Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Why They Hate Barack Obama

You wouldn't understandAttempts to show equivalence to Joe Wilson's heckling of Barack Obama last night began probably just as soon as those on the right realized exactly how bad it looked to have an angry white man, sitting in a sea of other frowny-faced white men, screaming "You lie!" at the President of the United States. The arguments are as lame as they are predictable, and the fact that the best they can offer is, "The Democrats shouted 'No' at George W. Bush!" reveals just how deeply afraid they are that the conversation will turn to the uncomfortable truth that a lot of the opposition to Obama is… yes… about race.

This is a difficult topic to discuss without sounding strident. Attorney General Eric Holder took a lot of crap last February when he made the not-exactly-groundbreaking observation that we are "a nation of cowards" when it comes to discussing issues of race, which pretty much proved his point but also had the effect of making attempts to discuss the issue even more toxic. This is great for those whose disdain for Obama springs in part from the fact that he's black, because if we don't mention that aspect of it, there's no need to defend it.

I'm not saying that you can't disagree with the President on the substance of the issues. I don't doubt that there are some on the other end of the ideological spectrum who believe very deeply that it is immoral to give health care to poor people. And I understand that society has become much more partisan of late. Even though Republicans controlled the White House for 52 years of the 20th century to the Democrats' 48, they seem to feel like they're the natural party of power in the executive branch, and any Democratic president is somehow a usurper who took office in a nefarious manner. I'm sure that if Barack Obama were white there would still be a ton of resentment toward him simply for his party affiliation.

But he's not white, is he? He's a black man, with a black wife, and a weird black name. Even worse, he's a dazzling orator who doesn't fit any of the negative stereotypes we've been taught about black men, which, ironically, makes him even more threatening. There is an undeniable discomfort among a sizable number of white Americans who see themselves being supplanted at the top of the power structure and cannot help but be resentful and afraid. And with good reason; they've been told for the last hundred years that no matter how bad off they might have it, at least they can look down at blacks, who have it worse. And now their president is black? It's hard to process.

Does this sound crazy? I could see how it might, particularly if you discount the fact that "socialist" is now an epithet tossed at someone who authorized billions of dollars to bail out major financial services corporations. Or if you view the protesters who showed up at presidential events brandishing intimidating weapons as simple Second Amendment supporters. Or if you think that the massive outcry over the President's delivery of a banal message to schoolchildren on the importance of education was just about policy differences. Or if you believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is secretly Muslim. I could see you thinking that there was no racial component to Obama-hatred in those cases.

Otherwise? Be honest. It is almost impossible not to see the racial aspect of the whole thing. Am I saying that Rep. Wilson shouted "You lie!" at the President last night out of sheer racism? Of course not. But let's not pretend that there wasn't just a little bit of that going on there. (Although he may not be the best example.) So let's acknowledge it. Repeatedly. Republicans will scream about how unfair it all is, but this is a party that built its modern successes on a legacy of completely unsubtle racial polarization. They had forty years to reap the benefits of all that. Now it's time they pay the bill.

See, I told you! It's impossible not to sound strident on this subject. Sorry about that.

48 Comments / Post A Comment

mathnet (#27)

I am commenting on every fucking Facebook status today!!!

You're absolutely right.

Abe Sauer (#148)

of course there is racism here but it, as you say, is subtle (with some true crazy racists thrown in there). Very, very subtle. it's the same kind of racism that makes most middle-age white people's sphincters pucker whenever some young black men enter the subway. The far larger driver of this is the insane polarized politics that had the right geared up and ready to hate – just as much as Obama- Hillary Clinton.

Politics is now a game, with teams, just like football. You support your team in all situations with whatever lunacy you can (Dude, all we need to do now is score, and recover the onside kick and then score and then one more time. WE CAN TOTALLY STILL WIN THIS GAME!) Don;t give up. Find any way to win.

brent_cox (#40)

Yes, agreed — GOP-identifiers are an affinity group, and for some reason the members of this group filter the world through a lens of winning and losing. The President could propose NO MORE TAXES EVER and GOP-identifiers would still hate it because winners never concede to the losers. Their ideology is not so much conservatism as it is KICKING ASS, which they have not been doing recently.

The obviously-present racism — well, ain't that America?

rabelaisrouser (#1,577)

It's been interesting to watch the right coalesce around the similarities between their upper class and lower class members.

Both classes share a sense of entitlement to success. For the upper class, weaned on Nordquist and Rove's talk of a well-deserved permanent majority, any political upset can only be explained by nefarious, unseen forces. For the lower end of the spectrum, with their innate belief in the inferiority of other races, their low incomes or chronic unemployment can only be explained by positing that their jobs and good pay are being stolen by brown people.

The fact that Obama's presidency hit both of those sore spots rather hard.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Rabelais: Hmm. Working-class rightwingers, entitlement to success …? That may need a little work. In my experience, the working class doesn't really expect "success". — Resentment of immigrants, no doubt about that. But is the US lumpenproletariat more resentful of immigrants than US labor unions are?

Abe Sauer (#148)

Also: It's interesting that Colin Powell has been so quickly forgotten in the race to see racism in everything. Republicans sorely wanted him in the 2008 election. Tons of republicans would have loved to have him probably on either part of the P/VP ticket. I suppose if he would have gotten the nod, or even the win, then they would be racists because they were only leveraging his race to win, I suppose.

AND… this GOP are Racists thing ignores the democratic party's own very deep instances of racism and Hillary and Bill's very own very recent stoking of those flames.

Bunx05 (#1,625)

Actually, I think you're pointing out something important, but I think it applies to something else.

Colin Powell was/is loved by Buckley-esque conservatives, not republicans. The individuals who adhere to a conservative ideology but not necessarily the republican (can we call it a platform?) aren't necessarily the ones running for the hills because Obama's turning the white house black. These people are also being pushed out the party and becoming independents.

The NEW republican party are filled with what one person called "Calhoun conservatives". For them, race and religion are extremely important. And because they can't imagine caring about someone who isn't like them, they can't imagine that Obama might have their best interests ate heart.

bshep (#746)

For some of the haters race is absolutely the issue, but I don't think it is for all of them. I think for them the biggest collective issue is that we have a liberal president who is young, cool, politically astute, really damn charismatic, and scandal-proof enough that they have to stoop to ridiculous levels involving fake birth certificates and secret muslins to attack him. Also, on some level they must know that after getting what they thought they wanted for the past 8 years, things didn't go so well. Having to face up to a liberal leader who's a fighter and might actually get liberal things done is what's freaking them out, methinks.

NicFit (#616)

It's as if they think they need those extra points for being a white male.

karion (#11)

I held my breath while reading this.

Really well written, Balk.

sigerson (#179)

As a Southern white male born in the latter half of the 20th Century, I can say with some authority that Balk is spot on here. No doubt Addison Graves Wilson, Sr. is a fan of Robert E. Lee and sheds a few tears when he thinks of "The Lost Cause" and what them durn Yankees did to Atlanta.

spanish bombs (#562)

I can't believe people are as stupid as this article claims.

Ever been to a Monster Truck Rally?

Abe Sauer (#148)

Hey now. I've been to a monster truck rally. And while I am not going to claim the event to have been some kind of intellectual summit, I would put it on equal IQ turf with, say, the Fischerspooner concert I also went to.

Agree. There are very stupid people that like things other than Monster Trucks, too, it just serves as a convenient example. Many of those people are also Democrats. Point is – there are mind-blowingly stupid people in this world.

sigerson (#179)

p.s. – I just donated to his opponent:

Go there now and give five bucks to remove a white racist from Congress!

sigerson (#179)

p.s. – if you reload that page you can watch it go up. it was $106k when I started looking at it an hour ago. Now it is $137,479.

sigerson (#179)

now it's $148,608. $10k per hour ain't bad!

Abe Sauer (#148)

I applaud getting involved but this voting against the GOP for whomever might be able to beat them is what has turned the democratic party into a blob of spineless turds more dedicated to the latest polls than any real position.

Bittersweet (#765)

Abe, this is sort of embarrassing, but I heart you more and more each day. Wouldn't 'A Blob of Spineless Turds' be a great book title?

Abe Sauer (#148)

"Everybody Poops (Unless You Think They Don't in which Case Nobody Poops)?

Jackie Corley (#1,575)

balk, i think i… i think i love you.

very well said.

fairest (#413)

He's not secretly Muslim. He's secretly Canadian.

Bunx05 (#1,625)

He's secretly Swiss-Kenyan (he told us at the black people meeting last Thursday).

KenWheaton (#401)

Shows how much you know. They were yelling at his white half. And as a Southern white male I speak for all other Southern white males. Except for the other three or four who comment here. But they also speak for all Southern white males.

Seriously, I'm sure there's quite a bit of racism — latent or blatant — behind SOME of this, but I'm going with Abe on this one.


Q: "How does every racist joke begin?"

A: "I don't know."

Q: (Turns head around furtively, looks to see if anyone else is within earshot)

That's the joke.

I use that to make a point. The point being, that of course these people are racist, but even they know you can't say overtly racist stuff in public. So you use code, or you say it in private when no one else is around, or you wrap it up a bunch of crazy delusional bullshit.

Seriously, other than that loonball who brought the assault weapon to the rally in Arizona, every single nut-job I've seen frothing at the mouth about Obama has been white. You don't need to be a codebreaker to read what's going on here.

sigerson (#179)

Every morning around 7am in Southampton, down by the McDonalds and the 7-Eleven, there is a crowd of Hispanic dudes in work clothes standing around waiting for day labor. Sometimes a cop parks his car on the street but most days there is no law enforcement presence. Most mornings, there is a white guy in work clothes standing in a prominent location with an American flag and a big sign that says "WHEN THEY JUMPED THE WALL THE BROKE THE LAW."

I wondered aloud to my buddy Fagan whether the white guy ever broke the speed limit and if he thought he should be deprived of his livelihood and forcibly removed from the country as a consequence.

Fagan snorted and said, "That guy's just a racist. The law is just an excuse. Even he knows he can't hold up a sign that says "SPICS GO HOME""

KenWheaton (#401)

I remember the days when the only permanent presence in that lot was Boo. Boo in 92!

This may come out entirely wrong, but I think one of the weirdest ways I see this displayed is in the way they react to Obama's authority or presence. The old white guys seem to have this air of "Where does he come off telling us what to do" going on, which they never had with Clinton (or Bush). It's as if they are questioning his authority, which he has because he is in charge of our country. They all seem to act as if he owes them something – as if they allowed him to run for office and subsequently run our country as a favor or something. It's like they've given themselves carte blanche for insubordination. His youth may have something to do with this, but probably not everything.
Am I on my own here, or does somebody with a stronger ability to translate abstract thought to words know what I'm talking about?

To be clear, I am not talking about insubordination like disagreement or saying negative things – every president gets plenty of that from members of the house and senate in the opposite party. This is outright rudeness, a complete lack of professional respect, and consistently acting like he should be serving them.

SpeedBall (#1,579)

Notable to me is that, of all possible remarks to shout-out about in the speech, the comment that sent Wilson over the top was the one involving "the illegals". Not killing grandma. Not the government-option-if-all-else-fails. This BLACK PRESIDENT who must, somehow, be illegitimate or deserving of our thanks is going to tell ME about the illegals TOO? *HEAD EXPLODES*

Abe Sauer (#148)

ooh ooh. call on me. I know this one. The illegals thing is such a sticking point because (aside from tort reform which just isn;t that catchy) it's the only issue that existed before this whole trumped up grandma death panel hands off my healtchcare summer insanity began. The illegals issue was also around long before Obama. And for a group that rightfully or wrongfully takes as its religion the idea of lower taxes, the thought that their (truly hard earned) tax dollars go to paying for somebody who isn't a resident (and doesn't pay their fair share of taxes) drives them bananas. The fact that they're not white doesn;t help. But really, they would still be pissed if they were, say, canadians using "our" ERs.

sigerson (#179)


of course folks who are here "illegally" pay taxes all the livelong day.

And did you just suggest that old white guys would still be pissed if all the "illegals" were CANADIAN? Did you write that with a straight face? Cuz that's absurd. Of course it's racism. Dem brown people gunna rek 'Merica.

Abe Sauer (#148)

It's not absurd. I cannot stress enough how important the taxes thing is and the perception of getting something you didn't deserve/earn (just look at how many of the harder lining right came out in anger against the cash for clunkers program or the bailout of the auto industry). Granted, this doesn't make sense a lot, such as with ag subsidies… And yes, many illegals pay taxes (many also don't) but, again, it's the perception that they don't. And that goes for everyone. YES, there is a racism component. But I'm not sure which cartoon version of republicans you adhere to — the bubbling three-chinned fatties in spats and too-high trousers lighting cigars with $100 bills or the 76-IQ storm-trooping armed regional militia SS (I assume the latter because of the Hilbilly acent you ape) — but dismissing Republican complaints simply by calling out racism is just lazy and shows an unwillingness to even try and understand how multi-faceted the opposition to your (and my) viewpoints.

Bored (#1,111)

Strongly agree with Abe Sauer. The tax (income tax primarily) leads to a massive well of resentment. With the exception of the super-rich, America is poorer now than at any time since the great depression. People availing themselves of American services (and generosity) without paying their fair share engender enormous ill will.

You can ascribe it to biological imperative ( etc) or to sociological sense of fair play but it exists nontheless.

Bunx05 (#1,625)

You are not alone in noticing this. I'm black. It's not important, but I tell you this because it will help you understand my point a little better.

The lack of respect for this man as a President was one of the first things I noticed. You are completely right in your summation of what is going on. Since taking office, I have never seen anyone be so railroaded over nothing. And what kills me is that he's done things that have helped them. He gave them a dog in the Healthcare fight, when they didn't have one. He insists on hearing their voices when they scream about nothing.

They hated Clinton, no doubt. But that was nothing compared to this. The man's only been in office 8 months and already their breaking with the decorum rules they set up. Can you imagine what it'll be like at the end of his second term?

As a black man, watching this is really disheartening. I really do think we've come a long way in the country, but the last 8 months have made me question a lot of that. I grew up in the south and I live in a red state, but I've never seen widespread crazy like this ever.

Dave Bry (#422)

Great piece. And yes: totally legitimate. Obama's race pervades the unspoken subtext to every discussion about his presidency. Why wouldn't it? Remember how mindblowing it was to wake up November 5th and realize that the it was, in fact, real: the United States of America had just elected a black president. I suppose this could be read as an indication of how much race and racism affect my own view of all this stuff, but the first image that came to my mind after hearing Wilson's shout? Michael Richards onstage at that comedy club. The positions of heckler and hecklee might have been switched, but the tone was the same.

cantastoria (#441)

>"The Democrats shouted 'No' at George W. Bush!" >reveals just how deeply afraid they are that the >conversation will turn to the uncomfortable truth >that a lot of the opposition to Obama is… yes… >about race."

Actually no it isn't and no one is uncomfortable but your so desperate to make race the issue I'll play along.

>Holder took a lot of crap last February when he >made the not-exactly-groundbreaking observation >that we are “a nation of cowards” when it comes to >discussing issues of race, which pretty much proved >his point but also had the effect of making >attempts to discuss the issue even more toxic.

The only cowards I see here are the ones crying racist at any one who opposes them. Accusation which bear a striking resemblance to the cries of "socialist" from the other side.

>I’m not saying that you can’t disagree with the >President on the substance of the issues. I don’t >doubt that there are some on the other end of the >ideological spectrum who believe very deeply that >it is immoral to give health care to poor people.
So you I can disagree but I automatically believe it is immoral to give health care to poor people? Which by the way we already have a government run program for ( and it's in debt in almost every state. Google "Medicare debt" for a quick rundown.

>There is an undeniable discomfort among a sizable >number of white Americans who see themselves being >supplanted at the top of the power structure and >cannot help but be resentful and afraid.

>Does this sound crazy?
In more ways then you can possibly imagine. First off you've offered no proof that any of these accusations are true. A congressmen yells "liar" at the president and suddenly anyone who opposes Obama is waving the confederate flag? I mean if he yelled "nigger" you could have started down this road. Otherwise you've given me no way to connect opposition to a nationalized health care plan to the deep seated racism you seem to think exists in the 52% of the people who disapprove of Obama's handling of it. (

>I could see how it might, particularly if you
>discount the fact that “socialist” is now an >epithet tossed at someone who authorized billions
>of dollars to bail out major financial services >corporations.
Kind of like how your tossing "racist" at anyone who criticizes same? Two sides of the same coin Balk.

>Otherwise? Be honest. It is almost impossible not >to see the racial aspect of the whole thing. Am I >saying that Rep. Wilson shouted “You lie!” at the >President last night out of sheer racism? Of course >not. But let’s not pretend that there wasn’t just a >little bit of that going on there.
Why should I pretend any of what your saying is true? In one breathe you say that Wilson shouting wasn't out of shear racism and then in the next your asking me to accept that it's a symptom of a racism so subtle only the enlightened few, such as yourself, are able to detect it.

I understand your frustration here Balk, I really do. You're being forced to defend a health care reform bill you don't support just so you can show your solidarity with Obama. A man you voted for to show that you are not racist, that you do not see yourself "being supplanted at the top of the power structure". You are not "resentful" and you are not "afraid". A black president isn't hard for you to "process". And anyone that doesn't agree with you (or him) is a racist. It's just that simple.

Bored (#1,111)

Perhaps some of those who apparently irrationally defend all things Obama are compelled to do so by a higher power :

(don't worry, I don't actually believe it!)

Bunx05 (#1,625)

While I respect your opinion, I think you're wrong in your assertions. I don't believe that Joe Wilson is a racist because he disagrees with the black President. I think he MIGHT be racist because his actions show a break from the decorum of his party (something he has never done in a joint session) on an issue that is racially relevant (immigration reform not healthcare). Also, he is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; a group that has been investigated by the FBI because of its ties to white supremacist groups.

Even with that evidence, I'm loathe to call him a racist. That isn't something that needs to be thrown around, I agree. But. It is possible to act in a racist manner without being a racist. This is the rub of it.

You can be so indoctrinated in a system of oppression, be it racial, gender-based or anything else, that you don't realize it. And it may not be your intention to oppress others. In college, a coworker of mine I'd become friends with and I were discussing black history month. He told me, completely innocently, that he didn't know why we had black history month because black people hadn't achieved much in the past. I asked him why he thought that, and he told me that he'd never seen in any book where a black person had made an advancement for the betterment of the world. His first statement was racist, but it came from ignorance not malintent.

So, I got him some books about historically significant black people in America and in Africa. It blew his mind to find out that Africans had come to Florida around the same time that the Vikings made it to Canada; well before Columbus (on Columbus' second voyage to the new world he used African maps).

My point of this long post is to say that a person can act racistly without being a racist. In the case of many in the Republican party though, their actions are eroding whatever leeway we've given them.

lissam (#1,586)

But they do pay sales tax and other taxes in America. Am I wrong? It's not like they're getting out of here with a completely free ride. NO?

Bored (#1,111)

@lissam: what %age of your earnings vanish in federal, state and local taxes, social security contributions etc ? Imagine that the person sitting next to you made roughly the same as you but paid none of this, it would rankle, no ? Would the fact that they still paid sales tax alleviate this ?

sigerson (#179)

Actually, many "illegals" pay into Social Security without any prayer of ever collecting when they are older. So how do you think that makes them feel???

Tulletilsynet (#333)

I guess it is statistically true that the majority of people who automatically object to whatever our President does are racists, and are opposing him for racist reasons.

But I wonder whether Obama's mighty academic chops might not be an even more powerful source of resentment.

Myself, I am four or five yards to the right of Nebuchadnezzar, but after a minute or so of an Obama speech I recognize him as the Philospher Wonk King, and I bow down. Great is Caesar, he has conquered the Seven Kingdoms.


Shall I vote for the guy? Shall I sign up for his Government class? I, effete snob, answer yes and yes to those questions!

But would I feel that way if I weren't just a tad too cosily at home in the academy?

And, Balk, thanks for a very fine and actually non-strident post, but would I necessarily be a racist for not not feeling that way?

oudemia (#177)

I don't think the two things here are separable. Good god, man, we elected a black dude, and what he thinks he's better than me?
Exhibit A –Sentence from an email posted approvingly to the Corner: "Most people were sick of seeing Obama's proud face." Really, KLo correspondent, "proud face"?

Baboleen (#1,430)

I believe I have one thing in common with every American, racists and non-racists.. I am 51, don't know all of the facts re; reform, and I fear the rules, changes, fine print, etc. yet to come. My fear comes from history of those crooked in our government (Reps. and Dems., black-white, racists and otherwise,and their lobbyist friends screwing everyone but themselves.)I find myself having these internal debates about whether I want to just let go and let the Dems. have their shot at health care reform. I am historically a left leaning indiv., but on the other hand, I have perhaps a naive hope that the Prez. will fight the good fight – as he himself has said- on behalf of his personal family history- which seems to have a little bit of every man in it (excpt racist man.) Will he be able to look at himself in the mirror and say that regardless of the outcome he tried to do what is best for the country? Time will tell. I will tell, along with a whole lot of other baby-boomers- everyone I can – if I don't get what I need (not necessarily what I want)in healthcare.

Matt H (#45)

Nice piece per usual, but why apologize for "sounding strident" on something so important? Strident would be saying that these fascists are drumming up potential acts of violence.

tone77 (#1,666)

I've been saying this for a while. Its good to see someone recognizing what's going on here and putting it in print, nice job

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