Tuesday, September 15, 2009

White Supremacists March on Washington

So, this past weekend about 50,000 to 70,000 people went to Washington DC -- ostensibly to celebrate the legacy of 9/11*, but really to protest the presidency of Barack Obama. From the signs shown on the news, they were apparently a collection of 'Birthers', 'Deathers', and 'Tea-baggers' united only by hatred of the new president and his administration.

Coming as it does almost a half-century since Martin Luther King's March on Washington, which drew a quarter-million people, I view this event as affirmative-action for racists. It's only fair the white supremacists have their turn. After all, according to wikipedia it's been over eighty years since the Ku Klux Klan had its big rally in D.C. (1925), and this year's gathering more than doubled their turnout of about 25,000.

All irony aside, it took a while, but I'm not the only one who's noticed the racist undertone to the anti-Obama movement. I can see folks getting caught up in the 'birther' conspiracy theory -- it re-enforces the preconception that he's 'not really one of us'. The 'death panels' idea simply shows how stupidly gullible people can be; no big surprise there. And as for the tea-baggers, both tax deadbeats and 'states rights'/secessionist sentiments have never been too far away from the surface.*** 

But that the same people just happen to converge in belief on all three entirely unrelated points shows something else is at work here: a deep, deep desire to de-legitimize the president. A rejection so visceral that I reluctantly have come to conclude that it's racist at heart: a desperate attempt to deny the reality of our now really, truly having a black president.

And now, just in the past day or so, I find I'm not the only one. Yesterday came the brief notice by Josh Marshall on talkingpointsmemo.com:


Then, of course, there was the article to which Marshall referred. I don't usually have much use for Maureen Dowd, who seems to think she's Dorothy Parker in the same way Geo. W. Bush thought he was Abraham Lincoln, but here I think she deserves credit for connecting the dots:


And then just tonight came news that our greatest ex-president has weighed in on the issue: I guess hitting 85 (as he will next month) means you can speak your mind. And remember that this is the man who ran against Lester Maddox, Georgia's would-be George Wallace: he knows racism when he sees it.


Now, given that people are printing up t-shirts to wear expressing solidarity with Congressman Wilson's failure to learn the manners most of us were taught in kindergarden, I'm wondering how long until the tea-bagger-birther-deather-racists start to put the white hoods on and proudly boast about their common ground with the KKK.


*[as if any of use really want to commemorate the unnecessary wars, warrantless wiretapping, torture, and rendition that followed in 9/11's wake]
**[surprisingly enough, the stations that ran Rev. Wright's "God damn America" clip over and over and over again a year ago don't seem to be running the footage from that recent Texas secessionists rally in which the (white) speakers in their cowboy hats shouted out "We hate America"]
***[tax deadbeats were the cause of the first time President Washington had to call up the U. S. Army after the Revolution, while 'states rights'/secession/nullification goes all the way back to Jefferson & Madison's plottings against Washington's and Adams' administrations.]


Jason Fisher said...

I think you're right to detect a racist undertone here. But should it come as any surprise? The first black president (like the first Catholic, the first woman, or the first [fill in any blank you like] ) will always have a lot to overcome, simply because of being the first. It's the second, third, and subsequent black (or what have you) presidents who may actually be able to get something done. Luckily, the apparent-racists are a pretty small minority. Some were saying two million people turned out, but the reality ends up being something like one-fortieth that number. For which I think we can all heave a collective sigh of relief.

And then just tonight came news that our greatest ex-president [Jimmy Carter] has weighed in on the issue [...]

Out of forty-three previous presidents, you pick Carter as the greatest? Or perhaps you meant greatest living ex-president? :)

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Jason.
Not a surprise, but still a disappointment, yes? We've made tremendous progress and continue to improve (most recently, it's been homophobia that's in retreat); it's the eruptions of rearguard action like this that help remind us of just how much better things are now.

Jimmy Carter had a notably unsuccessful presidency. But I'm firm in my belief that Carter has made better use of the 'office' of ex-president than anyone before him or, so far, since. He's not the most powerful ex-president (that, I think, wd be Jefferson, who pretty much continued to install proxies to carry on his policies for another four elections after he left office). But he's achieved more, and done more good, as ex-president than most of our recent presidents achieve while in office.

Extollager said...

I don't think it's about race very much at all. Nor does this liberal commentator.


Extollager said...

I think Pres. Obama is right:


I don't think he is just saying that as good politics.

Extollager said...

One last piece in response to the charge that it's all about racism.


I'm afraid that if elite opinion (take a bow, John and Jason) simply writes these folks off as racists, they are going to be more likely prey to demagogues of various types (definitely including racists). As President Obama is doing, we need to consider that many of these people may have non-racist anxieties that need to be addressed.

All from me on this topic. Thanks for the hospitality.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Extollager

Afraid I wasn't able to open either of the links you sent from my local connection here while on the road.

Just to clarify: not all criticism of Obama is racist. And not all racists are critics of Obama.

But the unhinged virulence we've been seeing the last few months comes from somewhere. And to those of us who remember racism when it was proudly out in the open are seeing a lot that's all too familiar.

I'd put it in Tolkien terms by saying that, like the old protagonist of THE NEW SHADOW, Carter & others are smelling the old evil, and knowing its name.

--John R.

P.S.: Your comment about "elites" (God forbid smart people should have a roll in running this country!) reminds me of a quote I wanted to blog about a while back; I'll put that one back in the queue once I'm back in Seattle. Thanks for nudging my memory.

Extollager said...

Thanks, John.

The first link was to Jim Sleeper's Washington Post piece "This Anger Isn't Just in Black and White"(Sept. 20). The second was to a news story at Yahoo that I myself couldn't access when I tried just now, so you will have to take my word for it. :) The third link was to David Brooks's piece "No, It's Not About Race," which I'd seen in our local Grand Forks Herald, but which appeared in the New York Times on 17 Sept.

Thanks again.