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I recently reviewed a book for the New York Journal of Books titled The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency by Randall Kennedy. The book explores the politics of race from the time of Abraham Lincoln to the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The book also explores some of President's Obama's actions while in office from the angle and viewpoint of racial politics.

Is the anti-Obama feeling racist?

Randall Kennedy doesn't specifically answer that question, but it is sure that he has strong feelings about the subject of race and politics and America.

About the Author
Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is the author of Race, Crime, and the Law, a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption; Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word; and Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal. He lives in Massachusetts.

The New York Times printed an excerpt recently and here is how it started. The excitement of electing the first African-American President.

On November 5, 2008 it seemed momentarily that, at least in terms of race relations, America had taken a giant stride toward redemption. After all, that day the electorate selected Barack Hussein Obama, a black man, to be President of the United States. The hope, pride, relief, and astonishment generated by this unprecedented event provoked all sorts of optimistic declarations. People who had, in emotional self-defense, habitually refused to invest in patriotism, now did so openly and enthusiastically. People who had doubted that Americans would ever be able to overcome racial alienation now expressed a belief that they could. Expressions of exhilaration produced sounds and scenes reminiscent of reactions to such landmark events as the Emancipation Proclamation, Joe Louis’s victory over Max Schmelling, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the landing on the moon. Parties erupted featuring such anthems as “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” “It’s Been a Long Time Coming,” and “We’re a Winner.” Strangers danced and cried with one another. People named newborns after the President-Elect. On the day after the election, one of my students at Harvard Law School tearfully declared that in light of Obama’s election she was reconsidering her career planning. His example, she said, made her want to be a better person. A few days later, I received a letter from an inmate in a maximum security prison in Indiana who said the same thing.

But as Randall Kennedy writes, the excitement soon subsided. The race thing has never quite gone away. Race hangs over the White House like the sword of damocles ready to fall at any slight error made by the President.

The recent crisis over the debt default brought this into light. The question was asked often: Would Bush be treated this way? Would even Clinton be treated this way?

Another review by the Sunday New York Times Book Review was written by Dwight Garner.

August is not half over, and already it’s been a punishing month for Barack Obama: the debt limit fiasco; the Standard & Poor’s downgrade; the deaths of Navy Seals and other troops in Afghanistan. This powerful and ruminative book by Randall Kennedy, “The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency,” is unlikely to put the president in a more cheerful mood.

He also talks about how many Americans view not only the President, but most African-Americans as less than "patriotic."

“Many Americans suspect that, in general, African-Americans are less patriotic than whites,” Mr. Kennedy observes. He suggests that African-Americans have never been especially fond of the Fourth of July, for example, partly because the framers of the Declaration of Independence tolerated slavery and partly because the day could be menacing. Whites sometimes “took offense at the sight of blacks celebrating,” he says, “as if they were members of the American political family.”

This discussion will not go away any time soon, but it is a discussion that needs to commence. The seeds of the toxic Tea party movement are made from the racist seeds of American History. The best chapter in the book, as Dwight Garner points out and which I agree, is the chapter about Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

The finest chapter in “The Persistence of the Color Line” is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”

Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”

And for many African-American, that is the essence of what others view as their being "unpatriotic." This s a book that needed to be written and I look forward to many more like this to continue the debate of race and politics in America.

John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books

Poll

Is the anti-Obama feeling racist?

39%29 votes
21%16 votes
38%28 votes

| 73 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has!" - Margaret Mead

    by Reading on Walden Bookstore on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 12:29:41 PM PDT

  •  "The?" Not Entirely. Otherwise They Wouldn't (6+ / 0-)

    be coming after the social safety net and business regulations.

    But the racism is their most useful emotional tool, no doubt about it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 12:41:06 PM PDT

  •  I think you're preaching to the choir here (6+ / 0-)

    because I'd imagine a poll of kossacks would show a vast majority believe most of the rightwing opposition to Obama stems from race.

    And while you might have more difficulty getting a majority here to believe the left opposition also has a racial component, most folks here accept that Jane Hamsher and other left critics of Obama have introduced a racialized aspect to their criticism.

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
    ¡Boycott Arizona!

    by litho on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 12:47:47 PM PDT

    •  Mainly, I am trying (5+ / 0-)

      to bring attention to this book written by Randall Kennedy. It deserves a huge audience.

      "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has!" - Margaret Mead

      by Reading on Walden Bookstore on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 12:49:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can's see why based on this diary. A lot of (0+ / 0-)

        dreck here, like:

        “Many Americans suspect that, in general, African-Americans are less patriotic than whites,” Mr. Kennedy observes. He suggests that African-Americans have never been especially fond of the Fourth of July, for example, partly because the framers of the Declaration of Independence tolerated slavery and partly because the day could be menacing. Whites sometimes “took offense at the sight of blacks celebrating,” he says, “as if they were members of the American political family.”

        Many? How many? How'd he find out? People equate fondness for the 4th (measured how) with "patriotism"?  Where?

        The question was asked often: Would Bush be treated this way? Would even Clinton be treated this way?

        By whom was it asked?

        And, about whom was it asked? By the KKK, no. By the press - Bush no, Clinton yes. By most of us, Yes to both.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 03:20:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The old "most folks accept" gambit (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IndieGuy, Johnny Q, Plantsmantx
      most folks here accept that Jane Hamsher and other left critics of Obama have introduced a racialized aspect to their criticism.

      Hamsher and Cenk Uygur are oppositionists because there's notoriety and the prospect of a decent living in it, but I don't think Hamsher or anyone else of note on the Left has introduced any racialized aspect whatsoever.  It's Obama's defenders who have sometimes done that, e.g. by claiming that he's not more combative (at all combative, really) because he can't afford to be seen as an Angry Black Man.

      Let us resolutely study and implement the resolutions of the 46th Convention of the Democratic Party!

      by Rich in PA on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:01:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Obama supporters are expressing thoughts based (5+ / 0-)

        on years of racial double standards in this nation. They are not introducing a racialized aspect, they are acknowledging what is reality. This President was asked to produce his birth certificate after two years in office. Enough said.... As for Hamsher, the woman who referred  to the President's most ardent supporters as the dumbest mother****ers in the world.... I won't even begin to unpack that one....

        •  Well said my friend... (3+ / 0-)

          it's been a crazy day, hope things are well Ned. :-)

          "The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference." 3/28/11

          by BarackStarObama on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:45:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  No, please, unpack it. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PrahaPartizan, Catesby

          It's a stupid insult that would get her HRd here, but what's the racial aspect?

          Let us resolutely study and implement the resolutions of the 46th Convention of the Democratic Party!

          by Rich in PA on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:47:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You want me to point to the racial aspect of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ana Thema

            Hamsher refering to the President's most ardent supporters, of which a dominant factor happens to be  people of color, as the dumbest mothereffers in the world? Do I have to? Does that not signal racial insensitivity to you?

            As far as you know, has Ms. Hamsher ever refered to any other President's, even a Republican President's, supporters as the dumbest mothereffers in the world?

            You ask me to unpack this so I am. There is a pungent odor of disrespect emanating from that remark and the insensitivity of which is undoubtedly racial.... If it walks like a duck and quack like a duck, chances are it isn't a seal....

            In the past people have used all sorts of maneuvers to defend or explain away someone's actions as it not being racial or racist. Point being, no one is able to say irrefutably what resides in the heart of another. But what we do have are actions and sentiment....

            So what is this "walk like a duck stuff?" I mean, is there an instance of Ms. Hamsher ever demonstrating an example of racial incensitivity before? I mean am I just making this whole stuff up?

            Oh well, I seem to recall her using the Jim Crow image of a blackface to lambast Joe Lieberman.... Does that also smack of racial insensitivity and a blatant disregard for the feelings of African Americans? Oh I would say...take a guess....

            •  That's laughable. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Plantsmantx

              Hamsher is justifiably more annoyed at apologists for Obama than she is at apologists for Bush, because the latter aren't apologists: they actually want those things.  Obama's apologists don't want what we're getting, but they're apologists nonetheless.  So yeah, I can see calling them that if you're the insulting type, regardless of who they are.  And it's kind of an elementary math error to see people of color as the President's dominant factor of support.  But it's just part of the irony of having the decriers of racism racialize everything even beyond what our intensely racialized society merits.

              Let us resolutely study and implement the resolutions of the 46th Convention of the Democratic Party!

              by Rich in PA on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 05:05:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Go ahead, unpack it. (0+ / 0-)

          I read that insult, and it never crossed my mind that she aimed it specifically at black people, but uh...you do think that, apparently. I wonder why?

      •  Can this issue, at least, be resolved empirically? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        crose

        If there is credible data to indicate that people respond more negatively to an angry black man than to an angry white man, I'm not sure citing such data would be "racializing" the debate.  The data would speak for itself, assuming a validly designed study.

        I believe there is data on the somewhat similar, though clearly distinct, issue of how an angry woman resonates differently with an audience than an angry man.  

  •  a good amount of it, yeah. (9+ / 0-)

    and Pastor Wright (a native Philadelphian, whose father preached at a church not a mile from me, as I sit) and the author's father bring to mind my grandfather, a Tuskegee Airman, who likewise never really forgave this country for how he was treated all his life.

    "I'm Black and I'm proud, I'm ready, I'm hype, plus I'm amped/ most of my heroes don't appear on no stamp!" ~Carlton Ridenhour

    by mallyroyal on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 12:50:53 PM PDT

  •  No (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrinus, Johnny Q, bozepravde15

    Next question.

    People panic too much on this site.

    by thematt523 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 12:52:15 PM PDT

  •  Nonsense (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Johnny Q, bozepravde15

    You people are a joke.  Can any criticism of BO be sincere or must you always play the race card?  I'm a "brown" person and I think he's doing a terrible job.

    •  I suggest you read this book (3+ / 0-)

      to find out exactly what Randall Kennedy is saying, before you jump to conclusions. This book is written from an historical perspective. It started with slavery and in many we still have that mentality.

      "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has!" - Margaret Mead

      by Reading on Walden Bookstore on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:25:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think that these are going to be individual (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe

      perceptions.  There are always going to be people that find any criticism of someone they admire unacceptable sometimes.  At other times, people are going to allow the criticism.  Humans are confusing and confused creatures.

      I have spent the last 14 years living as an outsider in a post conflict area where the conflict was ethnic based.  When tensions are running high, people can be very touchy.  At other times, not so much.  I also find that people can be very moody as individuals.  

      However, one thing that I have observed is that no matter how messed up we may think that we are about race in America, there seem to be more of us that are able to reach out and talk.  Even the disagreements on this site represent something better than what goes on in a lot of places.  

      It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

      by ciganka on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:43:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  ... (0+ / 0-)

      Why is it so hard to except that could be the case?

      "My presences is a present, now kiss my ass..." - Kanye West

      by lcj98 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 02:04:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  because the concept (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wordsinthewind

        requires navel gazing... you can only fixate on the stain of racism from other folks for so long before you have to start doing a serious assessment of oneself...and too many folk have pushed that stuff... those thoughts, ideas, societal conditionings and the like that have due to their formulation and adoption in a society that has pushed the faux inferiority meme pretty much since the conquistadors began arriving in the hemisphere in numbers at the end of the 15th century... they have crammed that stuff in a closet and shut the door... and they don't want to open the door and have all of that stuff pour forth... not when they can just as readily take the path of least resistance and cling to denial...

        Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

        by awesumtenor on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 02:24:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  what I see (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ana Thema

          from my perspective as a person of no color observing this fierce resistence in other ponc is the fear that any shame they might feel if they were to honestly assess their own behavior would just cause them to immediately die. They simply could not survive it, the fear is inordinate. It goes along with a rigid authoritarian mindset that can't allow for change.

          any jackass can kick down a barn, it takes a carpenter to build one

          by Wordsinthewind on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 02:33:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  ... (0+ / 0-)

          So basically it's "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil and screw you for bringing it up!"

          "My presences is a present, now kiss my ass..." - Kanye West

          by lcj98 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 03:46:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  "You people"? (4+ / 0-)

      The diary is essentially a book review - not the sort of thing that usually gins up that level of hostility.

  •  depends on the person. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ciganka, bozepravde15, crose

    pretty simple answer.

    why this question shows up 50 times a day around here is beyond me.

  •  correction (2+ / 0-)

    Where you say "most Americans" view African Americans as less than patriotic,

    the quoted article actually says "many," not most.

       “Many Americans suspect that, in general, African-Americans are less patriotic than whites,” Mr. Kennedy observes.

    America is so not like her hype.

    by OLinda on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:27:46 PM PDT

    •  I accept your correction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OLinda, Ana Thema

      and will fix it. Thanks.

      "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has!" - Margaret Mead

      by Reading on Walden Bookstore on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:39:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  African Americans have fought and bled and died (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ana Thema

      for this country going back to the French and Indian War... the first person to die in the revolution? Crispus Attucks... a black man. AA's have volunteered to serve understanding that there was a very real chance they could die for an american that did nothing but shit on them... whether it was excluding them from the political process or excluding them from participation in  government programs designed for those that served the country faithfully or if it was stop and frisk laws that made being black reasonable suspicion... despite all of that, we serve anyway...despite knowing that this country will in all likelihood never acknowledge the commitment and the sacrifice made by black men and women in uniform and adding insult to injury...many of those who want to question AA patriotism refused to serve themselves. They want to attack jeremiah Wright? Dr. Wright is a decorated marine corps veteran of the Korean War; he has earned the right to speak up and speak out on the inequities of this nation and the rubber check they have written to the "least of these"...

      Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

      by awesumtenor on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 02:40:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  they do not realize their actions. (0+ / 0-)
    •  yes they do (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ana Thema

      they realize as surely as Strom Thurmond realized his dixiecrat pro-segregation racial politics would have an adverse effect on the daughter born to his family's live in domestic help that he fathered.

      Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

      by awesumtenor on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 02:42:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Racism is definitely part of it (0+ / 0-)

    The KKK marched in my small Indiana town when I was in the 8th grade.  I heard the N word a lot when I was growing up and hear it still in this town.  This is deep Republican territory and it is definitely racist.  

    There was also turmoil and resistance to JFK and the excuse used then was that he was a Catholic and the Pope would be running the country.  For some reason I cannot fathom, people seem afraid of those that are gentle-hearted and want to help others.  They were afraid of Martin Luther King and Jack and Bobby Kennedy.  I see that same kind of fear about President Obama.

    It's a type of unfortunate, ignorant thinking and race and religion play into it.  Probably other things, too.

    I think it's undeniable that it's there and it shouldn't be ignored. It's an opportunity for our country to grow more tolerant.   I don't know that it's a factor for the hatred of the professional left or not. I've read that many of them were Republicans and I have no idea of their motivation or reason for becoming Democrats or why they see themselves as progressives.  I'm talking about lower to middle-class, religious right types.

    “The only thing that happens in an instant is destruction … everything else requires time.” ~ First Lady, Michelle Obama

    by ParkRanger on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 03:03:03 PM PDT

    •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      crose
      I don't know that it's a factor for the hatred of the professional left or not. I've read that many of them were Republicans and I have no idea of their motivation or reason for becoming Democrats or why they see themselves as progressives.  I'm talking about lower to middle-class, religious right types.

      Astoundingly afactual and misinformed.

      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

      by enhydra lutris on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 03:27:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Race is not monolithic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bozepravde15, wblynch, crose

    Blacks do not act and think as a monolith.

    And of course, neither do whites.

    No doubt there are some self-described "leftists" who are criticizing out of racism, but given the policies that are coming out of the White House, such as talk of cuts to Medicare and Social Security, any president who would advocate such policies would be criticized. Thus, most on the left (those who voted for the president) are criticizing due to legitimate disagreement. To dismiss most criticism from the left as having racial motivations is absurd.

  •  people of all races fight (0+ / 0-)

    and people of all races cave

    Fight or Cave?

    Which one describes our President?

    Maybe that's your answer....

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