Obama on racism

If President Barack Obama doesn’t think racism plays a significant role in opposition to his policies, why do so many people think it does?

Obama appeared on David Letterman’s show last night and delivered the money quote when asked about racism.

“It’s important to realize that I was actually black before the election,” he said.

  • Daveg

    Ha ha ha. Very cute, but he forgets to mention that specifics regarding his policies weren’t known before the election.

    Well, unless you count the rare moment of unvarnished truth during the election when he carelessly answered Joe the Plumber without his handlers present to craft his response..

  • JudyC

    Bob’s question hinges on whether Obama believes the attacks are about racism. The President has nothing to gain by labeling them as racist. First, he would derail his own efforts to keep the focus on these extremely important issues; his opponents would be all too willing to have the “discussion” degrade into this bottom-feeding furor. Second, if he acknowledges that racism plays a role, his opponents will accuse him of skirting the “real” issue–that his proposals are bad for America, socialist, etc.–and playing the role of victim. Give Obama credit for staying above the fray. He is the honest broker here because he is doing nothing more than addressing the number one issue he campaigned on, as shaped and determined by a majority of Americans. No one should feign surprise and claim that he’s pulling a fast one on us. If anything, his supporters could complain that he’s watering down the health care bill, rendering it useless.

  • Perhaps people focus on racism because it’s far easier to dismiss an opposing view if you blame it on racism, rather than considering that the differing opinion may be well reasoned and thought out, and of equal validity as your own. Because then we would have to actually address different opinions based on their own merits rather than immediately dismiss them. We would have to allow in the idea that anyone who opposes our own ideas aren’t just -wing wackos.

    Granted, I’m sure there are some people who are plenty racist out there, and it’s easy to get more than enough of them spiting bile to make up a ratings getting newscast, but I think there are far, far more who have valid concerns about policies.

    Has everyone forgotten that much of this debate is a total replay of the debate around Clinton’s health plan in 1993, you know, the one proposed by a white guy, and which ultimately failed to get passed?

  • jboone

    who are these “so many people”? i haven’t heard this from anyone but jimmy carter or the news media. the white members of congress got haggled far more at the town hall meetings than the president did.

    if the entire democratic party was black then i could see having this conversation, but it distracts people from the issues the president is currently trying to address. in order to get over the race issue we will have to get over get over the race issue.

  • bob

    I’m an Obama supporter (though my support is a lot more lukewarm than it was initially), and my take is that it isn’t the substance of the opposition that is racist, but rather the tone.

    For example, I have no doubt that Rep. Joe Wilson is philosophically opposed to Obama’s health plan on grounds that have nothing to do with racism, but his outburst during Obama’s address can arguably be seen as racist; at least, it’s hard for me to imagine that Wilson would have done that to a white Prez.

    TheTea Party movement is another case in point. Again, I don’t doubt that the participants may have substantive grounds for their disagreements with Obama’s policies/proposals, but some of the expressions of these disagreements do, IMHO, smell a little like racism.

  • Joey Iverson

    We talk about opponents of health care reform as being “racist” or “not racist” as if prejudice is a light that’s either on or off in any given person. Joe Wilson’s son comes on the national stage and declares his father doesn’t have “a racist bone in his body”, and we are supposed to believe this is true of a middle-aged, white man in South Carolina.

    Others portray racism as either “the reason” or “not the reason” that some people oppose health care reform, as if racism is an ideology held purposefully in mind and used intentionally to justify political opinions. One of the commentators above, for instance, says she’s sure some opponents are “plenty racist”, but “far, far more have valid concerns about policies”. Can’t it be both? Can’t we be swimming in a culture of fierce and prevalent racism, and have that fact inform every interaction we have with members of another race? Won’t that happen even when we have other, valid reasons to disagree?

    Let’s be clear: if you’re white in America, you’re racist. Your culture sends you strong cues on the characterizations of different races, and you have already internalized those messages. If you’ve watched television, been to the movies, seen the news, driven through slums, lived in slums, or otherwise observed a race in a context, you have latent ideas about what it means to belong to that race. That makes you racist. It’s not your fault, but it is your reality.

    Thus, race will color this debate, just as it will color every debate involving members of different races. Are the loudest opponents of health care reform acting simply out of distaste for a black president? Probably not. But does inevitable, latent racism nourish opposition rooted in valid concern, adding vitriol to an already acrimonious debate? Almost certainly.

  • Chad

    It’s difficult to imagine more divisive words from a president’s mouth than “it’s about race.”

    Of COURSE he’s not going to agree it’s about race. It would divide the country.

    But just because he’s not willing to agree doesn’t mean it’s not actually about race. It is.

  • Joe

    I think Easy Rawlins put it something like this: Only about three out of ten whites are really racist. But those three — that’s a lot.

  • jboone

    “But just because he’s not willing to agree doesn’t mean it’s not actually about race. It is.”

    I would like to see some evidence for a claim like this. The debate in question – reforming health care – has been going on since the Roosevelt administration, so the implication is that conservatives were ready to change their minds after decades of holding to the same position except that now the President is black they refuse to do it. If that’s the case then the fact that we elect any Republicans is abhorrent.

    If we can’t have discourse in this country without giving anyone who doesn’t share our opinions the benefit of the doubt at least a little bit regarding their intentions than it doesn’t matter if anyone is racist or not we will not make progress based on an unwillingness to work together.