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On MLK Day a report was released based on a New Yorker interview with President Obama where he stated the following fairly obvious point.

“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said in a 17,000-word profile by The New Yorker’s David Remnick in the magazine’s Jan. 27 issue.
Of course in response to this we got the following from Queen Bee Mean Girl of the Wingnuts, Sarah the Palinite.
Happy MLK, Jr. Day!

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.

Which generated quite a bit a of talk, and more than a bit a ridicule of Ms. Palin, but not a lot of understanding of the ongoing racial issues that face this nation.  It's particularly unfortunate because it obscured the next set of things that the President actually said.
“Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president,” he said.
So it's obvious that Obama is far more clear-eyed about the impact of his race than many other people.  It can be a handicap, but it can also be a benefit depending on whom you're dealing with. That should seem obvious, but apparently not to some people for whom admitting that anyone continues to have actual negative racial animus against the President or anyone else, does not exist.

Like Palin the reaction to Obama's comments by other Conservatives similarly missed and obscured his underlying point leading to far from illuminating debates like this one on CNN where the conservative host accused Obama of blaming all of the criticism against him on Race. Which he didn't. And further claiming that NO ONE in the entire Country, is bigoted toward the President. Not nobody.

“He refused to acknowledge the fact that he has made history,” Alice Stewart told CNN host Don Lemon. “He is the first African-American president of the United States — and re-elected. We have gone far beyond where MLK started, and he sees, anytime there is opposition or when he says someone doesn’t like him, he claims it’s because of his race.
Obviously Obama didn't say that.  He said nothing of the kind, but this is the default position of the Right, that anytime he dares to even mention that racial animus still exists in this country is making an excuse and trying to play on sympathies. That they're making themself into a "victim", rather than pointing out a genuine problem that continues to need to be addressed.  It was far from a accident or Freudian Typo for the RNC to proclaim that Rosa Parks "Ended Racism", because from their perspective they show time and time again that they think Racism No Longer Exists in this country unless it's by blacks and progressives against white people.

For once however, the other CNN guests and hosts didn't let her get away with it.

“He’s never said that,” co-panelist Marc Lamont Hill protested. “Not one time has he said that.”,
But then she persisted after being additionally challenged by Don (pants-on-the-ground) Lemon.
“Don’t you think it would be disingenuous to think that all people who dislike the president dislike him because of his policies?” Lemon asked Stewart. “I know people who didn’t like George Bush because he was white. That’s the truth. You don’t think there are white people who don’t like the president because he’s black.

“I think the concerns people have, the reason people don’t like President Obama is because of his policies,” Stewart insisted.

So, you see, it's not cause he's a black guy - it's because of his policies - a few of which just might, eventually, help some black people.  Policies like improved access to Health Care for those blocked by pre-existing conditions and exorbitant costs.  His concern about the racial disparity in marijuana sentencing, is a policy issue - that of course the entire right-wing opposes.  When he talked about Racial Profiling and his own feeling that if he had a son, "he could have looked like Trayvon" and would likely have been treated in the same presumption of guilt manner, that isn't a policy question in terms of how we handle policing and allow laws that have a clear discriminatory outcome such as Stand Your Ground? When the Supreme Court strikes down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act after Justice Scalia calls it a "Racial Entitlement" - that's all about "policy" right?

When he gets called a "Socialist", a "Communist", a "Dictator", a "Kenyan", a "Terrorist Pal", and a "Food Stamp President" - despite like, facts - none of that possibly has anything to do with race?

When people who claim to oppose his "policies" don't even know what those policies are and continue to claim - despite all available evidence - that the IRS kerfuffle, Fast and Furious, and Beghazi were ALL attempts by the administration to gain "political advantage",  that there are "Death Panels" inside ObamaCare, even though there aren't, it becomes increasing difficult to believe the ongoing protestations that "race has nothing to do with it" because when you take these complaints and criticisms at face value they simply don't add up on their own.

Obviously, since so many of these claims have no legitimate merit it can't be an accident, the racial element of all of these false stories is in fact, a feature, not a bug in the overall design. Like the KKK of a century ago, the modern GOP has now rabid gaggle of race baiters at it's core - they have staked their entire future on the exploitation and stoking of white male resentment to minority entitlements. On issue after issue, from immigration, marriage equality, to reproductive rights to law enforcement reform to voting rights - they stand against interests of minorities and the disenfranchised time and time again.

If you actually look at their "policy positions" they are hardly any different from what you would find regularly discussed on StormFront. Yet that is a reality they don't have the courage to face because doing so would completely destroy and undermine the validity of their positions.  Hence, they back-fill, obfuscate and deny even the most obviously racial commentary by their own be it racial signs at Tea Party Rally's, bogus attacks on A.C.O.R.N. or Phil Robertson saying that Black people were "happier and more godly" before Civil Rights.

The truly sad, and even more important element of this is the next thing that Obama said, which in fact, agrees with Sarah Palin's underlying point although she would never fully comprehend or admit such a thing.

“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues,” Obama told The New Yorker. “You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government — that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable — and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments.”

“But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun,” the president continued. “There’s a pretty long history there.”


“I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans,” Obama said.

“The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy,” the president added.

I think we as progressives, are capable of following the thread here.  Yes, going all the way back to the implementation of the Southern Strategy under Nixon, the concerns and the legitimate issues and success of the Civil Rights movement were used as a cudgel to drive a wedge between the Liberal Democratic and Conservative Republican parties.  The divide was not just Racial, but also Partisan and Ideological.

Now, some 45 years on, those Partisan/Ideological views and Racial views have become hopelessly enmeshed.  It's nearly impossible to tell, if someone is motivated in their views and actions by a legitimate policy issue, or a racial one. In many cases, they are one-and-the-same.  It's become a chicken-and-the-egg problem.

Do some people support mandatory minimums because they truly think they help reduce crime or simply because they assume black people are "more criminal" and getting them off the street is overall, good policy?  Do people support Stop-N-Frisk because they honestly think getting more and more black and brown kids off the street - regardless of their 4th Amendment rights - is a legitimate law enforcement goal that "makes people safe" or is that outcome just a coincidence?

Perhaps some of them do think they're just "doing the right thing". And I think it's important for us to recognize that fact and openly admit it just as Obama has done.  it's up to us to show them how and why they are factually wrong - without resorting to our own presumptions - even if they themselves refuse to be open to that possibility.

Yes, things have changed since the MLK era.  Racists are now criminally and civilly liable for their actions. The result has been, that the last thing any actual racist will do - Is ADMIT what they have done has been for Racial Reasons.  They have learned over the decades to hide and disguise their true motivations.  They've learned to pretend the reasons for their actions are completely divorced for the outcomes. They've gone underground, and are hiding in plain sight amongst those who actually do have legitimate policy concerns, and there's the rub.

In the MLK era, Racists were pretty clear about who they were and why they did what they did.  They were directly in your face about it.  Nowadays, most of the people who actually are up front about it - are pretty ineffectual at implementing their wishes because they'd be headed to jail or into serious civil proceedings if they were.

Are things better now than then?  Well, that depends on who you ask and where you live.  If you ask Newt Gingrich, Alan West, Rick Santorum or Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson they would say things are worse because of the "Liberal Policies" of Civil Rights protections, Voting Rights and Poverty Programs that have made Black people - as well as the Bla.. people - "dependent on the government", ignoring the underlying reasons for these programs and what would likely happen without them when left to the tender mercies of the Free-For-All Serve-your-Self Market.  

It may be a honest policy position for some to feel that "the Market" would better serve all Americans "equality" despite about 400 years of evidence to the contrary.  Few with that view would be willing to admit that it was the Market that created and enforced both Slavery and Jim Crow, and that the Government simply followed along with the - then - majority view of monied individuals who wished to protect their financial interests in maintaining the status quo.  Even fewer would openly admit that continuing this anti-human, anti-freedom market controlled trend is at the heart of the conservative Republican platform, and that their racism-enabling and excusing is simply a means to a self-aggrandizing financial end.

Yes of course, it is historic that America did elect, twice, an African-American President.  But if you were an African-American trying to Vote in Florida or Alabama in 2012, things weren't really all that much different than trying to vote in 1962. When you look at how much ridiculous guff this President has had to put up with, from a Congress that has more than once attempted to completely sabotage the country economically to people openly calling for him to be arrested and hanged for no clear reason at all and for a military coup to be staged against him - it's not that much better than what MLK himself had to put up with in Selma, or when he was called "Communist", suffered illegal surveillance and blackmail, and was eventually assassinated in Memphis.

It's different, but it isn't exactly "better".

Obama makes the point that we shouldn't necessarily jump to the extreme conclusion that all opposition against him is racially motivated, because not all of it is.  On this, he essentially agrees with Palin that people shouldn't use racial animus as an excuse, that they shouldn't "play the race card" and I think he's absolutely right.  It's difficult to hold your ground in a debate when you're first move when complaining that your opponent continues to assume the worst motives about yourself, is to do the same thing to them.

In the end, making such a presumption isn't even needed, because whether the person is motivated by race or not isn't the most important point.  it's whether their motivated by Reality vs. Delusion.  Bigotry encompasses presumption without proof.  Fact-free conclusions without a foundation.  To assume, before you truly know, then to entrench yourself within a cacoon of factlessness. As I've said many times - all bigotry and racism is Confirmation Bias run amok.

In the end bigotry of a partisan stripe, is no different, and no better than bigotry on the basis of someone's age, gender, orientation, religion, race, or creed.  Even if you take people at their word that their objection to the President is not racial, but partisan - if the facts don't support their views - it's still bias, it's still bigotry and it's still wrong.

You don't have to even call it "Racism" for it to still be Bigotry, even if it is supposed based on "Policy". The difficulty is getting people, anyone, to look beyond their own well-entrenched pre-concieved notions and to look at the facts and reality objectively.  Many of us expect that of others, few of us ever truly accomplish it.  If the GOP rank and file actually started to analyze and comprehend the issues beyond the pandering and biased framing of the Koch Brother's AFP, Heritage and Fox News - if they truly did what they claim and looked at all the facts they actually might starting thinking for themselves, and I don't think they'd continue to support the corporatist and exploitative policies that those entities continue to promote and espouse.

That's when the GOP would be in real serious trouble. but I for one though, am not holding my breath on that.


Originally posted to Vyan on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:04 AM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges.

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