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Reality Check: The Race Illusion: Jimmy Carter’s Insult As Excuse-Making

—by , September 22, 2009

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.

—Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter, America’s political equivalent of Liz Taylor, who emerges every so often to stammer out the most insane gibberish known to freethinking man, used the NBC Nightly News this week to offer his derision of Southern whites and summarily branded the opposing voices to this president, an African-American, and his policies as racist. The former president’s descent into dementia was evident a few years ago while promoting a book on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, unfortunately entitled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, when an otherwise brilliant thinker haphazardly framed an almost amazingly infantile argument that would please many half-wits comparing the current Healthcare debate to Nazi Germany. And so it was then that Carter clearly established a preternatural need to turn vague comparisons into unflinching accusation, as if it were as simple as comparing a headache to decapitation.

Thus, his latest half-baked comments to a visibly flabbergasted Brian Williams, who was caught somewhere between the glee of a man with a scoop on his hands and an empathetic character wishing somehow the old fool would trail off into the sunset, has a familiar ring to it: Disrespect for the office of president, his policies and his authority, is nothing less than veiled racial discrimination.

Bad move. Not constructive. Distracting.

The thing is, although it was as cheap and weak as the defenders of the last president calling everyone unpatriotic, I get Carter’s point. He is a proud Southerner, born and bred in a time when Jim Crow laws ruled and a random lynching was part of the Sunday morning church activities. He’s nauseated by and sensitive to these issues, like say, Bill Cosby, who also felt the need to weigh in on the subject; a proud black man, who was wrongly denied his rights in a time of segregation and systemic violence against his people. I get it. We all get it.

However, nobody needs Jimmy Carter and Bill Cosby comparing those with opposing views to a sickeningly large number of card-carrying racist dummies in the South and by proxy their representatives like Joe Wilson from South Carolina, who has spent his entire time down there defending the flying of the Confederate Flag above the state capitol as some kind of noble Southern legacy, instead of what it actually represents; the total and utter defeat of America’s greatest crime against humanity.

This is all common knowledge, but how it reflects on the current debate about Healthcare or any other discussion of our current president’s policies, or how he is “treated” in the face of them, is patently unfair and frankly further muddies an already sludge-filled river of nonsense emanating from all sides.

Not to mention that broaching racism now flies in the face of the most momentous and game-changing elections in our great country’s tarnished history. A mere nine months after a substantial majority of Americans of all race, creed and color were dancing in the streets, shouting soliloquies from rooftops and filling the columns of major international newspapers with well-deserved celebration, and after a remarkable number of whites, suburban, urban or otherwise (48 percent, in fact) voted for the first African-American to lead a major ticket for president of the United States, it’s suddenly all about race now?

Ill-timed. Ill-conceived. Insulting.

Especially in defense of the very man who while running for the nation’s highest office never initiated the playing of the race card to curry favor or defend his right to lead. Only after ridiculous charges of terrorist sympathies and cloudy origins and a strange middle name was he forced to identify the elephant in the room; and even then he balked at the chance to challenge why his opponent, John McCain spent years trying to deny and eventually voted against making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday.

This president knew the score better than any of us when he decided to take on this challenge two years ago, something his Democratic opponent, a woman, didn’t get until it was too late. Not being the white, Anglo-Saxon cookie-cutter would be an easy target, but at the same time cannot be touched for fear of being labeled, and to be labeled in this country is the nastiest of things. It keeps us from offering opinions that we really mean and then retract post-backlash.

What is most disturbing about posing even the most extremist dissent as racism is it lends itself to the promotion of Victimhood, another American staple. Oh, poor Mr. Obama. He has no chance against the rowdy, gun toting, Bible freaks! What? He’s the fucking president. He was chosen as such during the most widely reported and highly attended election on record. He has the Constitution at his back and the army at his disposal.

Secondly, and most importantly, this entire mess completely ignores the main tactic used against presidents by their opponents; a scheme as old as the powdered wigs capping the skulls of the founders of this grand experiment. It is Politics 101, and it has been used against every chief executive since I’ve been sucking air—Kennedy was a Roman Catholic beholden to the Pope, Reagan was a doddering old fart capable of incinerating us all, Bush senior was a wimp and his baby boy a dim bulb, Clinton was a slick hippy and our beloved Jimmy Carter a dumb hick.

The stereotype the opposition has laid on Barack Obama is less about his color than he being this media-created myth, a neophyte who is incapable of leadership and thus a tool of the Democratic machine. Who knows anything about this guy? The unknown newbie, ushered into an office he barely deserves to steal bald eagles and piss on the Constitution.

Blah, blah, blah.

No one in recent memory had flown into the White House on the wings of such reverent falderal as Barack Obama, and because of this the opposition must mock, deride, and take the guy down a peg or two. It is the very core of what we do here in this space; peck away at the two-dimensional façade and see what remains. Whining about it only emboldens the charade. This is why the president immediately derided Carter’s comments as not constructive and hardly representative of his stance.

Race?

It will always play a big part of what’s going down; but to reduce it to a political tactic equal to the boorish attacks it faintly hopes to defuse is amateurish at best and at its worst plain ugly. This president, this time, and this place are all the beginnings of a healing period on this subject that has rarely been as pivitol in the national politic.

Women and minorities received their day in the public arena like no other this past November. It was a rousing success. One I thought impossible. To return now to the standard hue and cry is tired 20th century thinking.

It’s the equivalent of painting those of us who think Sarah Palin a voodoo simpleton as misogynistic hate mongers.

Nice try.

James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, and Midnight For Cinderella. The Reality Check archives are at jamescampion.com.

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    reader responses
  1. I think a lot of the ignorant rowdies bussed in to the town halls are energized by racism. There is no more rotten place on the face of the earth than the states that once made war against the United Sates so they could protect their financial investments in the labor and produce of African – Americans.

    Alex Mac Donald on 9/22/2009 at 05:21 PM 


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