Last November's election of Barack Obama as U.S. President was hailed by many as the culmination of America's transformation into a "post-racial" society. However, as recent events have illustrated, we're simply not there yet.
For some people, the formula is uncomplicated, yet powerfully certain. When criticizing an African-American -- whether that person sweeps floors or serves as President of the United States -- all that's needed to avoid being tagged with the "R-word" is to just avoid using the "N-word."
This formula dictates that a specific charge of racism can be avoided by skating around the qualifiers present in an accusation of race bias. To wit, the controversy involving former President Jimmy Carter, who recently proclaimed racism to be the "overwhelming" factor driving SOME of the anti-Obama sentiment that has ratcheted up this summer. According to their formula, in this case, simply ignoring the qualifier "some," permits Carter's charge to be easily brushed off since it then becomes an accusation of unrepentant racism among ALL people who oppose Obama for ANY reason.
Finally, if specific evidence is introduced strongly suggesting that racial intolerance is a factor in behavior that is quite clearly discriminatory, the response set by this formula is to trot out the trite accusation that the "race-card" is again being played.
Ultimately, if successful in applying those and perhaps a few other adroit maneuvers, a truly prejudiced human being can effectively avoid being labeled racist and simultaneously redirect that label toward someone who actually holds no racial animosity at all.
With talk of Obama's election marking the glorious completion of America's emergence as a post-racial society, one might easily assume that encountering these types of "race-skaters" would become less frequent by now. Events of late however, seems to indicate quite the opposite. As the Town Hall experience of this summer and a September "tea-bagger" rally in Washington D.C. have revealed, there are a whole slew of folks out there who make no bones about overtly showing that they just ain't quite ready for it. Through crass displays of racially-tinged pseudo-populism, they've made it clear that change of the type President Obama spoke of and endorsed by voters on November 4th will never be allowed to occur.
Racism in the Party of Lincoln
While no one group or individual can claim a lock on racial tolerance, it is fairly evident that many of these, shall we say, "less open-minded" types have found that there is a comfortable welcome mat set out for them at the doorstep of the out-of-power and obviously attention-starved GOP. For these types, both the antics and remarks of Republican Congressman Joe Wilson during the President's recent congressional address represent a justifiable breath of fresh air from yet another elected Republican, and the kind of "straight talk" they would have preferred to hear from someone like Sen. John McCain.
But in reality, it provides compelling evidence that despite a steady flow of artful denials -- including from some elements within the Obama administration -- old-fashioned, homegrown American racism now has the party of Lincoln stinking with a pungent odor that probably would be described by Rep. Wilson's supporters as the kind of pleasant fragrance that only can be generated through truth and wisdom.
Hardly. Wilson's dramatic display of the heightened level of disregard for political protocol was actually a real time illustration of the co-mingling of mainstream GOP politics with fringe anti-government populist sentiment. A fringe element consisting of people whose contempt for government is such that if they could get away with it they'd indict Uncle Sam.
This trend is further illustrated by the sort of quasi-official Republican support for, of all things, guns near events at which the President is in attendance. At political events during George W. Bush's presidency, people were barred for wearing t-shirts deemed subversive, an imposition that undoubtedly had the support of many of these same elements now supporting the firearm carriers. In any case, it's difficult to envision GOP politicians providing this level of reverence for the Second Amendment were it being exercised in this fashion by members of Minister Louis Farrakhan's Fruit of Islam.
It also presents itself in the level of disinterest displayed by some Republicans in extending to Obama, the personal respect that comes with the office of the presidency, which Wilson's outburst seemed to magnify. This includes GOP support of the "birther" movement, the unusual slew of "monkey" references, and incidents where Republicans have questioned both the legitimacy of awarding honorary degrees to Obama and the appropriateness of the President delivering a back-to-school pep talk to American students
These incidents, along with the acceptance by Republicans of guns near the President, and their ultimate refusal to support sanctions against Rep. Wilson for his crude, frat boy-like breach of protocol, represent just a narrow snapshot of the unusual degree of pettiness brought to bear on Obama.
"Potentially" or "Eventually"
America fancies itself as a pro-active society. If so, one would have to presume that "pro-active" is defined by Americans as acknowledging the presence of a particular problem; developing a contingency for dealing with the problem; but living in denial about the possibility of the problem ever occurring.