Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jimmy Carter On Racism, Part 1

I suppose I'm missing the point here of the remarks of former President Jimmy Carter when he was interviewed by NBC's Brian Williams for the network's September 15 newscast. But Carter should have been queried further, given his remarks (video below):

I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American. I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans....

And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.

Consider the former president's remark "I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans...."

Does this mean that a) the rest of the country previously shared the south's attitude toward blacks (good, given that the south has become more tolerant) or b) the rest of the country ("I've seen" not "I saw") still shares the south's attitude toward blacks? And is this bad (racism present "not just in the South, but around the country")- or good, considering he has "seen the South come a long way?"

Also: what is "an overwhelming portion?" Is this the same thing someone who wanted to be clear would have termed "the overwhelming portion?" Or does it mean "a lot?"

For those individuals who welcome controversy; or think that Carter has courageously spoken That Which Goes Unadmitted; or believe him a white-hating racist himself, Carter meant "most." But that's not what he said (though probably is what he meant) and it's not a mere matter of semantics. Not when the obvious, albeit easy, answer is: racism (well, not racism, but bigotry, but that's an argument for another day) is involved but is not the whole story.

Coming up, on Carter II (assuming availability of transcript): Chris Matthews gets it right.

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