As I said during the 2008 presidential campaign, I prefer my racism straight with no chaser. For this reason, I have often flirted with writing an Op-Ed simply called, "Why Limbaugh, Beck, Gingrich, Palin and the New Right Should Just Call Barack Obama a Nigger and Get It Over With." And yes, I stung myself by writing that dread word for I banned it from the vocabulary some time ago. Ah, the burdens of trying to speak truth to power.
If the New Right Tea Party G.O.P. were honest in their bigotry it would save us all so much time.
In keeping with my love of the old school, there is much to be said for the lack of obfuscation that typified the racism of years past. Black and Brown folk knew the ground upon which their foes stood. By extension, they/we could be prepared for the overhand right and then hit back with a good body blow. In the contemporary, post civil rights, Age of Obama--a world where there is racism without racists--black and brown folk are fighting metaphorical ghosts. Now, the opposition is winning even while shadow boxing.
Trust, those phantom punches can really hurt.
As I did here, I love to share pithy bits of wisdom when (and from wherever) I may find them. Today, I was reading the great book The Gun by C.J. Chivers. This efficient history of modern firearms as told through the lens of the AK-47's development as an indispensable tool of war has a wonderful chapter on the history of machine guns and their role in the coming of age of European and American Imperial power. Of note therein: the following passage on the racism of legendary gun innovator Hiram Maxim which reads as follows.
His views on race were equally severe. "A black man," he declared, "has no rights that a white man is bound to respect." Late in life, he described belittling blacks in the United States in the service of his early business interests. Before taking a trip to Atlanta in the early 1870s to oversee the installation of one of his automatic gas machines at the grand Kimball House hotel, he bought a photograph of "a New Guinea nigger; it was the niggerest-looking nigger I had ever seen." Maxim thought the picture might charm his Southern hosts. At the time, Pinckney Pinchback, the son of a slave and the slave's master, was serving as governor of Louisiana, to many a white Southerner's dismay. Maxim wrote the words "Governor Pinchback" on the photograph and carried it in his pocket. At moments he deemed convenient, he produced his photograph for his white clients. It was a Maxim calling card, "Whenever we were discussing niggers and politics I used to take out this photograph and hand it to them," he said. What are we coming to, some the men would exclaim. Next we will have a gorilla...
Damn, once more, the echoes of history in the Age of Obama both loom and resonate large.
I remain unmoved by arguments against the self-evident truth that much of the opposition against President Obama is rooted in simple, plain, old fashioned, white racism and white victimology. Frankly, some white folks cannot accept the disruption to their cognitive framework caused by having a Black man in The White House. Moreover, it is sadly ironic that the honest words of old school white supremacists such as Maxim would ring true even into the 21st century.
True, a Black man can be elected President in America--an accomplishment of no small note and a momentous beachhead in the long Black Freedom Struggle. But sadly, President Obama is also in many ways bound by the sad and tired remnants of Jim Crow that exist in the hearts and minds of the "traditional, yearning for Leave it Beaver good old days, take back my America" crowd. These knuckledraggers are likely a minority. Perhaps in some crowds, the New Right, Tea Party bigots are a plurality. Yet, there influence on American politics in the aggregate remains out-sized. And the voices willing to stand against them are increasingly mute.
In the immortal words of Bill Cosby: come on people, can't we do better? Or is the United States forever bound by the particular circumstances of its birth, and the powerful influence of an almost guaranteed and de facto White political, social, and economic superiority on the house that race built?