Monday, July 29, 2013

Not Really Surprising

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters comments

So much for having a national conversation about race.

Conservative commentators claimed they'd welcome an honest discussion about the thorny issue in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict. But within moments last week of President Obama offering up his personal reflection about the trial and how the killing of Trayvon Martin had been viewed within the African-American community, right-wing voices responded with almost feral anger and resentment.

Among those most incensed by Obama's thoughtful reflections was Jennifer Rubin, who writes for the Washington Post. She called Obama's comments "disgusting." Furious at America's first black president for discussing the topic of race following a passionate trial verdict (he's "not a good person," Rubin stressed), the columnist lashed out at Obama for addressing a problem she claimed is no longer even relevant to the American experience.

Lamenting that Obama's won't allow people "get out of this racial archaeology," Rubin claimed Americans are "held prisoners forever in a past that most Americans have never personally experienced." (Fact: "Most Americans" haven't personally experienced anti-Semitism, but that doesn't stop Rubin from crusading  against what she sees as outbreaks of it.)

Rather than addressing the substance of Obama's comments about how "the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away," Rubin simply dismissed the idea that racial prejudice has to be talked about, let alone discouraged, anymore. Like Prohibition and the Red Scare, racism apparently represents a distant chapter in America's past.

Rubin is hardly alone in her proud and public denial.

Boehlert adds "That right-wing refutation has been found on the fringes of the conservative movement for years, if not decades."   But, to be honest (has anyone ever uttered "to be dishonest"?), it reached its apex in the months following the 2008 presidential election.

It was a ludicrous claim, of course, that the election of Senator Obama as president proved the United States is not racist.  Obama had run a splendid campaign, employing techniques unavailable before the explosion of computer technology and rise of social media.   He raised more money than any political campaign in world history and applied the funds to maximum effect.   He ran as a Democrat after eight years of a very unpopular Repub presidency.  His opponent, though arguably the strongest the GOP could have put up, was a cold war warrior offered just as Americans had become fed up with foreign entanglements, especially of the sort which costs American lives.  Senator McCain had no expertise in the area of economics or business, fields which loomed huge in the financial collapse.

And he selected as his running mate an individual who convinced voters she was unqualified to be vice-president, especially a heartbeat away from an office which would have been held by a 72-year-old man far from his physical prime.   Obama, by contrast, had selected a wise Washington hand who filled in quite nicely the gaps in the resume of the Illinois Senator.

And then- miraculously- Barack Obama won!   Before the polls closed, a presidential scholar at the finest college in the world stated

We won't know for years to come, but the potential is that 2008 is a realigning election, measured not only in voter registration rolls but in how we see ourselves. And if a new president can foster and begin to break down that 50-50 mutually suspicious, if not hostile, climate that we have grown up with in this country in the last couple of presidencies, we can become an even larger and less polarized country, defined less by our differences and more by our common needs...

A little more modestly, we read in The Washington Post

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was elected the nation's 44th president yesterday, riding a reformist message of change and an inspirational exhortation of hope to become the first African American to ascend to the White House...The historic Election Day brought millions of new and sometimes tearful voters, long lines at polling places nationwide, and celebrations on street corners and in front of the White House.

Brian Williams announced (video below) the victory as "There will be young children in the White House for the first time since the Kennedy generation. An African-American has broken the barrier as old as the Republic... a seismic shift in American politics."

Williams has proven himself an empty suit. But the president-elect himself channeled the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who stated "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."  Obama told more than 125,000 enthused supporters who had gathered in Chicago's Grant Park

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there.

Four-and-a-half years later, Barack Obama has been re-elected, and we're shocked- shocked!- that (some) conservatives have jumped to the conclusion that racism is so 2007 or that discrimination has been vanquished.  In 2008 they heard the election of Barack Obama would be "historic" and then were assured the incoming president would lead us through the Red Sea to the land of Canaan.

It has not happened, not in the least, as the reactions of Jennifer Rubin, John Nolte, and a few others to President Obama's mild reaction to the Zimmerman verdict indicate.   As wrong as they are, the seeds of their ignorance were sown several years ago when a campaign was sold as the means to stop the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.

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