Ben Buchwalter

Racist vs. Racial: Which One Was Joe Wilson?
January 10, 2010, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Mother Jones, Race, Republicans | Tags: , , , ,

September 17, 2009

Last September, the furor among Republicans against President Obama and his perceived agenda was almost tangible. But the public’s response to Obama, since he launched his historic campaign for president at the beginning of 2008, has veered dangerously close to subtle racism. But clearly, not all criticism of the president and his agenda is racist. And bringing up the topic of race doesn’t automatically make someone a racist. In the midst of the speculation of widespread racism among the Republican party and other anti-Obamaites, I tried to clarify the difference between racist and racial in MoJo:

If you define a racist as someone who feels animosity toward someone of another race, then most political and media confrontations aren’t racist (Limbaugh and Beck aside). More often, we see politicians being racial, acting or speaking with the clear awareness of race. Though outdated and perhaps ignorant, Bush calling Obama “this cat,” is not racist. It’s racial. Similarly, pointing out the problematic racial views of some white commentators is not racist or reverse racist. It’s racial.

The Joe Wilson case is different. Calling out “You Lie!” is not, on first glance, racial or racist. Wilson actually thought Obama was lying. But the question is whether some members of the GOP harbor a more subtle racism in trying to put Obama in his place. Last week, for example, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said that President Obama, the most powerful man in the world, should show some “humility” while delivering a speech on health care reform to congress. And during the campaign, many red state voters couldn’t quite put their finger on why they didn’t like Obama. There was just something about him. Last August, former Reagan and Clinton staffer David Gergen said that the McCain campaign deliberately pushed the message that “he’s uppity, he ought to stay in his place.”


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