OPINION | Carter gets it right: Racism fuels attacks on Obama’s governance


Former President Jimmy Carter, from Plains, Georgia, is to be respected and actually admired for doing something rare in White America, particularly among people of power: telling the plain truth.

In a town hall meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, last Tuesday, the former President of the United States told the plain truth about something that many Americans have suspected and a large percentage of African Americans have always known, that the intensifying attacks and mean-spirited allegations about the overall governance by President Barack Obama is driven by race and racism – by the sentiment that a Black should not be president.

The occasion of former-president Carter’s comments was a question about South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson saying “You lie” during the president’s address to Congress about health care. We wrote last week that race and racism are being used as an extremely dangerous instrument against the presidency of Barack Obama. Mark Williams, head of the so-called tea parties, on his website, www.marktalk.com, refers to the president as “an Indonesian-born Muslim thug.”

Whereas we appreciate and respect the First Amendment, we also appreciate the Supreme Court’s ruling that freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can scream fire in a crowded theater when there is none.

It is people’s actions (or inactions) that tell us if they are racist, President Carter explains. As a White peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, who was bright enough to become president (and probably deserved a second term), Carter is well qualified to speak on race and racism, their roots and metaphors and utilization for racial hatred and animus – and the reality that it is still very much with us.

Although many Whites and even some Blacks, including the chairman of the Republican Party, may pretend to be offended, proof is in the reactions exposing a long-held, dangerous temperament of a nation that is pushing itself toward a racial abyss through racial nullification and reversal.

We find it amazing that people are saying that the presidential election of 2008 was one steeped in civility, respect, and the final acceptance of the possibility of something unknown previously in the American political system: the election of an African American as president.

Note the clear difference: When President Barack Obama was here at Target Center, young White men armed to the teeth were not only present, but also put on a military display across the street, carrying automatic weapons with live ammunition (Star Tribune, September 14). The response? Boys will be boys.

On the other hand, we remember 40 years ago when Black militants Rap Brown and Bobby Seales and others stood outside the California capitol in Sacramento with empty rifles, resulting six months later in both the California Assembly and the U.S. Congress changing the law on the right to bear arms.

This column is troubled but not terrified; nor will we back away from the truth in this column. When opponents, rather than talk about policy, challenge the president’s citizenship, refer to him as a terrorist Muslim thug, question his loyalty to our Constitution and say he has no right to speak to America’s children about the fundamental issues of excelling, attending school, and setting goals in life (continuing the tradition of the previous 43 presidents) – then we find ourselves on a very different and troubling path.

There are too many depraved, angry and spiteful people and minds in this country seeking to correct the biggest problem from their perspective: a Black American seated in the most powerful office on the planet.

We play a dangerous game when, as African Americans, we pretend that racism ended in America with the election of Barack Obama. This is why it is troubling when even Black leaders act as if they don’t see the slave ship, all the while knowing they could just as quickly be placed on the gallows, have their backs ripped apart with a whip, and be left with nooses around their necks to sway in the winds of nullification and reversal.

Racism in America has intensified, my friends, and until we heed Nellie Stone Johnson’s warnings about education, jobs and housing, our times will become more dangerous. Stay tuned.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com; hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.The MinneapolisStory.com.

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