When I sat down to my computer Monday morning to write about the racial overtones in some of the anti-Obama protesters, I had not read Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times. All weekend, I had been wrestling with the question of whether or not to raise the issue of racism and tried to communicate my ambivalence about it in my blog post. Obviously, not all opposition to Obama is racist. But, some of it is and it behooves those on the right, and especially those in the GOP and conservatives, to remove the racist cancer from their ranks before it taints them.

This morning’s Post has an obituary for Elizabeth "Beth" Rickey who died last Friday at age 53. Miss Rickey was a Republican activist in Louisiana. She was elected to the Republican State Central Committee at age 32 and it was there that she served her party and the country by urging her colleagues to censure a fellow Republican who had come out of nowhere to nab a seat in the state legislature: David Duke. They declined, and Mr. Duke went on to run for governor but Miss Rickey’s work exposing Duke neo-Nazi ties and his denial of the Holocaust was not in vain and in the general election, Duke garnered only 38.8% of the vote. Yes, you read that correctly – 38.8% did vote for a Holocaust-denying neo-Nazi.

The conservative movement and the GOP need more Beth Rickeys right now. First we had the "birthers," those who persistently question, without a shred of evidence and in the face of much counter-evidence, that President Obama was not born in the United States and is not, therefore, a "legitimate" president. Then, we had those who showed up at presidential events carrying guns and those who showed up at town meetings accusing Obama of pursuing socialism or, as the woman at Barney Frank’s town hall meeting thought, pursuing "Nazi policies." And, then we have the comments of the protesters, no matter how many they are, that seem remarkably concerned with the Seventeenth Amendment and have decided, all of a sudden, that now is the time to march on Washington. Whether these yahoos are racist, or whether they really, really are concerned with the Seventeenth Amendment, I just don’t see how it is in the interest of the GOP not to expel them. Evil or Kooky? That is not a choice. That was not Beth Rickey’s choice.

In addition to the criticism from the usual fringe websites that my post received, it appears other news outlets saw what I saw last Saturday: racist overtones. What is astounding is the patheticness of the responses to such a serious concern. Some have focused on the size of the crowd to show liberal bias in the media. The press reported that Saturday’s TeaBaggers number 60-70,000 but the organizers claimed more than a million attended. Alas, the photo they released to bolster their claims, which showed the entire Mall in Washington filled with people, was from an earlier rally, as evidenced by the fact that the photo did not have a museum built in 2002 in it.

My favorite reply is on the blog at the Weekly Standard (There blog does not permit a direct link, so find Tuesday's posts and scroll down). There, Mary Katherine Ham takes on a Washington Post story that focused on the racial aspect of the protest. The article noted that a "Black Family Reunion" was also being held on the Mall and that many of the white TeaBaggers walked past the black group and some TeaBaggers even stopped at the booths to get some food. Ham writes: "It would seem that the peaceful coexistence and even—gasp!—commingling of these two events on the national Mall might reassure the reporter and all involved of the ability of Americans of different races and political viewpoints to, well, peacefully coexist." Miss Ham might be surprised to know that it was not uncommon for blacks and whites to "commingle" in the Jim Crow South. She might be surprised to know that the Rev. Jerry Falwell had a black nanny, hung out privately with the black custodian at his school, and enjoyed the company of the black man who made the molasses on the family farm, all relatively intimate encounters and relationships that existed within the framework of the legal and social disenfranchisement of blacks. Peaceful coexistence my tush! Is this the Weekly Standard’s "BBQ Standard for Racism?" If you eat my BBQ you must not be a racist? Please.

Most of those who oppose the President are not racists. Not all who opposed President Bush were conspiracy theorists who believed the government was behind 9/11. Most Louisiana Republicans are not neo-Nazis. But, it behooves those with legitimate concerns to ostracize those who motives are darker and more dangerous. Democracies depend upon a robust loyal opposition and I always look forward to arguing politics with my conservative friends. But, there is no arguing with birthers or racists and, sadly, you have to be blind not to see that there are, as I suggested, racist overtones in some of the more vocal of President Obama’s critics.

Comments

Anonymous | 9/23/2009 - 3:41am
I am a lifetime personal friend and political ally of Beth Rickey. Her life is a testament that a person can stand up and fight bigotry and hate and still be a Ronald Reagan conservative. I don't think Beth would see opponents of Obama as racists. The tea party movement is not a republican organized movement or a racist one but a genuine grassroots uprising. Responsible Americans realize that one more entitlement and a third one in health care will bust America forever. Obama is a self proclaimed socialist who is running from his past. He did in fact join a socialist party at one time.
Washington is on a collision course with the American people and the contact and screeches of painful collision  have began  and are now becoming audible and the decibel level is rising quickly. No longer will the American people, who pay for this financial folly, turn their heads as Washington politicians represent their money and not their constituents and strap living Americans and unborn generations with debt that we will never repay.
Anonymous | 9/17/2009 - 7:53pm
James the C:
I'm sure that THAT NCR will be very happy to take your subscription.
Now get over it and stop kvetching about opinions in a publication that, ipso facto, doesn't not agree with yours.
We won't miss your presence.  Or, as the intrepid John McLaughlin says on PBS:
"Bye bye, now!"
Anonymous | 9/17/2009 - 11:54am
This particular article, like much of America Magazine, is unoriginal and not very thoughtful.  Poor job all around.  There are so many fallacies of arugmentation, I don't know where to begin...
Anonymous | 9/17/2009 - 9:38am
The proposed health care plan is not going to help the American people live better... it is going to force them to die sooner. What I mean is that this plan is geared to abort as many babies from the less fortunate as possible. Planned Parenthood is known for their genocide on the African American people. [url=http://www.catholicfemina.com/2009/06/plan-parenthood-initiating-voluntary.html]http://www.catholicfemina.com/2009/06/plan-parenthood-initiating-voluntary.html[/url] So in fact speaking out against the evils of this health care plan is anti-racist; because the promotrs of this plan want to see the end of these children. I have 2 children, I sought the best medical attention available. I was treated with respect and so was my unborn child... no one ever suggested abortion to me. A friend who was expecting shortly after me was not financially stable and used a medicare plan, the first option presented to her was abortion because she was near poverty level. I understand that we both had good health backgrounds, married, over 23, and the only difference between us was that I had more money than my friend so our experiences with pregnancy were different. Obama's plan is to limit the people who have less from reproducing, because it costs the government money. The same with elderly, if it costs the government money... they will want to spend less to lower taxes so the elderly are encouraged to die. [url=http://www.catholicfemina.com/2009/07/qaly-in-health-care-equation-for-death.html]http://www.catholicfemina.com/2009/07/qaly-in-health-care-equation-for-death.html[/url] There is nothing racists in wanting to defend life, and anyone who believes that the sole purpose of this health care plan is to save life has not read the bill and is completely ignorant.
Anonymous | 9/17/2009 - 3:43am
Lets talk about racism. Lets connect the dots and point to the Eugenics movement, Margaret Sanger, and her efforts to eliminate blacks and other minorities. Lets talk about Planned Parenthood, an organization that will take money donated so long as the money is used to abort black babies. Ask yourself if the so called white progressive intellectual is not the most racist of all the various varieties of stupid people.
Simply because I think that Obama's approach to government is wrong does not imply anythign racial. In fact for you and others to focus on that subject as opposed to the issue at hand betrays a certain closet racism on your part. I thought we were past all this racist stuff. After all the country elected a black president. Does that not mean something? So when a majority oppose this government expansion into our lives, perhaps racism has nothing to do with it.  Oh, I am sure that you can find a few nuts in every demonstration. But why does it only flow one way in your book? There are plenty of bigots up in Boston. Why not show them to be stupid? There are plenty of racists in Washington. D.C. So what. Lets focus on the issues and stop the name calling. Unless of coaurse you think that becasue i oppose you I am a racist.  Why don't you first watch MAAFA 21, the documentary. Then lets talk about racism. www.maafa21.com  "Abortion is black genocide.'' - Jesse Jackson 1977.
Anonymous | 9/17/2009 - 8:06am
Without question there are individual of both parties who oppose President Obama on ad hominem, rascist grounds.  What IS in question happens to be the number of those individuals.  While you make a protest that we need to call them out and correct them, you go on to assault all in opposition whose argument you do not understand, or accept.  In your third paragraph list of the types of protestors, you fail to make any connection whatsoever to the rascist nature of their claims.  You then go on to make your own ad hominem attacks (yahoo, teabagger) which do nothing to make your argument.  In fact the latter comment seems to lack such charity and propiety that I find it ASTOUNDING that it is tolerated on an official Jesuit site.
I am willing to listen and even be persuaded by an effective argument, but in this case and your main column, you utterly fail to even marshall facts to support the rascist overtones of your claims.  So far my friend, it only sounds like so many red herrings.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 8:48pm
I think you must have lost your mind!  Conservatives are racist because we are vocally opposed to Obama?  Here we go again with the same old Olinsky song and dance.  Leave it to a liberal to sling mud when they can't logically or morally defend the issues promoted by their own party.  I could go on and on about the reasons I oppose Obama and none of them have anything to do with his skin color.  Race is irrelevant.  The race card has been hurled about instead of logically talking about the issues for far too long in this presidency, and quite frankly, people are sick to death of it. 
I oppose Obama because he favors killing babies in their mother's womb and because he associates with people who believe that babies aren't real people even after they are born because they aren't "self aware".  I am from his bankrupt state and I know about his views and the results of those views very well.  I oppose Obama because he and his political colleagues attack people who oppose them with personal mud flinging by calling them racists and nazis and other ignorant, childish names.  I oppose Obama because it's a fact that he lies about his own healthcare plan...unless he also "hasn't read it yet".  I oppose him because he spends like there is no tomorrow and because my generation will have to pay for it.  I oppose Obama because he associates with and he is in principle and policy, a Marxist...yes, a Marxist...read the Communist Manifesto for pete sake!  I oppose Obama because the press won't question him over any of his hair-brained ideas because they are biased beyond repair. 
To drag David Duke into this is just plain stupid and out of touch with reality.  My kids pull this stuff when they get cornered as well.  They say, "Well, so-and-so did x!" Just to justify their guilt.  It doesn't get them anywhere with me either.  Look to your own party first, and then you might eventually have the moral superiority to point fingers and condemn others.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 4:10pm
Good riddance to her.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 2:07pm
While more subtle than playing the racism trump card and calling them all bigots, referring to protesters as ''Teabaggers'' is just another attempt to ridicule the protests. It is a strategy right out of the Keith Olberman/MSNBC playbook and embarrassingly juvenile here. I only hope you weren't giggling as you typed it. Appalling.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 1:36pm
Of course it's not all racism. But part of it is, and it's usually a vocal part. And its practitioners do not even realize that in the process of denial, they establish the point. Here in New Orleans, there is a local conservative talk radio station, the best-rated radio in town. Its hosts, both national and local, all like to say, "Can't we move beyond racism, what's wrong with these people", but then 10 minutes later they are playing Jesse Jackson spoofs or magic Negro comments or replaying some African-American ranting about something or other, just to put on display the dialect used, so we can snicker about it (and reinforce to the station's core listeners, "Don't worry, we really are racist, but aren't we clever in keeping them from nailing us down on it"). The leaders of right-wing conservatism, who are really just shills for the tax-cutters and the corporations, encourage the racism of the vocal fringe as a way to convey to the larger public, many of whom think they are free of racist attitudes but are not, that it's okay to think the way they do because they are not as bad as a overt racists.  It's just more "us vs. them".   
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 12:56pm
Mr Gleason,
Yes, that may indeed be the battle cry. But the sotto voce will be, rather, "a radical stole it," not "a black man stole it."
That is my whole point. White-on-minority racism is the unforgivable sin in american public life, and accusations of it should not be bantered around lightly, even if the impact of the charge might score you some cheap political points or make you feel liek you can therefore dismiss your opposition.
Indeed, even if one undermines his ethos, even if a huge percentage of Obama detractors were racist (which they are, in fact, not), such a person's disagreements with Demoncratic plans based on the merits thereof, stand. If he objects because a black man proposed the idea, ignore him, if he objects because he disagrees with the plan, his concerns (being shared by so many others, racist or no) need answered.
But, in fact, the corporate position of objectors disagree on grounds of ideals or positions as to what is the most prudent way to solve the nation's problems; they are not concerned by race.
I an grasp how an long-oppressed minority can feel some pride that one of their own is president. And that is great, and they have every right to feel proud. But I think that we won't truly be free of the paranoia of bigotry until the first X Y or Z official of this or that sort is no more than a trivia answer outside the group of which he is a member (and extra points if even that group is proud, but not really whooping still over their "victory"), even if it is restrospective. eg President Kennedy was a big deal because he was Catholic; now, it really is only an interesting factoid.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 3:26pm
What are these "fringe" websites you mention? Would my website count? I have a larger readership than you, so what is your definition of "fringe"?
I would love to see a response to the arguments proposed by mine and other "fringe" websites.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 12:30pm
It's racism...wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
Racism (Wikipedia)...
[QUOTE] The concept that discrimination can be based on "race" presupposes the existence of "race" itself. However, the US Government's Human Genome Project has announced that the most complete mapping of human DNA to date indicates that there is no distinct genetic basis to racial types.  Based on this evidence, "racial characteristics" logically cannot exist either.
According to the Human Genome Project, skin color does exist as a matter of science.  So, that which is commonly referred to as "racism" could be more scientifically referred to as "skin color-aroused discrimination". The term "skin-color aroused discrimination" has the benefit that it is based on verifiable science, is not based on disproved notions of science, and does not perpetuate a false belief in the disproved concept of biological "race".  [END QUOTE]
So, the irony here is that, except for appearance, we are all members of one ane only one "race" and biological "race" doesn't even exist. 
Who wants to explain that to the birthers/deathers/tenthers/haters/AK-47 totin'/Right-Wing Authoritarian follower/Glenn Beck lovin' "motivated reasoners"?
 
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 11:42am
Michael, if you have evidence that a sizable portion of the Tea Party (not  the vulgar term"teabagger") crowd had racist motives, let's see the evidence. If you have nothing but your own biases and PRESUMPTIONS to go on - with non-sequitur anecdotes from Louisiana to boot - then perhaps you ought to re-examine your premise of "rampant racism needing to be rooted out" by the Right.
One side note. You ARE aware, surely, that "Teabagger" is a vulgar sexual term and not how the protest movement refers to itself, right? If not, it is, and a responsible journalist (to say nothing of Catholic) ought to refrain from such childishness. If so, and you choose to use the term anyway.....well, that's a shame.
But the claim is the Right is full of racists. And "proof" comes to us not from any actual statement but from presupposition, anecdotes about Louisiana, or how the Democratic Jim Crow Southerners mixed with black folk....the idea being "similarity is identity" so the absence of racism on the Mall is....evidence of racism on the Mall!
Here's a thought experiment for you: If Democrats and liberals in general are so anti-racism, so noble minded and mature and 'beyond race' then why, pray tell, do cities like Detroit, Washington DC, and elsewhere, where black democrats are the majority, elect only fellow Black Mayors? If it's racism for whites to vote for other whites, why is it not racism for blacks to only vote for fellow blacks?
If it was racist for White Conservatives to vote for McCain in 2008, was it racist for White Liberals to choose your white candidates over Jackson or Sharpton in elections past? See the double standard?  
If your side is so beyond judging people by the color of their skin....then why are you such proponents of continued "affirmative action"? Where do most 'minorities' live in this country? Why, that's right! In urban centers run almost exclusively by....Democrats. Who runs the K-post grad education system in this country? Conservative whites? No! Liberals, for the most part. So why - this being the case - is it just assumed that black kids can't possibly get ahead without preferential treatment....unless you really think they're inferior despite having every advantage politically with Democrats running every social bureaucracy and urban center and Liberals running the public school system?
If black kids can't be expected to match up to Asians and Whites on the SAT, wouldn't this be a damning indictment against the largely Liberal run public schools rather than proof of "racism"? I think so. Apparently the teachers' Union doesn't and so liberals turn off their brain and just assume their Public schools are insuperable, but darn it, the poor black kids just can't possibly compete with whites and asians because of race! How is that not racism?
How people refer to themselves among friends says much more than how they present themselves for the general population. Well, what do we see Democrats doing when talking about each other? Do we see color blind 'code words'? No. We see them refering to each other according to racial, gender, class, and social categories - as though the determining factor for politics is not ideology or policy position but race, sex, and class..... how is this not racism?
How does one examine this phenomena and NOT conclude that Democrats are obsessed with race all while claiming it's everyone ELSE that's got a problem?
Conservatives have substantial reasons for being opposed to Obama's policies. Calling everything 'racism' and presuming innocence for your side and guilt for the other side is no way to be a mature adult seeking a civilized outcome in the public square.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 11:36am
Here are few reasons why this racism line of argument is a losing one for Democrats (from a Twenty-something year old White Southerner):
1. Its inconsistent.  In one breath you say ''We all know the majority of the President's critics aren't racists, and we know that those racist critics are a small group'' but in the next breath you say ''You non-racist critics have to immediately disavow the admitted small fringe racists if you want to be taken seriously.''  Now, why, if ''we'' all know the racist critics are small do non-racist critics of the President have to disavow them before the Democrats take any arguments seriously?  That dog won't hunt.
2. Its hypocritical.  Republicans endured eight years of every sort of smear and smirch against George W. Bush from various and sundry left-wing fringe groups.  You couldn't watch a CSPAN Congressional hearing on the price of tea in China without seeing those Code Pink nutcases in the background yelling and screaming their heads off.  Did you go to any anti-war rallies?  They were filled with some of the most vile and hateful things and images you can imagine.  Yet no one said ''you must disavow the most idiotic Left-wingers who are a very small part of Bush's critics before your arguments are taken seriously.''  What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
3. Its politically stupid.  This point can be broken down into different points.  First, it just seems like you're crying over spilt milk.  When he wins the election, its a great day in America overcoming its racist past; when a majority criticize him, its back, as one Congressman yesterday said on CNN, to the days of men in white hoods riding through the countryside on horseback.  REALLY?!?!  Is that really what we think is happening?  If we do, what does that say about how we really view the horrors of racism?  More importantly, Democrats, who are already deeply unpopular with independents, risk turning them off even more by lumping them in with racists, real or imagined.  Instead of suspecting your critics of racism, try doing a better job of selling your ideas.  Seems to me that's what's breaking down here.  Finally, its elitist.  Maureen Dowd raising the racisim issue? From Park Avenue?  
4. Its wrong.  I live in the Deep South, although I am young enough not to have experienced the racism of the 60s and 70s.  Its just not fair or right to continue to evoke that time period against successively younger generations of Southerners for whatever reason.  Of my white Southern friends who voted, we were split 50-50 for and against Obama (and ALL agreed his election was a good thing for the country).  NONE of us who did not vote for him did so because of his race and I can tell you that race had NOTHING to do with those who did vote for him and are now very critical of him.  I was taught by my family and my Church (16 total years of Catholic education) not to be racist.  I've never met a Klansmen.  My family didn't vote for David Duke.  But it gets really old anytime you object to Liberal policies to get clobbered over the head with the ''racist'' claim and the imagery of a bygone (thankfully) era evoked in the case of poltical disagreements.  More importantly, living in New Orleans post-Katrina, its really sad to see that the net results of liberal policies (New Orleans has a majority black political structure) is deeper poverty, higher crime, and more hopelessness for many black people.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 11:28am
...pretty damned unoriginal, Mr. Winters.
Playing the tattered racist card is a certain sign of the left wing's lack of confidence in Barack's socialized health care's ability to carry the day on its own merit.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 2:43pm
Maybe people are concerned about federalism now because of the massive expansion of the federal government.  This is as much about Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman (or at least their view of America) as it is about race.
People who have been sold for years (30+ now) that government can do no good are now seeing government trying to do more and more.
 
Interesting, when Alan Keyes was running against Obama for senate in '04, he argued that direct election of senators should be abolished.  My guess is that some guest on Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck made that argument, and suddenly many of their followers started repeating it.  A little foolish, perhaps, but not racist.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 10:06am
Former president Jimmy Carter says a substantial part of the Obama opposition is racist. but what does a former Gov. oF Georgia know about racism? 'I want my America back' [sotto voce...a black man stole it].. Will this be the Republican battle cry in the 2010 elections?
 
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 9:54am
You are right. There are racist people, they still exist. However, the default position so many in the media and on the left are taking, that opposition to the Presdident is always and everywhere racist in charachter is simply not true. Yes, those who hate blacks oppose President Obama. That does not however mean that those who oppose the President are therefore racists, and the majority of his opposition are not racists.
Whether or not the President is black, white, or heliotrope, the vast majority of people would still support or oppose his plans, and those of his party in Congress, based on their merit and the values the people belive that government should act in accordance with.
People on the left are crying wolf with claiming widespread racism, entirely found on the Right, is the motivating reason for their opposition to the Democratic plans for America (since, who would question the teachings and revelation of the messiah in chief and his apostles unless they were blinded by  racism?). They should be careful, some day somone will actually do or say somthing racist, and people will ignore the outcry.
Anonymous | 9/17/2009 - 10:06am
''* The opinions expressed here are those of our contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of America magazine.''
Yes they do...just one more reason to subscribe to the National Catholc Register.