Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Racial Undercurrent in the Health Care Reform Brouhaha...

It's so painfully obvious. Birthers. Teabaggers. The sudden flip in the Republican Party's key talking points, from same-sex marriage and abortion to Affirmative Action and gun control (a not so subliminal play to age-old race panic about black crime perpetrated against white chastity). Swelling membership of white-supremacist ranks, cries of "reverse-discrimination and Obama's alleged racism and comparisons to Hitler. They try to play it off as if it's not racism. Nowhere remotely near racism—after all, how can we be racist if we have a Black President? Indeed, they try to convince us that it's Socialism they're against (though the American tradition of anti-Socialism is itself spurned on by xenophobia). Never mind those signs comparing Obama to a monkey, or outright calling him "nigger". Forget that Beck is claiming Obama's attempt at reform is all about reparations. Nope, nothing at all to do with race here, move along, please.

I voice it to my immediate associates every time I see it dripping from the foaming mouths of the protesters in their worked up panics. But I don't see it addressed. Well, at least not with any degree of mainstream exposure, which I'm admittedly not too shocked over. Thus I was quite pleased to see NPR cover it recently.

Professor Harris-Lacewell hits the nail squarely on the head. "I want my America back" is coded language with racist undertones. Which America is it, exactly, that they want back? One with legislated segregation? One with rampant, overt institutionalized racism and sexism? What precisely do we need to repeal to get back to these beautiful glory days? Welfare? Social Security? Medicare? A national highway system? Child labor laws? Unions? Women's suffrage? Manumission? Whose America is it we so desperately need to return to? Exactly which freedoms have been so rampantly eroded, other than the freedom to openly discriminate and oppress entire chunks of the population with no regard to repercussion? The attrition of disparate privilege is not a loss of rights. Equality for all is not implicit with oppression of others.

"Individual responsibility" is classic political white supremacist lingo that is almost exclusively applied to those very same individuals they refuse to actually view as individuals, instead of representative embodiments of an entire population group and supposed "cultural pathology". When is this phrase injected into public discourse other than conversations on welfare, criminal punishment, or any other social issue which is immediately identified with black people in the eyes of the majority?

Who are they talking about when they say "real Americans"? Natives?

Race is most definitely an underlying factor, and anyone who thinks the protest against reform would be equally as rowdy if proposed by a white President is simply disingenuous.

But enough with vain attempts at reason or logic. At times we can just apply simple measures and see what conclusions can be drawn. So, I propose a quick test: Simply ask yourself, how many minorities are so up in arms about Health Care reform? I pretty much see only white faces protesting. Not too many black or brown faces in the affray (unless they're having their Rosa Parks posters ripped out of their hands). Isn't that odd? Yes, quite peculiar indeed.

Update: Tim Wise elucidates the issue in his article Racism, Right-Wing Rage and the Politics of White Nostalgia, which he penned after his CNN appearance discussing this matter:

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