Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Dynamic Duo Welcomes You To Nut Country

Racism is as American as apple pie. This blogger feels like Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the nascent Godfather in "Godfather III" — "Just when I thought I was out..., they pull me back in." Just when this blogger thiought that racism was behind us in the glow of the Obama victory speech in Chicago and the Obama inauguration, the national stain is back and it's deeper and darker than ever. The racists pull us back into the deep and dark hole they inhabit. Today, the NY Fishwrap unleashed Angry Bob (Herbert) and The Blowhard (Charles M Blow) to crack some nuts.

[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] Angry Bob Calls Out The Dumbo Racists
[2] The Blowhard Calls Out "Aversive Racists"

If this is (fair & balanced) social criticism, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
[1]Back To Directory
The Scourge Persists
By Bob Herbert

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Did we really need Jimmy Carter to tell us that racism is one of the driving forces behind the relentless and often scurrilous attacks on President Obama? We didn’t know that? As John McEnroe might say, “You can’t be serious.”

“There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president,” said Mr. Carter. I guess he was aiming his remarks at those who contended when Mr. Obama was elected that we had achieved some Pollyannaish postracial society. But it’s hard to imagine, after all the madness and vitriol of the past few months, that anyone still believes that.

For many white Americans, Barack Obama is nothing more than that black guy in the White House, and they want him out of there. (Mr. Carter knows a little something about kowtowing to that crowd. During his presidential campaign in 1976, he blithely let it be known that he had no problem with residents “trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods,” and he tossed around ugly terms like “black intrusion” and “alien groups.” He later apologized.)

More than three decades later we have Sherri Goforth, an aide to a Republican state senator in Tennessee sending out a mass e-mail of a cartoon showing dignified portraits of the first 43 presidents, and then representing the 44th — President Obama — as a spook, a cartoonish pair of white eyes against a black background.

When a gorilla escaped from a zoo in Columbia, SC, a longtime Republican activist, Rusty DePass, described it on his Facebook page as one of Michelle Obama’s ancestors.

Among the posters at last weekend’s gathering of conservative protesters in Washington was one that said, “The zoo has an African lion and the White House has a lyin’ African.”

These are bits and pieces of an increasingly unrestrained manifestation of racism directed toward Mr. Obama that is being fed by hate-mongers on talk radio and is widely tolerated, if not encouraged, by Republican Party leaders. It’s disgusting, and it’s dangerous. But it’s the same old filthy racism that has been there all along and that has been exploited by the G.O.P. since the 1960s.

I have no patience with those who want to pretend that racism is not an out-and-out big deal in the United States, as it always has been. We may have made progress, and we may have a black president, but the scourge is still with us. And if you needed Jimmy Carter to remind you of that, then you’ve been wandering around with your eyes closed.

Glenn Beck, one of the moronic maestros of right-wing radio and TV, assures us that President Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Some years ago, as the watchdog group Media Matters for America points out on its Web site, Beck said he’d like to beat Representative Charles Rangel “to death with a shovel.”

There is nothing new about this racist rhetoric. Back in the 1970s Rush Limbaugh told a black caller: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

But the fact that a black man is now in the White House has so unsettled much of white America that the lid is coming off the racism that had been simmering at dangerously high temperatures all along. Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow with Media Matters, said, “If someone had told me in February that there would be mainstream allegations that Obama was a racist and a fascist and a communist and a Nazi, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Republicans have been openly feeding off of race hatred since the days of Dick Nixon. Today’s conservative activists are carrying that banner proudly. What does anybody think is going on when, as Anderson Cooper pointed out on CNN, one of the leaders of the so-called tea party movement, Mark Williams, refers to the president of the United States as an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug, and a racist in chief.

After all these years of race-baiting and stirring the pot of hatred for political gain, it’s too much to ask the leaders of the Republican Party to step forward and denounce this spreading stain of reprehensible conduct. Republicans are trying to ride that dependable steed of bigotry back to power.

But it’s time for other Americans, of whatever persuasion, to take a stand, to say we’re better than this. They should do it because it’s right. But also because we’ve seen so many times what can happen when this garbage gets out of control.

Think about the Oklahoma City bombing, and the assassinations of King and the Kennedys. On Nov. 22, 1963, as they were preparing to fly to Dallas, a hotbed of political insanity, President Kennedy said to Mrs. Kennedy: “We’re heading into nut country today.” Ω

[Bob Herbert joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in 1993. His twice a week column comments on politics, urban affairs and social trends. Prior to joining The Times, Herbert was a national correspondent for NBC from 1991 to 1993, reporting regularly on "The Today Show" and "NBC Nightly News." He had worked as a reporter and editor at The Daily News from 1976 until 1985, when he became a columnist and member of its editorial board. Herbert received a B.S. degree in journalism from the State University of New York (Empire State College) in 1988. He has taught journalism at Brooklyn College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.]
[2]Back To Directory
Here We Go Again
By Charles M. Blow

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This week, former President Jimmy Carter waded into the murky waters of racism: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.” That was an overstatement of the role of race.

Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman, shot back: “President Carter is flat-out wrong. This isn’t about race. It is about policy.” That was an underrepresentation of the role of race.

But that’s where we are with race in this country: exaggerations and blanket denials. Race has become a vicious game of bludgeons and crutches, where acerbic accusers run roughshod over earnest egalitarians and political gain is sought even at the expense of enlightenment.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Most Americans know that racism is an issue in this country. The question is how much (that’s where the arguments start) and if — and to what degree — that racism animates critics of the president.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in January found that 71 percent of whites and 85 percent of blacks think that racism in our society is at least somewhat of a problem.

How much discrimination is there? The world may never know, but we admit that we misjudge it.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted in January of last year found that 60 percent of whites agree that they underestimate the amount of discrimination that there is against blacks and 59 percent of blacks agree that they overestimate the amount of racism against them. How can we measure truth when everyone’s twisting it?

A better question might be how much racial prejudice are people aware of and willing to acknowledge.

An ABC News poll released in January asked, “If you honestly assessed yourself, would you say that you have at least some feelings of racial prejudice?” Thirty-eight percent of blacks answered yes, as did 34 percent of whites.

Then the question becomes whether this racial prejudice plays a part in the opposition to the president. Again, it’s impossible to know, but a 2003 study by Rice University researchers and published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies offers an interesting insight into its potential to be present: “One of the greatest challenges facing black leaders is aversive racism, a subtle but insidious form of prejudice that emerges when people can justify their negative feelings toward blacks based on factors other than race.” Sound familiar?

Racism is real. It is very likely an element of some people’s opposition to President Obama, but everyone who wants smaller government is not a racist.

Let’s stop talking about racism as if it’s black or white. There are many shades of gray. Ω

[Charles M. Blow is The New York Times's visual Op-Ed columnist. His column appears every other Saturday. Blow joined The New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor and quickly became the paper's graphics director, a position he held for nine years. In that role, he led The Times to a best of show award from the Society of News Design for the Times's information graphics coverage of 9/11, the first time the award had been given for graphics coverage. He also led the paper to its first two best in show awards from the Malofiej International Infographics Summit for work that included coverage of the Iraq war. Charles Blow went on to become the paper's Design Director for News before leaving in 2006 to become the Art Director of National Geographic Magazine. Before coming to The Times, Mr. Blow had been a graphic artist at The Detroit News. Blow graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a B.A. in mass communications.]

Copyright © 2009 The New York Times Company

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Copyright © 2009 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves