Let's face it--this is what it's come to. No one on the right dare say it out loud. To enunciate it would be to admit something shameful, something flawed. But, there is a tangible sense of racially-based fear and mistrust present with Tea Party activists that the Republicans have seized upon and seemingly seek to exacerbate.
DTN seems to be the message resonating throughout the right-wing blogosphere, the Tea Party rallies, conservative talk radio and certainly Fox News. Early on, even when a great majority of Americans watched with pride as the first African-American rose to the highest office in the land, there seemed to be a concerted effort to thwart those positive feelings and stir the fear, mistrust and, in some cases, hatred still lingering in the minds of some white Americans.
Glenn Beck, the right-wing mouthpiece currently hosting one of television's top-rated political news/commentary hours, began his DTN campaign soon after Obama's inauguration with a virulent, factually unfounded, assault on the President's supposed "hatred" of white people. Watch one of Beck's initial forays into disseminating his message in the video below:
It's funny how a man who's half white and half black, raised by his white mother and white grandparents, who had very little contact with his Kenyan father before his death, is suddenly an angry, white-hating black. The take-away: don't feel bad white America for feeling animosity toward this black man. He hates you, too!
And, it's important to note that Glenn Beck is not some crackpot operating on the periphery. He is watched nightly by some 3 million Americans. In the recent New York Times/CBS News poll of Tea Party activists, more people held favorable opinions of Glenn Beck than any other public figure mentioned. They listen to him and they trust what he says. If he tells his audience that Obama hates white people, there are a tremendous number of them that will come away believing just that.
So, it should come to no surprise that in that same New York Times/CBS News poll, a majority of Tea Party folk believe way too much has been made of the problems facing black people and one out of four people polled think that Obama's policies favor blacks over whites.
But, the DTN campaign is certainly not limited to pundits and talkers. Elected officials and former office holders perpetuate this message daily. Just this last weekend, former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, speaking at a Tea Party rally in South Carolina referred to Michelle Obama's statement that Kenya is Obama's homeland by saying, "If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don't we just send him back?" Having grown up in Texas, I was exposed to plenty of racist epithets and ideas and the "send them back to Africa" notion is a staple.
At a Tea Party rally last Thursday, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) asserted that the Obama administration was a "gangster" government taking over private companies at their whim. The question is whether or not she meant "gangster" in the cool, Tony Soprano sort of way or did she mean "gangsta" as in the "black man committing crimes in the street" variety?
Either way, the message is not one of policy debate or about disagreeing with the way an administration leads the country. The message conveyed posits President Obama as a criminal running a criminal organization, a group of thugs operating outside the law.
As much as we might like to believe we've grown up a bit over the last fifty years with regard to racial attitudes, unfortunately, there is a latent seed of xenophobia within "white" America that can be easily roused. Fear of the "other" is a natural, "reptile brain" reaction that requires sympathetic consideration in order to overcome. Conversely, this same fear can be agitated to the point of boiling over and easily manipulated.
So far, we've seen Obama portrayed as a monkey in the conservative New York Post, the mayor of Los Alamitos California resigned after distributing a picture of watermelons growing on the White House lawn and a delighted Rush Limbaugh played on his radio a song parody of Puff, the Magic Dragon entitled, Barack the Magic Negro.
He may be the President, but he will never be white. And, its easy to mistrust people that aren't like you.
Is he an American? Is he African-American? Is he an African posing as an American? Does he hate white people? Does he hate me? Is he a Muslim? A socialist? A baby killer? Will he take away my guns? My freedom? My Medicare?
All good reasons to guard against misplacing your trust. As we all know, black people steal from whites.
Soon after Obama won the election, a rallying cry began to ring out from white people all over this country. From the town hall meetings to the flash of Fox News television it was heard, a full-throated roar--I want my country back! It's a sentiment that lives on strongly among Tea Party activists today. But, it begs the question: From whom do you want your country? Who took it from you in the first place?
They want it out of the hands of a man they don't trust. A black man they don't trust. Of course, a majority of Americans trusted him enough to elect him President, but that doesn't seem to matter now.
I was raised in the south and I know what racism is. I know racism when I see it and I know it when I hear it. And, every time the Republicans get in front of a Tea Party mob, an underlying tone of mistrust pierces through the din of angry shouts and the message is clear. Tea Party people will never admit and I would asserts that many of them are not aware of it. It's subconscious, cultural. Generational. But, it's there and it's palpable and it's real. DTN.