Hanging on a tree? Because of his skin color? Demons? Without the demagoguery, would the members of the Black Caucus be evaluated on the effects of their voting records upon the black community, and would their own privilege be juxtaposed to the living conditions of those whom they represent?
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the president’s former pastor for some 20 years, was again in the news last week. In a speech to a congregation in Washington, D.C., he reportedly trumped his usual racist fare by venturing into Hitlerian genetic territory, speaking of African-American children who are raised among whites: “Let them get that alien DNA all up inside their brain and they will turn on their own people in defense of the ones who are keeping their own people under oppression. Sheep dogs. There’s white racist DNA running through the synapses of his or her brain tissue. They will kill their own kind, defend the enemies of their kind or anyone who is perceived to be the enemy of the milky white way of life.”
White racist DNA?
Wright seems intent on proving to the world that his past racist outbursts, which became an issue in the 2008 campaign, were not atypical (as the president himself had implied), but simply windows into a disturbed soul — secure that no one will speak the truth that he is a hateful racist and one who for two decades had a great deal of influence over the mind and soul of the man who would become president.
There has not been a real effort from this administration to lessen the growing racial tensions. If Obama’s 2008 campaign remarks (“typical white person,” “I can no more disown [Wright] than . . . ,” the clingers of Pennsylvania, etc.) were chalked up to the normal excesses of any hard-fought campaign, it is more difficult to explain away his polarizing editorializing as president — the blanket condemnation of police in the Skip Gates affair, the “punish our enemies” appeal to the Latino community, the unnecessary sermonizing in the still-pending Trayvon Martin case. Attorney General Holder at times seems deliberately desirous of exacerbating racial tensions rather than diminishing them. His abrupt dismissal of the New Black Panther Party case raised the question of what exactly might one have to do at a polling place to earn a charge of voter intimidation. His blanket condemnation of Americans as “cowards” for not discussing racial relations on his terms was unfortunate — as was the phrase “my people.” On two occasions, Holder alleged that congressional inquiries into his handling of the Fast and Furious matter were racially motivated. And most recently, he charged that state laws requiring driver’s-license identification at polls was not only racially based, but reminiscent of the southern poll tax — a charge that Holder, as a legal scholar, cannot really believe is accurate. His accusation that the Arizona immigration statute was probably predicated on racial profiling proved an immediate embarrassment when he confessed that he had not actually read the bill.
Why then the exacerbation of racial tensions? There are dozens of exegeses, spanning the political spectrum. We are in a deep recession that is hurting African-Americans more than others, and their leadership remains committed to Great Society solutions, even as the nation faces insolvency and is disengaging from the redistributive blue-state model — creating a new apprehension that cutbacks are tantamount to racist indifference. Or: Blacks, like all racial groups, naturally identify with their own kind, in the same manner as, for example, Greek-Americans or Armenian-Americans who will cross party lines out of understandable ethnic pride — and thus are especially protective of the public image of their fellow African-American Barack Obama. Or: White resentment at the prominence of elite African-Americans is doing its part to widen the divide and earn a pushback. Or: A worried Barack Obama understands that for his reelection he must create an improbable logic: Tens of millions of supportive whites in 2008 were lauded for their liberality, and yet they will face accusations of racism if they dare vote otherwise in 2012.