Updated April 8, 2013
Last month, I ran across a story about a young white woman’s racist rant against President Obama. The incident got under my skin so bad that I made a promise. Since we’re coming up on the New Year, you could call it one of my New Year’s resolutions.
This 20-something-year-old from Turlock is part of a growing group of Americans who engage in digital-era racism. Right after Obama was re-elected, she called him the N-word and said that she wouldn’t mind if he got assassinated—not in a private text to one of her friends, but right there on Twitter. Needless to say, she got the backlash she deserved.
The part that gets me riled up is that the Turlock Twitter incident is by no means the first openly racist act against our country’s first black president. This stuff has been going on since he first got elected (and even before then). My promise in 2013 is to document all of the hate that gets lodged at Obama in hopes that people will recognize that we can’t possibly be living in a post-racial society when the most powerful person in our country is the target of the kind of blatant racism we used to see back during the Reconstruction period.
Let’s begin with Obama Waffles.
In September 2008, at the annual Value Voter Summit, these two conservative entrepreneurs decided that it would be funny to sell a box of breakfast food emblazoned with a minstrel caricature of a bug-eyed, toothy Obama next to a plate of Eggo waffles.
On one side of the box, the Obama cartoon had on a turban next to the text, “Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles.” The box also came with a “recipe rap” titled, “Barry’s Bling Bling Waffle Ring.”
I’m glad that people got upset about this racist incident and scrambled that business plot like some eggs. What still doesn’t sit right with me, however, is the fact that the folks running the Value Voter Summit didn’t bother to stop the guys behind the Obama Waffles before they stepped in the building with their boxes full of racism.
Back in 2008, a Southern California Republican Party women’s organization debuted a picture in its newsletter of what the group called “Obama Bucks.” The fake $10 bill featured an Obama caricature, KFC fried chicken, BBQ ribs, the Kool-Aid Man and watermelon. Doesn’t get any more racist than that.
And what was the response from the white woman who was president of the organization? The typical obliviousness that has become common among those who cast aspersions at our first black president. “I didn’t see it the way that it’s being taken. I never connected. It was just food to me,” the woman said when questioned about the racist imagery.
Remember all the hype about President Obama’s birth certificate? An Orange County Tea Party activist thought it would be funny to send an email to her group that included a photo of a family of monkeys with Obama’s face over the child. The woman behind the email described it as a harmless joke meant to make light of all the birther attacks that kept questioning whether Obama really was born in America.
The woman’s response? “In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race. We all know a double standard applies regarding this president. I received plenty of emails about George Bush that I didn’t particularly like, yet there was no ‘cry’ in the media about them,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times. There it was again: denial.
In 2008, when the anti-Obama racism was at its peak, the New Yorker magazine—known for its satire—thought it would be provocative to publish a cover featuring an illustration making fun of the rumors, innuendos and lies that people believed about the president and First Lady Michelle Obama (Did you really have to give Michelle the Angela Davis afro? I mean, come on.).
This episode was interesting because it showed that white people can be racist even when try not to be. The editors of the magazine were shooting for satire, but instead all they got was the ire of the American public who could sense the racism from a mile away from the newsstand. I wonder if anyone from the New Yorker has ever seen “Ethnic Notions.”
I saw a few people in the Bay Area riding around with these bumper stickers during the 2012 election. They read: “Don’t Re-Nig In 2012.” Nice one racists. Forget all that innuendo stuff that folks previously tried to get away with. You just went ahead and said, “Yeah, I don’t like black people, especially powerful black people, and I’m beyond denying that anymore.”
There are plenty of episodes like these that have been happening since President Obama got elected, which means I’ll most likely have more to say in the future. My point is this: With all this hate flying around, it serves as a constant reminder that our country still doesn’t know how to deal with the racism that is embedded in our culture (and everyone is not a racist, let me just add).
It’s almost like we need a color-coded alert system similar to what Homeland Security did with its terrorist alert meter that keeps the American people abreast of the constant threat of racism. For a while, we thought that the threat was just at green. Then Obama came along, and the alert started inching toward red. Now that he’s in the Oval Office, it’s been on red for quite some time. As Americans, we’re just scared to admit it.