President Obama was exactly right. Some people don’t like him because he’s African-American. I didn’t think this was even remotely controversial. But wow. Some of the usual suspects erupted in protest, behaving suspiciously defensive when, in fact, the president wasn’t really talking about them specifically.
In a profile published on Sunday in The New Yorker, the president said, “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President.” He continued, “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”
Predictably, the conservative entertainment complex lost its collective bowel control and the subsequent bile geyser erupted from one end of the AM radio dial to the other, along with Fox News Channel of course.
We’re all familiar with how Sarah Palin reacted on Facebook yesterday, so I’m not going to bother. (See my post about it here.)
Elsewhere, the insufferable panel of cranks known as The Five, helmed by serialrace-baiter Eric Bolling and proto-hominid Greg Gutfeld, generally agreed that the president was trying to blame criticism of his failures on the racism of white conservatives. Gutfeld said “his failures know no pigment.” (To be fair, The Five panelist and former Bush administration press secretary Dana Perino said the president’s remarks were “reasonable.”)
Fact: there are more than a few people who think it’s terrible that there’s an African-American president. It has nothing to do with successes or failures. I’ll come back to this point.
Glenn Beck, who once accused the president of being racist against white people, echoed The Five‘s observations: the president is “making excuses” for his failures as president. He called the remarks a “tired cliché” and said:
“It is a strange, like, double standard, racism, that I think keeps him elected. You tell me that a white man could do to this country’s health care system alone and have––and Benghazi and everything else that’s going on. You think Hillary Clinton could have gotten away with half of this stuff? No way. No way.”
Doth protest too much, methinks.
So Beck thinks Obama has “gotten away” with stuff? He clearly doesn’t listen to his own radio show. Indeed, while the president has made some mistakes along the way, he’s been routinely assaulted by all sides for almost every reason. On the left, he’s worse than Bush. On the right, he’s a Brundlefly of Mao, Hitler and Stalin. On the left, he’s corporatist. On the right, he’s a communist. Everything from his use of Teleprompters to the Affordable Care Act has been framed as a scandal and punctuated with the obligatory “gate” suffix. Anyone at Glenn Beck’s tree fort ever heard of Darrell Issa?
That aside, whether you voted for him or not, it’s an empirical fact that more than a few white Americans who think the Obama presidency represents the emerging Browning of America and the end of white civilization. They believe that this menacing (yet also somehow effete) black guy is unlawfully occupying the White House — a black guy whom they seriously believe to be an Islamic sleeper cell.
Have any of these radio and TV goons heard of Birthers? Would there be such a conspiracy theory if the president wasn’t an African-American man with the name Barack Hussein Obama? Of course not. Would some people forward viral images of watermelons growing on the White House lawn? Nope. Would there have been a man carrying around a Curious George monkey doll, referring to it as “Little Obama?” No way. Would the most popular talk radio host and, somehow, the eighth most admired living human in the U.S. repeatedly refer to the president as a “little black man-child?” Say it with me: no.
Other than racism, what’s the common thread connecting all of these examples? They all began before the president was even elected, much less suffered any failures that required the so-called playing of the “race card.”
Had the various offended parties actually read more than just the one paragraph, they’d also have read the paragraph that immediately followed it in which the president cautions progressives to not conflate every criticism with racism. But in the digital media age it’s easier to kneejerk into a sweet, sweet outrage coma than to actually, you know, read thoroughly. It’s easy to scold the president for playing the “race card” (as if racial identity is a game) than to recognize that even if you don’t like his politics or policies, this president has been eminently thoughtful, fair-minded and reasonable. And especially in comparison to his predecessor, he’s hasn’t been afraid to admit mistakes and accept blame where blame is due.
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that all Republicans or all conservatives hate the president because he’s African-American, nor do I think they’re all racists. It’d be totally be dishonest to make such a sweeping generalization. But there’s more than enough evidence to prove that among opponents of the president, there’s a faction that dislikes and distrusts the president because he’s not white. Confirming such a reality isn’t about excuse-making, it’s about observable, objective fact.