Calling Them On It

by digby

I wrote this in the comment section, but I think it's worth discussing a little bit more seriously. Responding to dday's, post below I said: "I just want to add that the whole point of a hissy fit is to render a powerful criticism or critic off limits by evoking a sacred cultural totem. The key to this particular hissy fit was the accusation that Wilson and the teabaggers are racists. I watched the Fox Allstars today and they couldn't stop talking about Maureen Dowd's column and were practically rending their garments that anyone could possibly think Wilson said what he said because of race. It's clear that this is the soft white underbelly and the Dems needed to be far more explicit if they wanted to really hammer their point home."

And if you doubted they are racists, read this little anecdote at Sadly No! by Dave Riehle :

Let’s roll the tape:

A 9/12 Experience: Dangerous Times

Michelle has a disturbing video posted. It’s of several black students beating a white student on a school bus in St. Louis. Here’s the deal. I haven’t mentioned it before.

Riding out of DC on the Metro, 9/12, there were some folks from South Dakota and also another Mid-West state I can’t recall in the same Metro car. We were talking, nothing special, really – politics, of course.

In the back were maybe ten or so black kids taking up that section of the car. There was no confrontation, just one or two of them talking loudly enough to make sure they’d be heard.

Without resorting to the poor diction it was along the lines of, these are the people who think Obama is the anti-Christ. That McCain he wasn’t chit. Obama’s going to be president as long as he wants, so these people better get used to it, etc. It went on but not really to a level that was so loud, or so confrontational that it needed to be addressed.

We just ignored them without much trouble at all.

Yeah, they were technically thugs. But the reality was they were still wannabes really, pretty young, not that big, or many. And if the several adults there for 9/12 actually needed to do something about it, the kids wouldn’t have lasted very long.

Keep in mind that these are the same people who were just carrying signs calling Obama Hitler and saying that Acorn groups and his arrogant wife should be sent back to "their own" country and be stripped of their rights. I'd say those so-called thugs were the polite ones.

More seriously, these people are a perfect example of the modern racists. They don't go around calling black people "boy" (to their faces) and they certainly don't think of themselves as bigots. But in their minds, racial minorities are dangerous barbarians who are threatening to destroy their way of life. Hence, when they find themselves in a group of loud teenagers, they see it as a test of their own manhood to "put them down." (Of course, that's why they need all those guns.)

A black president is threatening to them, even if they don't really understand it, because while he is unquestionably a very accomplished individual in anyone's estimation, the loyalty he inspires among African Americans frightens them --- and his sometime feints to popular culture and black solidarity make them very, very uncomfortable. That's why this obsession with ACORN has such resonance. The black army is forming.

I have always been somewhat impatient with those who insisted that racism was over in American life and that anyone who brings it up is holding on to outdated modes of thought. The fact is that racism is one of the fundamental, defining features of American culture, changing and evolving, getting less and less potent over time, but so intrinsic to who we are that it remains in certain social pockets quite strongly. It isn't the noxious open racism that characterized the south during Jim Crow -- it's morphed into a more general sense of paranoia and fear. And there is little doubt in my mind that a good bit of the outsized hysteria we see against Obama exists within those pockets.

We are living in a new world where racism is a minority position. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that it doesn't find political expression is some powerful ways. It behooves liberals to be vigilent about this and keep these impulses in check with frequent reminders that it is not acceptable in modern America to be a racist.

It's also obvious that nativism and immigration are the great racial undercurrent of the moment and they have long been the animating feature of toxic right wing populism. We ignore this stuff at our peril.