Watching the NAACP and white liberals falling over themselves as they attempt to portray those of us opposed to the Obama administration as “racists” has provided plenty of fodder for thought over the past few months. But with each cry of “racism” that is hurled against the tea partiers, conservatives, independents, Republicans, middle class Americans, white people, Asians, I’ve come to realize that the charges say less about those on the receiving end of the epithet than it does for those who throw it.
Take for a moment, the NAACP - an organization that uses a term in its title that if I used it would immediately tar me as “racist”. Given its moniker I had thought the organization dead for decades; when is the last time you heard the term “colored people” used for African-Americans? But I guess NAAAA - the National Association for the Advancement of African-Americans – would sound too negative. “Ben Jealous – president of NAAAA…”
By virtue of his birth and the genetic lottery preceding it, President Barack Obama has the same color of skin as Ben Jealous and the majority of the rank and file of the NAACP. That’s about all he has in common with them. His father was Kenyan, his mother a middle class white woman, and he grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii where he was raised by his white grandmother. Yet because he has the same skin color, the NAACP has embraced Obama as one of their own.
In contrast I grew up in the American Midwest. Like most white American kids over the past seventy years, I grew up influenced by African-American culture. In my era it was the music of Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash and the Gap Band, alongside the baseball greats Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron and my boyhood hero, St. Louis Cardinal base stealing king Lou Brock. Like many of all colors Martin Luther King jr and Nelson Mandela inspired me – and still do today whether the NAACP thinks I’m racist or not.
Years later I lived in Africa, spending a lot of time in Kenya and living among the people of Tanzania. The Tanzanians taught me their language and an intense love of African music, especially soukous. The Kenyans showed me that racism exists among Africans as they identified more with their tribe than they did their nationality. The fact was later driven home by the Hutu refugee camps in Tanzania that I saw soon after the Rwandan genocide had finished. The proper term for such racism is tribalism, but the outcome – hatred, fear, death and destruction – is the same.
But none of this matters to the NAACP and the white liberal elite; I am a racist because I voted against Barack Obama and I continue to oppose his policies.
To the white liberals I become a scapegoat for the shame they bear because of their wealth. Many of them come from families that contained what we would call racists today but a century ago were simply called the well-off. So to atone for their guilt at being born white, they support liberal causes including the election of an inexperienced Chicago pol to the top office of their country. It’s a cheap way to appease their guilty consciences without giving up their expensive cars, homes and designer clothing (all made from sustainable materials of course). Condemning tea party supporters like me is just part of that appeasement that proves their intellectual superiority over others.
To the NAACP I’m just a descendant of klansmen. They don’t see me. They see a hooded figure stuffed with straw from the field of hate they have tended. They don’t hear me. All they hear is the words they imagine me saying. I’m not a person: I’m their puppet but they don’t realize they are holding the strings.
It doesn’t matter to them that half of my family were Slavs who arrived destitute at Ellis Island (after having paid all their money to the Austro-Hungarian empire to be allowed to emigrate) decades after the Civil War, or the fact that a quarter of my family were Germans who supported abolition, and that the last sliver were Irish who themselves were discriminated against. INNA isn’t just a meaningless acronym to those of us of Irish descent. They don’t consider that I grew up in a household where both parents worked, and that as a teen I was shocked to see their income tax return and learn that we were just barely above the poverty line.
No, my skin’s the wrong color and because of that everything I say or do is suspect. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are that I oppose the president: I’m a racist.
Barack Obama became a blank screen for Obama’s supporters to project all their hopes and dreams; as a white American opposed to Obama I have become a blank screen where they project all their fears and hatred.
When it comes right down to it, who does the average black person have more in common with – Barack Obama or me? If he or she answers “Barack Obama” because they share the same skin color, who is the one making judgments based on skin color? Who treasures skin color above all else? If Barack Obama was instead Barry O’Bama, Irish-American from Schaumburg, would their support be as ironclad? If not, why not?
They call me and the Tea Party I support racists, but who are the true bigots?