Who Can (and Can't) Call Out Campaign Racism?
Nona Willis Aronowitz
In case you havent noticed, theres been a good amount of racial animosity underlining this election season, and its been ramping up in the past few weeks. Theres Romneys constant focus on entitlements and his demonstrably false claim that Obama has gutted Clinton-era welfare reform. A video on the Drudge report shows a recording of a black woman saying she'll vote for Obama because of her free "Obama phone" (referring to a federal program unrelated to the elections that George W. Bush started). Another showed new footage of Obama in 2007 praising Rev. Jeremiah Wrighta quote already spotlighted during the 2008 electons. Newt Gingrich recently went on Fox News and said Obama was "not a real president," calling out his enthusiasm for basketball and alluding to how much rest he needs. The thread extends to FLOTUS, too; a month ago, an old lady in Virginia complained [i]ts about time we get a First Lady in there who acts like a First Lady and looks like a First Lady. A First Lady who looks like the ones whove come before her.
As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the Republicans have been busy going down a list of bingo terms for incendiary racial stereotypesall they have left to do to is find a video of Obama dancing to gangsta rap. And throughout it all, the Obama campaign has ignored itmuch in the way they ignored the racially tinged rhetoric from 2008 and the emails depicting the president with a bone through his nose and pretty much every other racist insinuation since before he was elected. He finally released his birth certificate after birtherism reached a fever pitch, but no finger-wagging about its bigoted implications. Too much of the country think Obama is unlike the rest of us, as Gingrich described in the same Fox News interview. The Obama administration isn't willing to take the risk of stirring up the pot and addressing racism directly.
But contrast this with the ease in which Republicans have called out racism in the 2012 campaign. Rep. Allen West, who once said to my face that institutional racism in the United States is gone, was quick to point out the racial undertones of an August campaign ad showing a cartoon West punching two white women. Mia Love also felt perfectly free to condemn racist hatemail sent to her office in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Lets also not forget how speedily Republicans pounced when Joe Biden, borrowing from Paul Ryans shackle rhetoric, said that Republicans policies would put yall back in chains to a heavily black audience.
Theres nothing more frustrating than witnessing feigned, opportunistic outrage at bigotry from the same groups who regularly serve it up, while others feel forced to stay quiet. It happens with sexism, too. Conservatives passionately came to Sarah Palins defense when she was subjected to sexist attacks during the 2008 elections, but have accused everyone from Hillary Clinton to Sandra Fluke of spinning imaginary misogyny. I hardly expect Obama's campaign to come out and accuse the Republican party of leaning on racism, especially after the president's first debate performance confirmed he is completely unwilling to bring the feist. So we should do it instead, and call out these moments for what they are: blatant attempts to inflame Americas deepest racial fears.