Starita Smith: Don’t make Obama target of prejudice

August 14, 2013 

The hatred of President Barack Obama has got to stop. It has little to do with his policies. It is so visceral and ingrained that reason will not dispel it and time has not eroded it. And no matter how much people claim that racism is dead, it is alive and viciously kicking.

At a rodeo in Missouri in early August, a clown in an Obama mask encouraged the crowd to cheer for a bull to run him over. And cheer they did in an embarrassing display of bloodlust toward a sitting president.

Earlier this summer in Phoenix, protesters greeted Obama by singing "Bye, Bye, Black Sheep" and brandishing signs that said "Impeach the Half-White Muslim." Ted Nugent, a rocker and a board member of the National Rifle Association, has made wild and ugly accusations against Obama and has followed those up with veiled threats.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, claimed in a radio appearance on Aug. 12 that "this president, this administration has done more to stir up racial tension and violence than any administration since, you know, the '60s." And the "birther movement" is not dead, even though Obama has been elected twice and proven that he is a citizen of the United States.

Meanwhile, the haters in the tea party are on the loose. They claim that their rage is not based on Obama's race, but what else could it be? His very existence incites their fury and resentment.

There are not many times when Obama has used his position as president to talk about the racism he faced as a black man, as he did in his recent statements about racial profiling.

When he does talk about race, people of color are heartened that the man at the top understands them as no president has before. We recognize the racism he faces for what it is. Conservatives decry discussing race and tell you they refuse to engage in "identity politics" as if they are being noble and above it all.

But much of politics has always been, and will continue to be, about "identity politics." To be effective, a politician has to know who lives in his district. And much of politics turns on how to redress the immoral treatment that groups of people have received in this country.

It is time for an honest dialogue on race that doesn't look the other way at racist statements, notions and overt activities. With all the legitimate issues we face, we shouldn't be held hostage by racism.

Smith is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Email: pmproj@progressive.org.

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