GOP Representative Doug Lamborn from Colorado decided to stir the racial fire in the recent debate over the debt crisis this past weekend. In his remarks about President Obama, Rep. Lamborn said that being associated with President Obama is “like touching a tar baby.”
Lamborn’s remarks (which are in the audio here) came as he was trying to argue that President Obama will take much of the blame for what went wrong during the debt ceiling discussion. Critics on both sides of the aisle have expressed their disappointment in the actions of both President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.
It’s hard to know why Rep. Lamborn felt the need to invoke a racial slur in his disagreement with the president. One would hope that any fool would realize that comparing a Black man to a tar baby isn’t the most politically-correct thing to do. At the same time, Lamborn is being allowed to engage in the blanket disrespect that many on the right have shown toward President Obama, as their minds can’t quite wrap around the idea of taking orders from a Black man.
Not only do these lynch mob attacks from the right serve to undermine the stability of our democracy, they also steal the ability of the rest of America to engage in the free expression of ideas. When Americans have legitimate concerns about the actions (or lack thereof) of the Obama Administration on critical issues such as racial inequality, their voices are muted by those who say that any critic of the administration is serving to protect the interests of right wing racists.
In many ways, the treatment of the Obama Administration is similar to what happened to a few Black boys I knew growing up. Knowing that they would have to deal with racism from the world, their mothers would coddle them and defend their behavior, despite what they’d done. Their refusal to hold their son’s accountable was always justified by the fact that the world was “just so darn mean to him.” Instead, my mother always made sure I understood the struggle with racism that I would face in my life, and at the same time pushed me to a higher standard. I would say that this is why many of my friends went to prison and I did not.
The same argument can hold for those of us who’d like to see President Obama succeed. The racism being faced by the president isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, and he is well aware of that. Similarly, the racism being felt by an entire community facing 16 percent unemployment and the largest wealth gap in over 30 years must also be acknowledged. It’s not easy for any of us, but we must all pull our weight in confronting the crippling effects of racial inequality.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.