If there is any abused term in politics it is racism. The history of race relations in America spans many painful memories from the faded atrocity of slavery to civil rights violations of the past century. But America has grown and racial tensions are obscure at worst, non existent at best. Everywhere in the U.S. interracial marriages and friendships flourish as people from all races congregate, work, play and live together. Only in few rare instances does race play a role in modern life. Except in politics.
In politics, nearly everything is made to be about race.
The Tea Party movement: According to actress Jeanine Garofalo, the Tea Party movement is:
“All about hating a black man.”
Within the Tea Party movement are millions who have black neighbors, black friends, black bosses, black coworkers, black congressmen (in some states) or simply are black – all without problems. Yet Jeanine wants us to believe they are motivated to form a national protest movement because our president is part black. She has pushed the Magic Hate Button.
Obama: Race was used to attack critics of Obama, as with Ms. Garofalo, but it has also been used against him. Popular cable news and radio host Glenn Beck said of Obama:
“This president has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people … this guy is, I believe, a racist.”
Nevermind the fact that Obama is himself half white. He has spoken and written endlessly about his affection for his mother, who is white. Many, if not most of his closest friends are white.
The reality is that very nearly all accusations of racism in politics are false. You will frequently find that accusers have to explain why they believe the accused has displayed racism. If there were actual racism, such as a racist epithet or blatant racial remarks, no explanation would be necessary. Indeed, one of the more popular ways of delivering the accusation is by calling it “code” – as though racists spoke through some magical secret code to inform each other of the race(s) of their highly visible political opponents. For example, Kathleen Sibelius said of Obama:
“Have any of you noticed that Barack Obama is part African-American? That may be a factor. All the code language, all that doesn’t show up in the polls. And that may be a factor for some people.”
Racism, as a general rule, is very obvious. It is a simple demonstrated hatred for another person based on their race. It requires no “secret code” nor complex investigation to discover. The pain it has caused is deeply entrenched within our psyche and that is why it becomes Magic Hate Button when abused. It’s a shame it so frequently is.
Suggestions for improved debate:
You cannot read another person’s mind – only their words and actions. If their words and actions do not display obvious racism, it is unfair to assume racism of them.
There is no such thing as “racist code.” Just the concept begs the question of who decodes it, and why would they need a code to develop their own prejudices on a person’s race?
Recognize the tremendous progress this country has made. Instead of dwelling on the actions of people over 200 years ago, look to the present and the future.
If the issue of race does come up, celebrate it. America is a melting pot of different races and cultures. That is something to come together over, not attack each other over.