Friday, September 02, 2011

black resentment and Obama

I suspect this is right (in regards to Boehner's unprecedented refusal to let the president schedule his jobs speech when he chooses):
When Boehner does something like this (that no previous Speaker has done to any previous President), when he refuses to return the President's phone call during the debt ceiling crisis, when he skips state dinners, when he refuses to definitely say that he believes the President was born in the US or is a Christian, or when Boehner coddles a member of his caucus who shout "you lie" during a Presidential address, etc one certain thing happens - black Americans notice it.

African-Americans are especially sensitive to the unprecedented disrespect that white Republicans have afforded to the first black President. Every time it happens, it ripples across black radio, black newspapers, black websites, and in conversations in black communities. It helps cement the ties that Obama has with the black community, and helps overcome whatever doubts and disappoints some may have. It reminds people who have experienced overt racism in their own lives that the President is experiencing the same kind of dehumanizing disrespect. It will help drive strong African-American turnout and overwhelming numbers for Obama next year.

Political pundits may gossip about the rift between Boehner and Obama, but millions of black Americans see something much more sinister when this happens.

And frankly, black people would be right to be sensitive about this stuff. There are numerous motivations for these myriad slights -- power politics, hyperpartisanship, Boehner's own relative political weakness and Cantor standing behind him, garrote at the ready -- but racism is definitely part of the mixture as well. The tropes of the black stereotype surface far too often.

On the other hand, it is true that sometimes calculated disrespect isn't race-related. I'd be willing to wager a nontrivial amount of money that at some point in next year's debates, the Republican nominee (especially if it's the dim-witted Perry or tin-eared Romney) will make a too-cute reference to Ronald Reagan by calling President Obama "Senator" to his face. It won't be racially motivated, but the black community will raise hell.*

*As well they should. In a sense, Rick Perry's motivation won't matter; the image of a white southern conservative governor refusing to recognize the legitimacy of a sitting black president, to his face, takes on its own meaning.

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