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Hullabaloo


Saturday, July 16, 2016

 

Divider-in-chief

by Tom Sullivan


President Barack Obama hugs Eliana Pinckney and her younger sister
Malana Pinckney, daughters of Reverend Clementa Pinckney who was
killed in the 2015 Charleston church shooting. White House photo.

Obama "divided the country" is one of those accusations tossed around so casually on the right that you almost ignore it. It is sweepingly vague, more an exclamation than a truth claim. Like many of the right's articles of faith, it doesn't need any substantiation. It is taken as given. No proof required. None offered.

A running gag a college friend used to respond to such blanket assertions was to push back with a stock challenge: "Oh yeah? Name five." Seems to me Obama's accusers should have to specify five actions he himself took to divide the U.S. and to explain specifically who he divided from whom. Likely, the challenge would be met with a dumb stare.

Jamelle Bouie takes on the claim that "Barack Obama has made the racial divide worse" at Slate:

The problem of race isn’t that blacks and whites (or other groups) don’t get along. The problem of race is that blacks and other nonwhites face unfair treatment and material disadvantage. The problem of race is that the descendants of enslaved people, and those in close social and economic proximity to them, have been marked for aggression, predation, and deprivation by the dominant socioeconomic group, and suffer as a result. When black Americans say they are pessimistic about “race relations,” what they mean is they are unhappy with that treatment. An America that euphemizes this grievance as a matter of “race relations,” and in the process consecrates race as a natural category, is an America that still isn’t confronting its reality.
The reality that for a black man any encounter with police might spell the last moments of his life is one white America refuses to acknowledge. Yet that plays out with regularity in the news. Cell phone and body cam video has finally made white America a witness to it. For those who wish to look, anyway.

Bouie continues:
To blame Obama for discord—rather than the actual abuses and inequalities that drive the reaction—is a classic example of anti-anti-racism, wherein efforts to address and combat racial bias are reckoned a larger problem than the bias itself. And in the same way, Obama’s willingness to speak to and for black Americans as a black American marks him as the real racist, maligned for acknowledging the reality of racism. It’s a bizarro view of American life where racial discord is caused by speaking out about discrimination, not by discrimination itself.

It’s rich that this argument has currency at the same time that Donald Trump is preparing for his coronation as the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. After years of accusing Obama of fostering racial hatred, of slamming basic empathy as some attack on white Americans, these conservatives—men like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani—are primed to nominate a man whose political persona is built on actual prejudice and bigotry. A man who casually spreads racist and anti-Semitic propaganda. A man who incites fear and racial hatred for political gain.
Wonder how many RNC regulars will have to throw up during Trump's acceptance speech next week?