Fear, Loathing and Paranoia In Not-So-Post-Racial America

From comments on Media Matters’ Web Site following this video clip (comments edited for length):

I mentioned in another post that the N-Word is creeping closer to the lips of these ‘commentators.’ Who will be first? OR are they afraid? — princeofwheels

You’re not the only one. I fully expect to see Rush galloping through the cobblestone streets on the back of a dying nag screaming “The n-word is coming! The n-word is coming!” — snoopy

Well, it appears someone has given up.

Someone has given up on appealing to Latinos. Someone has given up on reaching out to blacks. Someone has thrown up their hands to the sky and said, “Fuck it. Let’s just do what we always do. I’m too lazy and too old for this new fangled, ‘we are the world’ crizzap. Pass me the bottle of Haterade, vintage 1968!”

More after the jump.

With Republican party leaders so constrained by ideological blinders that none of their positions is likely to produce gains among non-white minorities, especially Hispanics, the GOP is finding it has no real alternative but to revert to a “white voter” strategy.

To some extent, it’s working. The party’s opposition to President Obama’s agenda — particularly his cap-and-trade energy proposal and health care reform plan — is resonating strongly with disaffected white Democratic voters. Republican grievances about Obama, combined with race-baiting commentary from the far-right ideologues who have become some of the most dominant voices of the modern GOP, have led to a precipitous drop in the president’s approval ratings among whites.

It’s all very reminiscent of the party’s notorious Southern Strategy, which carried the GOP for decades. But that strategy backfired spectacularly in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and there’s no reason to think it will work any better in 2010 — especially given the ever-growing importance of the minority electorate. (Huffington Post)

Remember during the 2008 campaign when Obama said some folks, out of fear, cling to their religion and guns and he had to retract it because Hillary Clinton slapped him around over it in Pennsylvania? Yeah. He was just being honest. This is some serious sleeping with your shotgun and muttering “The President is a Kenyan Muslim illegal America-hating terrorist and this is all a dream!” while crying into your pillow at night.

Basically, the world has gone mad for a small segment of the US population. Up is down. Left is right and a black man is president. Gird your loins and hide your daughters. It’s time for the great, long not-so-post-racial freak-out.

The Henry Louis Gates arrest, the fall-out and the president’s initial reaction were just fodder for an anxious, crazy part of America to go back to the Holy Grail of what they new best. Race-baiting, sans code. Who can be bothered with code anyway when you’re THIS upset and the symbol of post-racialism is THIS huge? He’s the leader of the free world and there’s nothing they can do about it. Desperate times call for batshit insane measures.

The Gates affair was the opening right-wingers used to pummel Obama with race-based attacks—to prove that America’s first post-racial presidency was anything but. On July 26, Fox’s Brit Hume whined on air that “to be labeled a racist” in today’s America is very bad, which has “placed into the hands of certain people a weapon” that can be wielded against poor, defenseless white America. One might think that the existence of social opprobrium against racists was a good thing and certainly an improvement from the recent past in which such opprobrium was directed at interracial couples and it was commonly impossible for Southern blacks to vote.

Either way, run-amok anti-racism doesn’t seem to have stopped Hume’s Fox News colleague Glenn Beck, who opined on July 28 that Obama had “exposed himself as a guy” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or white culture.”

Given that the roster of white people in Obama’s life includes his mother, his vice president, his chief of staff, his chief political aide, the majority of his Cabinet, etc., the hatred strikes me as unlikely to be all that deep-seated. Rather, as with the absurd campaign by Newt Gingrich and others to brand Judge Sonia Sotomayor a “Latina woman racist,” we’re seeing the extreme racial paranoia that has characterized the American right for decades.

These sentiments long predate Obama’s rise to the White House or any particular actions on his part. Popular conservative talk-radio host Michael Savage self-published a 1991 book called The Death of the White Male at a time when there wasn’t so much as a black member of the United States Senate. But it’s perhaps not surprising that America’s first African-American president would prompt an outburst of racial anxiety and racist attacks. Indeed, many observers were expecting more of this sort of thing during the campaign. That it’s only emerging in a big way now illustrates the paucity of appealing political leaders on the contemporary American right. During the presidential campaign, John McCain himself was, for obvious reasons, the most prominent face of American conservatism. And McCain was a practical politician looking to appeal to a majority. He was also a quite popular figure, whose approval rating remained over 50 percent even as he ultimately lost the election to an even-more-popular Obama. Under the circumstances, he had strong incentives to avoid the sort of hyper-ugly rhetoric that could easily prompt a backlash. (Matthew Yglesias, The Daily Beast)

It’s bad now and it’s only going to get worse. When you’re losing a battle (and for some folks an Obama presidency equals “Last Stand at the Alamo”), you’re going to bring out the panic buttons, panic rooms, “Everybody Panic!” in every scared, “Obama’s gonna take my guns” person in America. And you’re going to get race baiting. Lots and lots of race baiting. And while the Alamo was ultimately lost, the last thing we want is for racial progress to get sidelined and seduced by an air of complacency and false security while eating a meal of chicken and being entertained by the freakin’ Yellow Rose of Texas. Essentially, keep your eyes on the prize. We’re going to freedomland whether these bigots want to come or not. We’re GOING and they can’t stop us with their crying and whining. We’re going to get to the mountain top and they’re just going to have to bitch the whole way. I don’t care. Keep your focus because the worst is yet to come.

19 thoughts on “Fear, Loathing and Paranoia In Not-So-Post-Racial America

  1. I figured these wingnuts were out of breath after the last 8 or so years. Nothing new in my opinion and like you said, march on!

  2. I think Brit Hume has a point, sometimes the first thing some folks claim is that someone is being racist whether or not it is actually valid. It is like being called anti-Semitic in some circles for daring to criticize Israel. The tactic is a poor substitute for trying to counter someones line of reasoning with an intelligent argument.

  3. extremism is ridiculous. democrats and republicans are both guilty of it. for every right wing nut job, there’s a tree hugging, lets all make everyone happy so no one has to be responsible for their own fate liberal.

  4. I also feel our society has gone mad a little bit over race. I think the right-wingers need to sit on Dr. Phil’s couch for some deep psychoanalysis.

  5. Rush Limbaugh, and Glen Beck should do the hearing world a favour and swallow their own tongues!

  6. People will talk about anything, grasp at any straw – expect POLITICS – you know things that are actually relevant – to bring Pres. Obama down; to lessen his appeal. It is an upside down topsy turvy world indeed, a candid dialouge regarding race relations isn’t what we really need – as opposed to, who the hell is going to cover my ass when I get sick! Get over it Glen – He’s half black – non muslim, born American citizen.

  7. This is also Sad but true… You are bringing me down today Snob…. And I hope it doesn’t get much worse.

  8. The other new tactic of these nutjobs is the oh i didn’t know a cartoon with a puerto rican woman wearing a somebrero being beaten like a pinata and jokes about Blacks eating watermelon strategy. And also to claim non-Whites are racist if they complain about racism, that’s my favorite.

  9. this is so upsetting…thank goodness i’m leaving the country for a little bit; i’ve been losing my patience with americans for a while now. it’s AMAZING what tom-foolery these ppl commit. it’s crazy, it’s scary, BUT like you said…we’re still gonna make it.

  10. Awww, Man! As if my dating scene was dry as a bone as it is. Now these idiots got to go and scare every “maybe I might” black girl in the land from whiteboys. Just when I hoped that flashing neon light of “The Enemy” that must follow me around was going to go out (and I’d hear a “Yes”) this gotta happen. My life is cursed. I’m gonna be a bitter old man in the Goodfellows home, ain’t I?And “Scott”? Lay off of it. I’d like to maybe e-slide up on someone here at Beautiful Snob’s place, and you giving white males another “black” eye (pun intended. For you “Scott”). I personally don’t need that.Thanks Bro …

  11. It’s perfectly possible to agree with absoutely everything in this post and still agree with Scott. The two things do not cancel each other out by a long shot. This is coming from a Jewish person who personally is disgusted by the dual reality that on the one hand rightwing Israeli interests smear any critics with the anti-Semitic label, and on the other there IS a lot of anti-Semitism trying to pass itself off as policy criticism. The dual reality regarding racism is no different.

  12. @ Scott – define "valid". Therein lies the bulk of the problem. Up to now its been assumed that white people will make the final decision on what is racist and what ain’t. Some of us are dissatisfied with the assumption that white people are fully qualified to be the final decisionmakers as to what is racist and what ain’t. It’s just a wee bit privileged and one might argue that most white people have a somewhat vested interest in denying racism whenever and where ever possible. Having said that, IMO Jay Smooth had it right in his vlog when he said we need to step back from calling PEOPLE racist and concentrate on pointing out to people that what they SAID (or DID) was racist. It’s a subtle difference but one that draws a distinction between calling someone an evil, scum sucking blight on polite society and pointing out that their a** is showing. People tend to get defensive and shut down when you suggest they may be a scum sucking blight. They still get defensive if you tell them their a*** is showing but not quite as much.

  13. bajanlady:I usually define "valid" as that which is objectively true or can be proven so. I would disagree with your assertion that white people usually define what is racism. I’ve heard Uncle AL and Uncle Jesse on TV giving their opinion about what is racism more times than I can count. Everyone has their opinion about what is racism but some opinions are more valid than others.

  14. scott is on point. what happened to the boy who cried wolf? do black people define what is and what isn’t racist? is scott using his "whiteness" to define what is and what isn’t racist? i’d say no to both. logic and critical thinking skills is what defines what is and what isn’t racist. and oft times the people who are claiming it and who are claiming it is aren’t using either one.

  15. It boils down to intent, which admittedly can’t always be proven to everyone’s satisfaction. But as a white person who’s been in two brief situations where I was called a racist, I think I’m in a position to "know" the truth in those instances. What were the two situations?1. I’m an artist—- I was sketching a black kid sitting across from me on the subway, and an old black woman next to me accused me of being an exploiter of black people.2. I accidentally tripped over a black guy’s foot, and he didn’t hear me apologize because he was too busy grumbling to his friend "See, typical white person. He trips over me and doesn’t apologize."Both very minor "incidents," but indicative of how heavily vested some people are in seeing what they expect to see. It’s easy for me to imagine how something more complicated than those two things could be distorted by such a partisan, resulting in mass miscommunication and "he said/she said" back and forths. It’s that kind of thing that undermines the effort to spotlight REAL racism.

  16. @Scottwhat’s is objective? nothing’s objective so your argument amounts to nothing. it was an objective argument that lead to slavery in every period of history. it’s an objective argument that lead to us using equipment that can only be made by exploiting others around the world. (see Steven McQueen’s work Gravesend for instance) it’s an objective argument that made it possible for Richard Nixon to be pardoned and for the Dutch to become part of the coalition of the willing when we (i’m Dutch but also black which lately seems to be regarded as a oxymoron by some here) are usually internationally regarded as talking things to death and then ultimately resorting to doing nothing. now we have a politician who spouts nothing but racist commentary, even going so far as to say on a recent trip to Canada that all Muslims need to be kicked out of the cuntry, but is still gaining momentum and growing his constituency based on objective arguments.@Marbles intentions are also one of those points that is basically a mute point. so the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the road to heaven with bad ones? like a white person claiming not be a racist because they have ‘ethnic’ friends. are white people not ethnic? it’s about claiming goodness based on intentions. you can intend to do good but do more damage than you know or are aware of. and what’s worse is actually that most people don’t want to be confronted with their own deep-seated fear of the ‘other’ be it black or white.

  17. ^^^^^facts are objective. emotional and over reactions aren’t. just because some people choose to ignore facts doesn’t make them not true. and windmilling because the facts don’t show you in a good light isn’t a good look. sometimes the white man isn’t to blame for your lot in life. intentions are very important. particularly in marble’s cases. it was the intentions of the black people he ran into to disparage him and call him a racist without motive. which sounds like the boy who cried wolf.

  18. Q. Gario:Yep. The "other" thing. If someone is honest with themselves, they’ll confront the ugliness within. Honesty isn’t always fun, and confrontation isn’t always pretty. Hoomans are, unfortunately, all too hooman, and we still have a lot of Cro-Magnon hardwiring to shake off.It’s on us as individuals where we go from there.As for the good-intentions-potentially-going-bad thing, you’re right, but that’s really a different issue than the kinda stuff I was talking about.

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