Friday, March 21, 2008

Race-Baiting and the Far Right: The Obscene Assault on Barack Obama

It’s both astonishing and telling that among the questions far-right pundits like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Don Feder, David Horowitz, and Ann Coulter fail to ask about Barack Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright is whether Wright isn’t in fact right with respect to some of his claims about race relations in America.

So preoccupied with the opportunity to reign in Obama’s popularity through guilt by association, so stupified with indignance at the suggestion that African Americans still face racism in “our” America, so thrilled at the possibility that McCain could beat Clinton if she’s the democratic nominee, these self-appointed profits of righteousness are tripping over each other to trash Obama.

It doesn’t matter to the pundits whether Wright’s claims are true; all they needed to be was critical of the government, or of five years in Iraq, or of the ever-widening gap between the wealthy and the poor—all they needed to be was about the racial divide that still exists in America—and it was as if they’d been handed a noose. Ugly image? You bet; as ugly as it’s true.

More than merely reprehensible, the glee with which the far right has participated in this political lynching reveals just how opportunistic the conservative-controlled media like FOX “news” really is. And worse: their remarks exemplify the very bigotry which accrues to the willful forgetting of history in the interest of insisting that the playing field has been leveled. They know it’s not, and they know we needn’t return to slavery to substantiate it—the Bush Administration’s tardy and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina’s quite convincing. Perhaps the pundits need to think that they’re victims of “reverse discrimination” to preserve the myth of their own entitlement. What’s certain is that when Sean Hannity implies that an Obama presidency is tantamount to having the Black Panther Party in the White House, he’s race-baiting.

No doubt, some of Wright’s claims are false; the Reagan administration, for example, surely lacked the competence to have created the AIDS virus to commit genocide. But the falsity of some of Wright’s claims is not the discrediting of them all, and we need look little further than our own local paper’s 30 Seconds to discover, for example, the ease with which a middle name can be deployed as a weapon when the candidate’s a black man.

It’s no accident that the firestorm over Wright comes on the brink of the Pennsylvania primary, but it’s hypocrisy at its most loathsome. John McCain accepts the endorsement of John Hagee who claims, among other absurdities, that Katrina was God’s punishment for sexual sin in New Orleans and that it’s a mandate of Islam to kill Christians ( Why aren’t the pundits condemning McCain? Is Hagee’s hateful god their god? Is it irrelevant whether Wright speaks truth to justice so long as the party of war, government corporatism, and religious fascism remains in power?

Whoever your candidate come April 22nd, Obama’s eloquent response to this calculated assault on his character exemplifies not what a Hagee or Coulter would do, but rather what a Jesus would do, namely, decency. Rising above the race-baiting, Obama spoke of his church’s ministry to the poor; he spoke as if we cared about justice; he spoke of his family, his pastor, his country. Obama knows as well as do his critics that what he represents is an America whose face isn’t one color, one religion, one language, one sex, and this must scare the “begeebers” out of those who think they’re discriminated against when they don’t get to have it all.

Wendy Lynne Lee

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