Reprint of The Pointlessness of the Racism Debate by Lincoln Mitchell
Huffington Post

The question of whether or not some of the attacks on President Obama are racist is not likely to end anytime soon. There is little that can be done to persuade some supporters of President Obama that comparing the African American president to a witch doctor is not racist, or that the disrespect shown to Obama during his address to congress on health care would not have been on display if the president had been white. Similarly, critics of the president will continue to insist that this is simply all about the issues and that race has nothing to do with it.

Part of the difficulty is that on issues of race, there is a deep, but usually unspoken disagreement which runs through most of America. A substantial proportion of Americans see racism as something that is firmly in the past. This originates both from justifiable pride in how far we have come in this area, but unfortunately also prevents many people from recognizing or confronting the racism that still persists. Another large group of Americans sees racism as an ongoing problem which is less acute than a generation or two ago, but has certainly not gone away. The tension between these two views is apparent whenever a racial incident occurs; and it seems like half the country cries racism while the other half accuses the first half of playing the race card.

It is reasonably obvious that some of the attacks on President Obama will always be motivated by racism, but it is equally apparent that attributing all criticism to racism, something that Barack Obama, as both candidate and president, has never done, would be wrong. As such, the racism debate servers little real purpose. Nobody is going to be convinced. Nor is anybody is going to stop or change their behavior or their accusations.

The debate about racism is currently being used by the right wing to distract from the important issue of health care reform. The last week, during which we all talked more about whether or not Joe Wilson is a racist than about the merits of Obama’s proposed reform or the speech with Wilson so vulgarly interrupted, was, in the context of the extraordinarily low bar that party has set for themselves, a good week for the Republicans.

Opponents of the president are being a little disingenuous demanding, correctly, that it should be possible to disagree with Obama on the issues without being called a racist, while eschewing any serious discussion of the issues, unless organizing supporters to shout down elected officials and call opponents Nazis qualifies as a discussion of the issues.

The phony outrage expressed by some on the far right when confronted with charges of racism is motivated by a broader, and more powerful, attempt to pillory Obama, not for the color of his skin, but for being part of the liberal elite. On right wing talk radio, the blogosphere and Fox News, in recent years any talk of racism is dismissed as elitist nonsense from people who are out of touch with, as Bill O’Reilly eerily calls them, “the folks.” This is a potent line of attack that is consistent with all the other efforts the Republican Party and the right wing have made to mobilize their base to attack Obama as aggressively and nastily as possible.

The more important issue is, as Nancy Pelosi pointed out in her recent comments about San Francisco in the 1970s, the tone of political dialog in the US. This may or may not have anything to do with race, but it is still troubling. It is a real break with our past that a member of Congress feels comfortable yelling “you lie” at the president in the middle of a formal speech to Congress, or that it is no longer necessary for officials from the opposition party to show outrage when the President of the United States is called a Nazi. By drawing attention to that, Pelosi is making a valuable contribution to the dialog, but don’t be surprised to hear Republican members of Congress start attacking Pelosi and accusing her of implying that they are all like Dan White.

My point here is not that the attacks on Obama are not racist; it is pretty clear that some are racist. However, it is far less clear what supporters of the president gain from making this argument. It is extremely difficult to convince somebody that racism exists when they don’t want to see it. Moreover, nothing would change if this effort were successful. The right wing and much of the Republican Party have made it clear these last few months that they will stop at almost nothing to cripple the Obama presidency, which indicates that even if they were persuaded that they were racist, they probably wouldn’t stop.

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Much has gone back and forth about racism this and racism that.  Is Lincoln Mitchell correct?  Is the argument pointless?  Where is he correct?  Where is he incorrect? 

Was  America ready for a black president?  How about a woman president?  Would have have gone any better?

20 Thoughts to “Reprint of The Pointlessness of the Racism Debate”

  1. Rick Bentley

    We should have freedom of speech in this country. Even to voice “bigoted” thoughts. One person’s bigotry is another’s plain truth. We have become too politically correct, hence this endless dialogue about nothing.

  2. Rick Bentley

    Debates we SHOULD be having :

    Is it reasonable to pursue a “level playing field” by measuring “results” rather than the slope of the field? Is it a reasonable presumption that, for example, black acheivement would equal white acheivement, or white would equal asian, and so forth, on a level playing field?

    Has American politics become splintered in large part by race? Just as the Republicans exploited race and white anger for decades, are Democrats currently exploiting black anger and disaffection and Latino angst?

    Where does the average taxpayers tax dollar end up? How much of it pays for welfare? How much of that is in each racial category? How much pays for corporate welfare and subsidies for industries that people get rich on or get bailouts for?

    Should we use taxpayer dollars to bail out failed industries? American cars and now Obama is open to spending our money on newspapers?

  3. Moon-howler

    Those are some explosive questions, Rick.

    What is the newspaper issue? I haven’t heard that one yet.

    As for the other 2 things, yes. The American economy would have failed if the auto industry and the banking industry had not been propped up. The banking credit was frozen last fall.

    Auto industry reaches too far into other industries…things people didn’t even think about before they started whining about that. We were dangerously close a year ago..dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. Could this country function with 25-35% unemployment?

  4. Rick Bentley

    “What is the newspaper issue? I haven’t heard that one yet.”

    Supposedly Obama said that he is “open’ to the idea of a newspaper bailout.

  5. GainesvilleResident

    A newspaper bailout? That’s ridiculous! The newspapers just have to realize that the internet is slowly but surely replacing the printed paper. These days, by the time the printed paper gets delivered, there’s much more current news out there on the internet. They should figure out how to adapt to this, or else just be allowed to go out of business, as several have done lately. We can’t be bailing out every type of business that is facing tough times.

  6. Elena

    The deep seated hatred for Bill Clinton is simply amplified by the fact that the new president has a name like Barak Hussien Obama. Clinton was villied, but Obama has even more to hate. The hatred for Clinton was irrational, and for Obama, its irrationality mixed with a hint of violence.

    both men defeated war hero’s, both men are liked by many nations in the world, both men are exceptionally well spoken and bright.

  7. Rick Bentley

    But at the same time, Obama’s a duplicitous con man. Defend if you will the last 90 seconds of this –

    Obama’s whole past political history is pretty sordid. He reminds me more and more of George W Bush – a man who just should not have been President, whose party blindly trusted him while he inflicted reckless damage upon us for dubious reasons.

  8. Rick Bentley

    A tax increase is not a tax increase

    Dictionary definitions are gotcha politics

    Afghanistan is terribly important but we won’t be sending more troops there (shades of 2004 – I’ve seen this movie before)

    We can’t afford not to spend more money on health care

    Freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength

    All hail Obama

  9. Rick Bentley

    Or, if you don’t buy that line, vote McCain/Palin

    They stand for big government and bailouts and borrowing from the future and preserving an inane status quo and forgoing law and order and Amnesty and so forth. But a little less of all this, and no federal funding of abortions.

  10. Rick Bentley

    I think it’s time for the next Michael Moore to make a film about Obama the way “Fahrenheit 9/11” nailed Bush as someone in bed with foreign interests. There’s already enough material and evidence to show how corrupt Obama is and how far America has sunk. Just follow the money, like Moore did.

  11. Moon-howler

    Write to him and suggest it. Rick, you are the only person I have ever heard the newspaper bail out from.

    As for Afghanistan, I see the president being squeezed now. I think we will have to send more troops. What do you think?

  12. GainesvilleResident

    It’s no surprise to Aghanistan – anyone who’s been following it or talking to people in the military who are involved in it would have said we’d need to send more troops there.

  13. Elena

    IF people are required to have health care and THAT is the only mandate in the bill and there is no serious regulation, serious insurance reform, I will be livid. Most people don’t carry insurance, not because they CHOOSE not to, but because they can’t afford it.

  14. Rick Bentley

    “Most people don’t carry insurance, not because they CHOOSE not to, but because they can’t afford it.”

    However, any reasonable person can see that the price of insurance will go up if we implement something like the Baucus bill. The government will implement various taxes and fines on the insurance companies, and that price will be passed on to guess who.

  15. Rick Bentley

    “As for Afghanistan, I see the president being squeezed now. I think we will have to send more troops. What do you think?”

    If it were me yes i’d send more and I would lay waste to people and things. Not because the war’s winnable. Just because the Taliban and people like them (people who throw acid in schoolgirls’ faces and cut voters’ hands off) are scum. Once we went in circa 2003 was it we have some responsibility to keep fighting.

  16. Moon-howler

    I am not so sure you can just kill people because they are scum. If that were the case, I can make a few suggestions without even getting near Afghanistan.

    I support sending over the number of troops to get the job done. To do otherwise is simply irresponsible and endangers those already there.

  17. Moon-howler

    George Stephanopolis is making a real ass of himself. No, I don’t think Pres. Obama is being duplicitous.

  18. Second-Alamo

    Obama seems to be the only one in politics that is unaware of the Acorn details. Congress voted to defund them already. Just who is minding the store? Perhaps Obama should spend a little more time following what is going on around him instead of thinking he is the only story in town!

  19. Moon-howler

    I don’t know what he knows and doesn’t know. The problem is, and no one seems to understand this, ACORN didn’t do anything. A few entry level poor women helped out a couple of hucksters.

    It was a sting. It didn’t really happen. These women were not in the position to make it happen even if they wanted to.

    ACORN has been around nearly 40 years. Why is it now that everyone is asking questions? Why weren’t questions asked back when Tricky Dick was in the White House?

    I think I know the answer.

    Don’t mistake my sentiments for being pro-ACORN. I am not. I was concerned when they and others were doing voter registration. I am one of those who thinks voting is a right and a privilege. I think registration ought to be done in front of the voting registrar with lots of ID. Right hand raised. The only way it isn’t done like that should be if the person is handicapped. Then they come to your car.

    But I see that ACORN is being used for political purposes. And I opposed that.

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