It’s been just over six months since the first African American President assumed the reigns of leader of the free world, and thus became arguably the most powerful man on earth. Following slavery, centuries of institutional racism, unequal access to education, jobs and the pursuit of prosperity, America voluntarily voted for a Black man to hold the highest office in the land. And after running on a platform of unity and staying above the fray of racial divisiveness, President Obama finds himself at the center of bigotry, race-baiting and hatred – and this time the right wing fringe is attempting to portray him as the racist.
A few weeks back, Fox News anchor Glenn Beck engaged in an all-too familiar rant where he began attacking the President of the United States. Literally pulling out a wobbling Black doll holding an umbrella that he called ‘Obama’, Beck went on a tirade over how the President’s proposed health care reform would ‘remake America’ and that people should be very, very afraid. With neurotic-type gestures, Beck espoused that Obama was taking the “beacon of freedom and turning it into an apologetic, hey, what can you do for me, wannabe European, spread the wealth, socialist wonderland”. As if such vitriol and fear mongering wasn’t incomprehensible enough, the Fox loud mouth went one step further last week in a move that even astonished his bosses when he called Obama a flat out ‘racist’.
Following the election in November, the nation was immersed in the progress of finally electing an African American into a house that was literally constructed on the backs of slaves. Many, in an idealistic manner, hoped that society would now advance into a post-racial environment where skin color, ethnicity, creed and religion wouldn’t play such intense roles, and discrimination would subside. Unfortunately, what we must remember is that despite having a Black President, inequities in education, housing and work still exist, and that the institutional structure of society hasn’t shifted all that much. The CEOs of most corporations are still White, the hiring managers are mostly White, the heads of police departments are predominantly White and the executives in media (and that’s TV, print and radio) are more often then not White. Yes, we have made some advances, but there is a tremendous way to go before anyone can even begin to speak of equality and a fair playing field.
In January, President Obama inherited an exacerbating housing crisis, two wars and the worst economy in years. And as people continue to lose jobs and face tough times, those on the right cease to exploit the fears of the downtrodden. Several in the GOP have utilized health reform as a wedge to scare White folks – especially poor Whites – that Obama is using health care as ‘reparations’, when in fact those same poor Whites would be among those who benefit the most from this reform.
Just last week, two officers in Georgia were put on leave after being accused of running a criminal check on the President. This outrageous behavior followed last year’s security breach of then Senator Obama’s passport. And since inauguration we have witnessed dangerous words like ‘socialist’ and ‘Marxist’ touted around as if they didn’t hold an ugly and troubling history.
Never before in our nation’s history has the President of the United States been undermined and attacked so blatantly in the media, on Capitol Hill and in the court of public opinion. It happens in small manners when someone refers to him as ‘Mr. Obama’ rather than ‘President Obama’, and in more blatant manners by the Glen Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world. Instead of supporting the President as he undertakes the daunting task of resurrecting the country out of our plethora of challenges, some chose to divide, incite fear, push their own agendas and reinforce age-old stereotypes. Now I ask you, who is the real racist?