As I noted yesterday, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson said something pretty stupid and inflammatory about his colleague from South Carolina, Joe Wilson, regarding Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s health-care speech to Congress:
”It did not help the cause of diversity and tolerance with his remarks. If I was a betting man, I’d say it instigated more racist sentiment, feeling that it’s OK, that you don’t have to bury it down,” Johnson said. “I guess we’ll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside, intimidating people. That’s the logical conclusion if this kind of attitude is not rebuked.”
That’s just nonsense, and it’s completely unfair to Wilson. Opposition to Obama’s health-care plan is not by any means evidence of racism, and it is wrong to imply otherwise. In fact, “racism” is such a powerful charge that it should never be leveled lightly. Using the charge in an effort to silence criticism, as some have done, is wrong and destructive and cheapens the stigma of real racism.
But let’s not fool ourselves. Real evidence of racism abounds. Fox News star Glenn Beck, the inspiration for last weekend’s rally in Washington, said on the air recently that “this president has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture.”
President Obama hates white people? That’s racist nonsense, plain and unvarnished, and any movement that looks to clowns such as Beck for leadership despite such statements opens itself up to justified questions about racist intentions.
Mark Williams, another of the leaders of the Tea Party movement, went on national TV last night and confirmed previous statements that Obama is our nation’s “racist in chief” and an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug.”
“Welfare thug?” It’s been said that in the infinity of time, there is no sentence that has not already been written or uttered, but I’m gonna guess that in all the long history of the American republic and the English language, no previous president has ever been described using those two words. You might say Williams was speaking in code, but the phrase is so blatantly racist that no decoding is required.
Then there’s the coverage of the schoolbus fight in St. Louis. It now appears that it was a simple case of bullying, reprehensible but utterly unremarkable. Yet right-wing outlets such as the Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh immediately rushed to sell it as a metaphor for “Obama’s America” in which the poor downtrodden white male is once again being victimized. It was pretty sad to see the insecurities of millions of adults projected onto one teenaged kid.
In fact, as a white male myself, I’m embarrassed. People who look like me dominate the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies and the vast majority of elected political offices. We also control an overwhelming proportion of national wealth, yet somehow we are the downtrodden and powerless?
Guys, if you’re not getting what you think you deserve and have earned, it’s not because the black man is keeping you down. Really.
The game is pretty obvious. What we’re seeing is an effort to stir up white anger and resentment at black Americans in general and at Barack Obama in particular. It is an effort to remind white America that Obama cannot really be your president because, well, look at him. He’s one of Them, not one of Us.
And we’re better than that, all of us.
Johnson ought to apologize, profusely and sincerely, to Wilson. Wilson said two words, “You lie,” and there is no way in the world to accurately claim racism based on that evidence. The fact that Wilson is white, conservative and from South Carolina add absolutely nothing to the “evidence” against him. If you’re gonna throw charges of racism around, you have to be able to back them up.
That said, Limbaugh, Beck, Williams and others are appealing to racism, plain and simple.