermelon to try to prove that Vince Foster could not have committed suicide. (No, I have no idea how that demonstration ostensibly worked.)

Yet, I don’t remember that there were ordained ministers standing in their pulpits praying for the deaths of the Clintons, as at least two have done with Obama. I don’t recall that Clinton’s American citizenship was questioned. Nor did his presidency provoke the sort of demonstrations and protests that have boiled over among the fervid right. (If the tea-partiers were so angry about deficits, surely they would have marched on President Bush, whose policies not only erased a surplus but also created a sea of red ink.)

As president, Obama has usually avoided the subject of race, as he did when he was a candidate. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told CNN on Sunday that “I don’t think the president believes that people are upset because of the color of his skin.”

But Scott believes it would be a  mistake not to acknowledge the racism swirling around the health care debate because its potency could derail efforts at reform. He acknowledges that bigots represent a small minority — “What speaks for America is what happened last November,” he said — but he thinks ignoring them would be “a disservice.”

“Nothing is more important than health care. We’re this close to getting something that will lift this nation to another level. We must not let the hate win.”

154 comments Add your comment

Me First

September 16th, 2009
7:44 am

Blah, blah, blah….I’ll go back for more coffee…..

mike

September 16th, 2009
7:49 am

Tucker’s race bating is expected, but repugnant.

Isn’t amazing that all of the hyper-partisans on the left are all jumping on the racism bandwagon at the same time?

This is a new low in partisanship. The left lost the battle over the public option and they respond by lashing out and labelling the millions of Americans who dare disagree with Obama as racists.

Congrats Cynthia, you have re-affirmed your position as Atlanta’s leading racial demagogue. You must be proud of all of the hate speech that your are providing to the community.

Peadawg

September 16th, 2009
7:58 am

STOP CALLING ME RACIST BECAUSE I DON’T AGREE WITH OBAMA.

jt

September 16th, 2009
7:59 am

When you wrote the following, You Lied-

“There are millions of conservatives who simply insist on private market solutions (though those have never worked) and who worry about the costs of the plan (though they raised no such objections to President Bush’s expensive Medicare prescription drug plan).”

Where have you ever experienced a “private market”.? You are smart enough to know that you haven’t.

An intentional lie.

jt

September 16th, 2009
8:01 am

With all due respect.

Kayaker 71

September 16th, 2009
8:03 am

After that whole diatribe, you make the statement that “bigots represent a small minority” of the protesters. To a small number of people, someone black is not capable of much of anything. These protesters are vocal, just as people like Howard Dean, who makes equally sordid statements about the opposition. But it isn’t about racism to most of those people waving signs in DC. It isn’t about that with me, even though I was not in DC last weekend.
The argument that many people have is not against a black President…. it is against THIS black president. It is so easy to fall back on the race card when desperate measures are all that are left. The health care bill, in it’s present form, will never pass the Senate. But don’t label all of those who oppose Obama’s policies as racists. It puts your credibility at stake and that is not good for someone in your business.

Carter is a Fool

September 16th, 2009
8:04 am

Found the race tinted glasses again. Cynthia – It is not about Race. The world does not revolve around race even though you see it that way. Just because we do not agree with the heavy handed way this President acts – it is not about his race.

I agree with Peadawg, I am tired of the democrats calling those who disagree Racists. This includes our irrelevant ex-President from Georgia. What a misguided sad buffoon he is that he cannot get over that his time on the world stage (Disastrous as it was) has thankfully passed into memory.

Roekest

September 16th, 2009
8:06 am

I am offended to be labeled a “racist” because I don’t agree with President Obama’s health care “reform”. Besides, wasn’t it the far left that invoked the ghost of Hitler when comparing President GW Bush to the Nazi leader? Yeah…..

Joey

September 16th, 2009
8:13 am

Cynthia;
It would be more effective if, after the “journalistic” feint to the Right, that the hard move back to the extreme left not be the very next post.
What is that 13 hours? And probably 8 or 9 of those spent sleeping and eating.

bob

September 16th, 2009
8:16 am

Carter was a race baiter in his run for Governor when he portrayed his opponent as being friendly to blacks. His campaign showed photos of his opponent mixing with blacks and used it to gain more white votes. Why is it racism for the people that did not want Hillarycare to now not want Obamacare. Maybe we are sexist and racist ?

David Y

September 16th, 2009
8:16 am

Wow……you seem like an intelligent person yet you write such nonsense. There might be a few racist in the mix here but the problem is people don’t trust the government to take over health care. Look at the great job they did with the “cash for clunkers”. If they can’t get something as small as that right, what makes you think they can run health care? People across the country (even those that voted for him) are starting to realize that the “change” they voted for wasn’t this big.

Jeff

September 16th, 2009
8:20 am

Of course it’s about race to SOME of the protesters. That all Cynthia is saying. (Anyone who’s gotten some of those blatantly racist emails about the president knows that feeling is out there). The rest of you are just protesting because you’re afraid your hard earned tax dollars are going to go to provide medical help for some illegal alien (Mexican) or poor person (minority of some type). But you’re not racist.
What you refuse to realize is that we’re already paying for their care when they go to the emergency room and can’t pay for their care. Then hospitals pass the cost for their care (in the form of higher rates) to everyone with insurance.
But I hear a new medical study says teabagging leads to brain damage, so that may explain everything.

Steve

September 16th, 2009
8:23 am

Yes, anybody who opposes what Obama is proposing is racist. Don’t you think that argument is getting a little old, ineffective and likely counterproductive?

You do not see significant black participation with conservative groups because most have turned into mindless Democratic lemmings who follow the party irregardless of direction or objective.

pat

September 16th, 2009
8:30 am

Well, well, well, here we are. So NOW if you don’t agree with obama’s politics your racist???
I guess you cannot argue on the basis of legislation’s merits, you can just play the race card.
Not that your were very relevant before, but now totally irrelevant.
“Racist”, how stupid can you get.

Joey

September 16th, 2009
8:32 am

Cynthia;
I do not like being called a racist by you. But it is exactly what I have learned to expect from you.

Patrick

September 16th, 2009
8:38 am

The only people who comment on editorials are people that are incapable of forming their own opinions. This person’s entire job is to be “controversial” so you people will read her column and argue and fight. This so called “journalist” doesn’t care if you agree or disagree. She only cares that you read her column so she can keep her job. You people are really a very sad group.
And to clarify, I am commenting on the pathetic losers that comment on editorials, not the editorial itself. There is a difference.

Question

September 16th, 2009
8:39 am

Liberals, the WH, Congress are so arrogant in their views that anyone who disagrees with their positions, policies or programs surely are not disagreeing on the merits and content of said positions, policies, or programs, so there MUST be another reason. Wait, we know, it must be racism!!!!

Night Train

September 16th, 2009
8:40 am

Cynthia,
When you disagree with something that Sonny does, does that make you a racist? It does not, not anymore than those that oppose the current health care bill are racist.

Although, you do play the race card so much that you do appear to be racist.

Gman

September 16th, 2009
8:41 am

All of you previous posters please READ the ENTIRE article and think!

Azazel

September 16th, 2009
8:43 am

President Carter points out that racism, especially, in the South is endemic — a prevalent attribute of the region needing no external source, propagated and perpetuated by red-necks, white trash and crackers, who would rather see their own children ignorant, toothless, barefoot and pregnant than to give anything to a “minority”.

bob

September 16th, 2009
8:45 am

Maybe the problem is not race but the entitlement mentality of those that want other peoples money.

bob

September 16th, 2009
8:50 am

Why did Jimmy Carter run for office using his buddy George Wallace for votes. ” Carter barnstormed Georgia, vowing that his first act as Governor would be to bring George Wallace to his state”. Azazel, did Jimmy point that out to you as well ? Carter’s race baiting worked well on his democrat supporters which led to a very good Governor, Sanders, getting voted out.

Call it like it is.

September 16th, 2009
8:50 am

You know what kills me, is per Cynthia Bush just had a free ride, no one complained about him, nobody protested him. America, or rather white America just loved him. Just put the Kool Aid down honey! Bush was lambasted by you and every other media outlet for 8 years! As far as public protest are you serious. Obama hasnt even come close to what Bush had to go through.

In regards to the tea baggers, do you think maybe just maybe that Americans have had enough and the sleeping giant has finally woken up?

Has it happen on Obam’s watch. Yes! Is it fair? Maybe not. But he is the President. I for one am sick and tired of big government with this magic money machine that they have in the basement of the white house that is supposed to make all of our troubles go away.

Cynthia, the United States Government was never meant to be this big or powerful. We were started as a Republic and we need to get back to that. I believe that the majority of the protesters this past weekend were trying to send that message.

People who throw up the race card “Jimmy Carter” are loosers and afraid of the real issues. And please oh please tell me the last President or any President for the matter that got a free pass for their term with no protestors. You have all of this access to information, just let us know.

While your at it, be open and do a piece on Acorn………..Yea I don’t think so.

On a final note, Hey Obama I agreed with you yesterday. Kanye is a Jackass. Cynthia would that be a start?

Peadawg

September 16th, 2009
8:51 am

Patrick, you just put a comment on an a blog. Sugar coat it all you want to make yourself feel good, but you’re just as pathetic.

Jackie

September 16th, 2009
8:52 am

Isn’t it amazing that those who do not want comprehensive discussion about issues seem to resent being confronted with factual information instead of rhetoric?

Those that find themselves in that category usually revert to EXTRAPOLATION, CONFLATION and OBFUSCATION by trying to label those who report information as “racists.”

Those who always whine about racism and are in the majority population refuse to confront the presented information in a rational and cogent manner.

Why do those individuals refuse to believe that those of us who are “lazy” can read and comprehend, therefore, we have determined that your ploy does not work.

Azazel

September 16th, 2009
8:56 am

The entitlement mentality is a residual of racism, since the welfare industry was designed only to keep people “in their place” lingering with minimal support, producing generational and sub-cultural dependencies on the larger system. If the larger culture was not going to offer full equality, then it seemed more acceptable to “pay off” and house people at a minimum level. As time passes people learn how to “play” the system to maximize their pitiful handouts.

Jimmy62

September 16th, 2009
8:56 am

The problem is that there are some racists out there on the right (on the left, too, though Cynthia will hardly admit that), but it’s a VERY small percentage, but it helps Cynthia’s cause to take that very small group and paint them as representative of all opponents of ObamaCare (no, I’m not against reform, just reform that gives more power to politicians and stifles proper competition [which our current policies are at fault for]).

It would be like if I said all liberals were like Jane Fonda, willing to protect avowed and certain enemies at the cost of American lives. Thankfully they aren’t really all like that.

Call it like it is.

September 16th, 2009
8:57 am

“Jackie” you talk real pretty. Did someone get a thesaurus for Christmas?

Scott Williams

September 16th, 2009
9:01 am

I am against President Bush perscription drug plan and President Obama’s health care plan for one reason. We can’t afford it now or in the future. He is going to destroy our nation with spending. This makes me a racist and a Nazi. This is a low blow that will do nothing to help the President among the conservatives or independents. You know nothing about me or my family. We have a long proud heritage against racisim. But because I am a conservative I now discover I am a racist and a Nazi. If this is what the Democratic party has come to I fear for the future of or nation.

Azazel

September 16th, 2009
9:04 am

bob
Racism and race baiting are complex non linear systems. Currently, racism appears to function as a communication stimulus tool, irrespective to direction of benefit, to package other messages because it is guaranteed to get a response.

Marko

September 16th, 2009
9:06 am

Having lived in Rep. Scott’s District I am dismayed that he has apparently decided to equate a national debate crossing socio-economic and political boundaries to a matter of race. Both sides of the current debate recognize the need to “fix” the current system, but the left has determined that the best course of action to forgo healthy compromise is to equate all disagreement with their position as being forged in the fires of burning crosses.
And, sadly, I fear that since Ms. Tucker has left our great State she has been too greatly influenced by the “progressives” inside the beltway. Ms. Tucker, your opinions, while sometimes in conflict with my own in the past, were usually backed by a journalistic logic that often crossed party lines and lifted your comments above the fray. The only conclusion I can reach is that, while living amongst us, you were often muzzled from your true thoughts by an editorial board struggling to hide its political sentiments thus forcing you to appear more impartial, or that the elitist oxygen that pervades D.C. has diminished your capacity to reason.
Maybe a warm southern breeze would clear your head?

ron stratton

September 16th, 2009
9:07 am

As Harry Truman said ” If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”

As I said, ” If you can’t stand criticism, don’t run for President”

Get off this racism excuse, it is getting old. Some people disagree, and spew hatred , towards white presidents too… stop crying…

XYZ_2U

September 16th, 2009
9:11 am

I admire your courage, Ms Cynthia Tucker, in writing this column, specially where racism still exist. More power to you.

Peace

Get Real you racist

September 16th, 2009
9:13 am

Get real. Racism is not the cause for any of this. Do you think it could possibly be because of his policies? If we are going to say that all the white people that don’t agree with Obama are racist then logically we can conclude that 97% of the black people in this country are racist too since they didn’t like McCain’s policies. Clearly if you didn’t agree with Sarah Palin, or George Bush, or any white Republican and you are black then you are a racist. I am sure you don’t like it when your hypocrisy is shown for what it is Ms. Tucker.

It is racist that the AJC has not done one article about the ACORN scandal using Ms. Tucker’s logic.

JM

September 16th, 2009
9:14 am

STOP SAYING THAT SOMEBODY IS ACCUSING YOU OF BEING RACIST JUST BECAUSE YOU DISAGREE WITH OBAMA. THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS ARTICLE SAYS.

It’s perfectly fine to disagree with a president. That alone does not make you a racist. But when your party does things like give out music called “Barack the Magic Negro” and conservative radio hosts play it on the air, when emails and picket signs circulate that compare Obama to a monkey, when the political campaign against him accuses him of being a terrorist, a muslim, an arab, when the opposition rather than opposing his policy clearly attacks him as a PERSON (he’s not one of us), when you see people at those protests saying he’s from Africa and he should not be allowed to be president, when people start comparing him to Hitler for no reason other than Hitler is the nastiest person they can think of, THEN there is most likely racism involved.

People keep simplifying this too much. Carter didn’t say “IF YOU DON’T LIKE OBAMA YOU’REA A RACIST”. The reality here is much more complex.

Tony

September 16th, 2009
9:14 am

If you people had taken the time to read the WHOLE article, you would have seen that she did not say everyone who opposes the president is racist.

Her comments are about the detestable tactics that have been aimed at President Obama, to attack his character and hope for his demise. He is our commander-in-chief and the head of state. He is the President of the United States of America and deserves a basic level of respect.

You have a right to disagree, but stop being disagreeable. Voice your opinion, but put your hate aside.

James Soquel

September 16th, 2009
9:15 am

The far right and the Republican Party are being called out for what they are: racist. Unfortunately, their anger is ironically misplaced. It has been Republican policy to effectively deunionize this country and ship jobs overseas. And these people keep voting for them. As unions have declined, so have wages. These so called “folks that pay the bills” have been loosing jobs as the manufacturing sector has evaporated, along with the good wages those jobs payed. Jobs that could be had with just a high school education. Again, ironically, it is their lack of education that blinds them to reality. Protesting big government and spending? Please, where were they during the 8 years of the Reagan or Bush borrow and spend eras? My only hope is that as the country becomes more diverse, these racists and their republican party will be driven further and further below the Mason-Dixon line and into irrelevancy.

ken bazzle

September 16th, 2009
9:16 am

Ms. Tucker.

As usual you are “spot on “. But I can’t fathom the naivety of Kathleen Parker in today’s edition of the AJC.

Rant

September 16th, 2009
9:17 am

Azazel 8:43 am
President Carter…rather than to give anything to a “minority”.

Perhaps Carter should encourage the “minorities” to get off their entitlement seeking soapbox and “earn” rather than take…

How much more of our “fair share” are we expected to give???

wtobias

September 16th, 2009
9:18 am

jimmy carter says because anyone who disagrees with obama is racist , jimmy knows what a racist is because he is from the south , it may be that since jimmy lost by a land slide to the same people,, he has a bone to pick, the same group disagreed with him on the same issues him during his term jimmy carter should keep doing what he is good at . growing peanuts

Bill

September 16th, 2009
9:19 am

As a former Atlanta resident I am sad to see this pathetic commentary. Why is it a group can be so proud of its African roots yet immediately turn on them to play the race card. Either you’re African American or not, and if so, be proud of it and quit leaning on it only when it’s convenient. The people opposing the president are not opposing because of race but because of issue. Is this country so shallow not to recognize the right of Americans to disagree. And please, Jimmy Carter, go back to the peanut farm. Does anyone remember 14% inflation in the 70’s?

ctucker

September 16th, 2009
9:21 am

I know race is a subject that elicits strong emotions, but I’m disappointed that some of you have resorted to crude name-calling. Please no “dirtbags” or “dumb. . .”. I think we can have this conservation without going there.

quincytyrone

September 16th, 2009
9:26 am

It appears that the debate for healthcare reform is inadvertenly bringing the ugly side of otherwise civil americans racist past to a forefront. With statements from the virginia Rep. Mcconell when he wrote in his thesis ” to go back into the dark ages”( women barefoot and pregnant, no independant women with jobs) to Rep. Lynn Jenkins ” we need a white hope”-I believe there is nothing wrong with statements on these blogs such as “we started as a Republic, lets get back there”, nonetheless, the debate about healthcare is bringing the overly aggressive violent side of those who just happen to be caucasin out. We are not slaves anymore and the quote ” As long as the white man keeps his foot on the negroes throat- he (the white man) will never rise!” As subtle as the overtones many of you think are being perceived as a passionate taxpayer, everyone sees you for who you really are(you decide if your not a bigot or racist). It makes america look really bad just as people in other countries were spitting at American troops and heckling them after the world view confronted no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Again, the world is watching as you try to charcter assinate the president and what you really think is passionate political debate is nothing more than bigotry in its most subtle form.we can rise together or fall together. The days has passed when black women were raped by police officers, the days have passed with republican sharecroppers reading us the Bible then raping our grandmothers, and the day has passed when my grandfather had to address 7 year old caucasin Billy as Mr. Billy, while he called my Grandfather the N- word. The Dark ages are gone, get counseling all ou who are still bitter that blacks are taking your jobs, i guess if we werestill in the dark ages you’d have the presidency, have Cynthis job, and eric holder’s job would be a caucasin in that position. You can kill the body but not the spirit, cause “Still we rise!”

Me First

September 16th, 2009
9:26 am

James Soquel:

Define “racist” please.

Kayaker 71

September 16th, 2009
9:28 am

The American electorate has been waiting patiently for this whole phenom to unfold. When still in the honeymoon period, this president could do no wrong. He was touted as the new Messiah, the one who was going to correct the evil ways of the Bush administration…. maybe even walk on water.
Then when the rubber hit the road and his actual agenda was revealed, some of the 52% that voted for him started to have second thoughts. As each of his policies has been revealed, the percentage has grown larger. His numbers have suffered, his health care plan will certainly not pass the Senate in it’s present form and he is loosing credibility with the independents who put him in office. Last Rassmussen poll pegs the independents who strongly disagree with him at about 65%. That does not bode well for the president or his policies. It was those same people who put him into office. Are all of these people racists?

ken

September 16th, 2009
9:31 am

Maybe President Carter should have also exposed the Good Ole boy system that has allowed so many white people to screw over so many minorities.

Greenchange

September 16th, 2009
9:31 am

Thanks Cynthia. Another dose of truth in a hostile environment. Perhaps the hateful comments directed toward you now and over the years has had a salutary effect in raising awareness that racism in otherwise reasonable Americans is what keeps our country from reaching its potential.

wtobias

September 16th, 2009
9:33 am

the democrats have shipped more jobs overseas by there high taxes, over regulations, there unfair trade agreements, and there support of greedy unions, the ,look at the democrat run states, and citys, the high cost of living., high crime ,,and unemployment all run by democrats. and what in return for living in democrat run states bad schools bad roads more taxes no work its no surprise that a lot of the utopia like California that the democrats have built are falling apart at the seems

Joey

September 16th, 2009
9:34 am

What Cynthia writes is: Clearly everyone who opposes Obama’s Health Care Plan is not racist.
Then she writes: But those opponents who are not racist are people who just hate Democrats.
And she writes that none of them, the racist and Democrat Haters, opposed Bush’s prescription bill. Totally wrong again.

Me First

September 16th, 2009
9:38 am

James Soquel:

Would you like to know why so many manufacturing jobs have left the U.S.A? It’s not “Republican policy to deunionize” and ship jobs overseas. There are numerous reasons why it’s no longer attactive to manufacture in the U.S. Wages and benefits are just one reason. Americans want a clean environment.
They won’t tolerate the pollution. The Chinese will. Don’t forget OSHA and other “workforce” rights that Americans and Europeans have. Most poor Asians and Africans don’t have them at all. Safety in the workplace isn’t that big an issue in developing nations, either. It is here. Health benefits and employer sponsored 401k? Add that to the list, too. Oh, and don’t forget the legal climate. There are all of those lawyers out there, looking to protect you from those greedy, unconscionable businesses when they do something wrong.