We’re all familiar with the tale of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” right? It’s the story of a boy who lies about a wolf attack so often that when a wolf finally does attack, no one is around to help him; they believe him to be lying again. Is that something we do when it comes to race in America? Have we come to the place where any disagreement between persons of different races must be racially motivated? Do we pull the “race” card too often? Do we make certain issues about race when they’re really not, or do some people just find more benefit — perhaps airtime — in portraying as though they were?
This week, former President, Jimmy Carter, spoke to students at Emory University, saying, “When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds. I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African American. It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.”
There are certainly people in America who think a Black man is incapable of leading anything other than a rap concert. They are, of course, sadly mistaken, but you can’t tell them that — they might come to your house and reenact a scene from “A Time to Kill.” Their hatred, dislike for, and attacks on the President are based solely, or at least primarily, on his skin color, and not in the policies he supports. Those people do hold a “racist attitude” as Carter mentioned, and we do need to partner together, blacks and white, Democrats and Republicans, young and old, to condemn those actions — they’re ignorant, fear based, irrational, and certainly not remotely accurate.
Later, in an interview with NBC Nightly News, Carter says he thinks, “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.” Saying that, “an overwhelming portion,” of the animosity towards the President is racially based is stretching reality a bit. There’s no denying that race plays a part, but not that large of a part. Perhaps a small part, but certainly not “an overwhelming majority.” Did the dislike that Blacks had for George Bush, or rather, any past President, lie in his whiteness? Same principle, different races.
Bill Cosby weighed in President Carter’s words on his Facebook page, saying, “During President Obama’s speech on the status of health care reform, some members of congress engaged in a public display of disrespect. While one Representative hurled the now infamous “you lie” insult at the President, others made their lack of interest known by exhibiting rude behavior such as deliberately yawning and sending text messages.”
Given Cosby’s example, most people exhibit rude behavior on a regular basis; in class, while driving, hanging out with friends, eating dinner, whenever we’re tired, and even in church. While yawning and sending text messages can’t necessarily be classified as “rude behavior” all the time, within this context, he has a point; just because we do these things everyday does not make them acceptable. But, are the congressmen’s acts based on the fact that the President is Black and not because they disagreed with, or maybe they’re just plain bored with his speech? Perhaps the senators were just tired from a long day of playing Solitaire working hard for their country and were communicating with their girlfriends spouses about that evening’s dinner plans. We can’t be certain either way.
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia University professor and FOX News contributor, is correct in saying, “President Carter was merely identifying a political reality that many of us have been unable or unwilling to recognize: much of the current anti-Obama sentiment has little to do with policy and much to do with race… By identifying the racial dimensions of the current political moment, President Carter has pointed out a huge elephant in the room.”
Carter has called it like it is. America — especially White America — doesn’t like to point out its prejudices, biases, and much less the racism it displays. They, possibly subconsciously, realize that the history of oppression in this country is a huge mustard stain on our shirt. The fact is, the press has, for a long time, tried its best to cover up the stain with a blazer, only to have to the blazer blown back by the wind of truth, exposing the stain once again.
Does racism account for some of the disagreement over the President’s policies? Absolutely, but the fact is that it doesn’t account for all of them. Racism, or at least bias, accounts for a lot more than we realize — but not every time people of different races disagree do they disagree because of race. They might just be looking at the facts of the situation involved. There are some people in this country that can look at the policy instead the pigment.
People of color may not be the majority, but the country’s leadership is growing more diverse and more people of color are gaining leadership positions. America will have to look past color if it’s to accomplish anything worthwhile.