Posted by: kmorrison33 | September 16, 2009

Racism and Politics

President Carter recently made a statement saying that the anger at the tea party protests is due to racism. On a similar note Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote an article stating that Joe Wilson’s “You Lie” outburst was due to racism. We’re at a strange place when it comes to race. President Obama’s election was obviously a landmark, and clearly showed that race is much less a factor for people than it was not oo long ago. However, his election does not mean that racism is dead. So how do we now gage racism? Do we do it a la Maureen Dowd, and read a motive into an individual’s actions? This is a flawed method, as Joe Wilson is truly the only one who can say all the reasons why he yelled out at that moment. Opposition does not equate to racism. Representative Wilson did take that opposition to the point of being inappropriate, but Dowd has no way of knowing his motivations and is not helping anything by infusing the debate with race-based politics.

President Carter however, while he also questioned Wilson’s motivations, really makes a different point. President Carter says the level of anger and inappropriateness points to racism being present and dangerous. He isn’t saying opposition equals racism, he’s saying something else is at work to bring out this level of anger among protesters. This is an important point for those who oppose President Obama to understand. When protests reach a certain level of anger and nastiness, they no longer appear to be protests based on policy, they appear hate-based. An unfortunate side-effect is that those protesting for logical valid reasons along side the angry over-the-top protester gets lumped into this same category by association.

There is genuine anger based on policy. President Obama is a big government politician, and that doesn’t sit well with many people. The media, unwilling to question the President’s policies and legislation, adds to the anger as people feel that they are not being heard. That typical role of skeptic that a responsible media provides is markedly absent under this administration creating a new and bitter dynamic not really seen before.  Yet that is not an excuse for a section of protesters taking it too far, and being too nasty. Whether the anger is race-based only the individual can say for sure, but that’s how it’s coming off. Some are sure to state examples where the left has been inappropriate too. That’s just not a good enough excuse anymore. Yes, both sides have their crazies, and anger isn’t always inappropriate, but there is enough ridiculous Nazi references, disfiguring pictures of the President, and wildly outrageous and ignorant remarks being made, that President Carter’s analysis can’t be ignored.

Unfortunately, there will likely continue to be those like Maureen Dowd who use claims of racism as a political weapon. Ironically the answer is not black and white. Protest and anger doesn’t automatically mean racism, but when seething anger and inappropriate actions reach a fevered pitch it warrants the concerns stated by President Carter. Anger can be appropriate, rage rarely is, and again we’re facing a very partisan and bitter political climate where people need to exhibit more thoughtfulness, self-control, and reason, and less craziness.

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  1. I think you’ve successfully threaded the needle on this one. Good job.

  2. Great read. You are so correct. I really wanted to be at the weekend protest, and yet, given how the media found a few examples of racist behavior there and chose to cover that versus the protest, I was relieved to not be in the mix of yet another debate on ‘how racist am I?’a , which I have found both appalling and sad in this current political season.

    We must argue in the affirmative, and not let hate take over. I disdain the President and his policies, but I am still proud of our country who sought to elect a black man to the highest office.

    I just wish it was Condi or Colin.

  3. (I meant the comment above as gender neutral, ie the first black American)

  4. Thanks for the comments. It not only would make a better argument for people to tone done the over-the-top nastiness, it would likely encourage more people to participate who aren’t thrilled about aligning themselves with the more hysterical/inappropriate branch of protesters.

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