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Race and opposition to Obama

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By Rick Howell

    The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a recent posting on the Facebook Web site that posed the following question: “Should President Obama be killed?”

    The choices for answers in this “poll” were telling: yes, no, maybe and “if he takes my health care.” According to news reports, more than 700 people responded before the posting was pulled. I’m not sure I want to know how many people voted “yes.”

    Former President Jimmy Carter recently stated that race is at the heart of much of the most intense opposition to President Obama and his policies. Carter offered no empirical evidence, but can we really doubt that our first African-American president would face racism?   

    Some want to forget the racist legacy of this country, and yes, a few people (perhaps Al Sharpton) never seem to want to acknowledge the progress we’ve made on race in America.

    At the very least, it should not be a taboo subject. Whatever one thinks of Jimmy Carter, he knows a thing or two about racism. He fought the White Citizens Council in Georgia and battled racist policies in both the Southern Baptist Convention and the state’s Democratic Party.

    Let’s remember, too, that all this stuff about Obama being a “socialist” is itself an echo of the Civil Rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King was routinely referred to as a “communist, socialist” or worse. Barry Goldwater carried the states of the deep South in 1964 primarily because of his opposition to the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

    Do we still remember that the Ku Klux Klan referred to itself as “Christian Knights?” Just because true racism may be harder to detect these days doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    My son attends public schools in the Lynchburg area, and he’s told me of the many racist jokes that go around about this president. Those children aren’t making those jokes up themselves; they’re hearing it from their elders.

    The President himself has been called racist against white people. Loud-mouthed commentator Glenn Beck, one of the more fanatical right-wing voices out there today, accused Obama of harboring a “deep hatred of white people.” That’s a particularly stupid statement to make, given that Obama’s own mother was white and that he was largely raised by white grandparents.

    Some of the “birther” nonsense – the unsupported notion that, somehow, Barack Obama wasn’t even born in this country – may also have racist origins. Racists might find it easy to believe that a black man in America couldn’t make it to the White House anyway without some vast conspiracy.

    Some of these so-called tea parties, conservative rallies of mostly well-heeled whites who don’t like Obama’s policies, have had a racial tinge at times. One sign at the recent D.C. rally said, “Monkey see, monkey tax.” The reference, of course, was to Barack Obama.

    Sure … conservatives will seek to comfort us, pat us on the back, and tell us that there’s really no racism anymore, at least not any aimed at the President.

    But I think Jimmy Carter is onto something and I’m glad he spoke up. The Secret Service never discusses routine death threats against any president. But news reports have indicated that Obama receives far more of those than any previous president.

    Some problems never die, in part because man’s nature doesn’t change. Hatred based on skin color has been with us a long time; for some, no doubt, it’s the main reason to oppose Barack Obama.