Thursday, September 17, 2009

If I Hear "Because I Oppose the Policies of Obama, Then I Must Be a Racist" One More Time....

The statement in my post title is a textbook example of sophistry (you can add the smug and disdainful look on your own). What a way to dismiss summarily even the possibility that some of the criticism directed at Obama could be race based. This is nothing more than an argument tactic, especially when the point is conceded (and often it is) that there is in fact a possibility that race informs some of the negative opinions of Obama and his policies.

I've disagreed with some of the policy decisions of Obama, and I have posted about them on this blog. Does that make me a racist too?

There are plenty of things that Obama supports for which conservatives should disagree. Yet, there has been an effort by some powerful voices on the right to foment racial resentment, animosities and fears within the context of Obama's policy positions, and they have been doing this knowing that those things will resonate with some members of their audience. I agree with calling those folks out for doing wrong.

Demonizing the whole for the actions of a few is always wrong, and reasonable voices have not been demonizing the whole. If you pay attention to the specific claims of where race seems to be entering the discussion negatively (and not go all dismissive), then you should be able to see at least some of what folks are talking about.

And remember, no one can make you something that you aren't.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, I tell you, most of my family are conservative and I get explicitly racist email forwards about Obama ALL THE TIME. Of course people can disagree with some of his policies, but when it seems to me that some of the disapproval is inexplicable, I do boil it down to mindless political party allegiance and racism.


TC said...

Your comments are much more reasonable than President Carter's comments, which are designed to squelch dissent by calling most who oppose the current President with one of the nastiest things they can be called in modern society.

"“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter told NBC News."

d-figuerero said...

Free, The same day of Carter's comment, as pure coincidence, a relative of my husband had a conversation with my father-in-law. This women who is older, conservative, of the religious right, educated and extremely Christian stated, without an ounce of shame that "a black man should not be president." Needless to say my father-in-law was floored. What strikes me most is that this woman, who is elderly, grew up before, through and after civil rights and I'm sure she has not fully come to terms with racial equality. But as a strong Christian how could she not realize these thoughts are wrong, and to consciously work against them? That is what I can't forgive. - Daphne

Fiona said...

Very timely, Free. Like others, I've been chewing on the roots of opposition in people I know.

Last night at dinner Charles said, "I hope that fierce look isn't about me." I was thinking about someone I went to high school with. She made some comments on Facebook a month ago that just floored me.

And last night I was thinking about the (many) times that she used the "N" word while we were teenagers. She knew what I thought, since she would look toward me and roll her eyes and say, "sorry." I'm sure you can imagine the tone.

I respect president Carter for just saying what so many people are thinking. I'm happy to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I also respect them by believing that they mean what they say. So when I know they've routinely used a racial slur...then it's not a leap to think their political opinions originate in racism.

hscfree said...

@TC: I still think that there are many people who oppose Obama politically for totally legitimate reasons who are working overtime to ignore the fact that there are true racists in their midst. In looking for all of the "over reaches" on the part of Democrats, moderates and liberals, too many are ignoring, perhaps, the "reach" in the "over reach."

What bothers me is that the GOP knows that it has a problem with its brand on the issue of race, and it sort of tries to deal with that. I would have hoped that perhaps there would be a "both/and" strategy as opposed to "either/or." Carter's comments versus Limbaugh's comments come to mind. Why are Carter's comments seen in a worse light for some on the right (with an admitted, by me, overreach), then any of what Limbaugh has said this week?

Clancy said...

Carter's statements on "overreach"? Highly doubtful. A few comments up, TC conflates two issues, the breadth of those opposed to Obama and his policies and the intensity of that opposition. A careful, and I would argue accurate, reading of Carter's statements indicates his belief that it is the intensity that he believes is informed by lingering racism, not the actual opposition itself. After all, except for the obviously racist crap produced by some opponents, most of the opposition to Obama is remarkably similar to what was thrown at Clinton.

Free, I've told you before that I think it's crazy how most white people completely shut down when you point out the inherent racism of our society. Once someone indicates that race is likely playing a role in a conversation, many whites immediately adopt a defensive position and loudly and repeatedly claim that, "I am not a racist!" As you point out, this is more a rhetorical tactic than a meaningful addition to the debate. Admittedly, in most situations, the difficulty arising from this situation could be alleviated by the initiator of the discussion on race being more careful with their choice of language, but it would also help if many whites would simply choose to be a little more honest about themselves and the larger American culture (and also not take everything so damn personally).

I know that it is not a bowl of cherries to be called a racist. In fact, it stings like hell. Well, it should. And, as I've noted repeatedly, I sometimes (often?) act on impulses which if not racist, are based on ideas about race. Sometimes I recognize that, indeed, race likely was a factor in whatever misunderstanding or conflict existed in the situation. At others, I deduce that it was either some sort of misunderstanding or played no role at all. However, once the accusation is made, pretending that the person making it is crazy, self-aggrandizing, or some sort of hustler and dismissing their concerns out of hand is usually the least productive means of dealing with--and moving on from--the situation.

Scott said...

If Carter had said--

"an overwhelming portion of the animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man." I would consider that an overreach too.

But that's not what he said. He said--

"an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man."

I get it that there are people who oppose health care reform and other Obama initiatives. But it's the intensity of the anger and passion some of these "birthers" and "teabaggers" are displaying that leaves me no doubt that racism is at play here. The intensity of that anger comes from a deeper emotional place than an argument about the "public option" or about Medicare Advantage plans.

Sometimes white people suspect that black people are seeing racism when it's not there. And sometimes I'm one of those white people.

But there is a flip side.

Jimmy Carter (and I), as white people, see something that black people often don't get to see. We see how some of our fellow white folks talk when there are no black folks in the room.

Jimmy is right.

hscfree said...

@Scott: And that's why I get angry at white folks sometimes on race issues; they will hear things that I wouldn't. But still, black folks are often told that we "play the race card" or are "always focused on race."