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September 16th, 2009
10:39 AM ET

Too Often, We're Mute On Race

Petula Dvorak
Washington Post

We will never know if Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) would have screamed "You lie!" at a white president. Or if Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. would have been arrested at his home if he were white. Or if the parents who feared that President Obama was going to deliver a political address to America's schoolchildren would have felt the same way if Hillary Rodham Clinton or John McCain were giving that speech. Or if the tens of thousands of overwhelmingly white protesters on the Mall on Saturday would have assembled against a president who looked more like them.

Many black people, who have endured experiences I can't begin to imagine, would say the answer to those questions is painfully obvious.

"Take a look at the Joe Wilson incident. There are a number of members on the Democratic side who believe George W. Bush should have been in prison, that he is a criminal, yet they didn't disrespect him that way," said Michael Fauntroy, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who specializes in race relations. "The disrespect that's going on with President Obama has race woven into it."

The overtones of race are crackling in the air whether it's a controversy over politics or pop culture.

Read more...

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Val

    Lets face it, President Obama is and always will be a stand up man. Your right, He can handle the pressure. No matter what is said or done to him (President Obama), he has the coolest composer. That is why he is the President of the United States. His focus is this country and its economy, health care, war, education,ect.

    There is no small minds in racism–just ignorance.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:42 pm |
  2. Jose (Rochester New York)

    Winston Roy says he calls it as he see it, that race is only an issue when the race card is use.....Thank God no one else can see through his eyes.

    September 16, 2009 at 8:27 pm |
  3. Alexis H

    I believe it is everyone's right to freedom of speech. If you are not happy with your President , you should be able to voice your opinion. But please don't be fooled into thinking that everyone in the tea party is there because they are unhappy with government. They have another agenda.

    As I stated before , the President is a big boy he can handle the pressure. I'm just embarassed that we are no longer civilized in our actions.

    September 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  4. Larry

    Racism got obama elected.

    September 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Tonya

    President Obama walk into this messed up economy and everything else that's messed up in Washington! He didn't create this mess he's only asking that we come together to make things right! The behaviors some white people are exhibiting are racist! Some people can possibly understand what it feels like to be degraded because of the color of your skin. I say we are all Gods people let's learn to love one another!

    September 16, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  6. Connie

    "ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL"! Why are these five small words so elusive to the people of this nation in 2009? Preisdent Obama deserves respect, all the way from Congress to the homeless. Irresponsible behavior, together with disprespect feeds the enemy, therefore, endangering every citizen in the US! So now, it's ok for my son to serve in Afghanistan allowing you freedom to discredit our leader! Unreal. After all that has taken place recently, Beyonce and Taylor Swift appear to be the two most gracious role models on the planet! They are perfect examples of how we all should be-equal!

    September 16, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  7. Thomas

    I personally believe there is racism at the heart of at least 75% of all of the protesters. Why? Because many of my own family members (myself not included) did not vote for him because of his race. Shortly before the election my own grandfather attended KKK meetings. It really upsets me to see that there is so much hatred and stupidity in this world. Wake up people, We're not cave men! Hating people because of the way people look is STUPID and barbaric.

    September 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  8. Heather,ca

    To often we are mute on being human. He obviously should have not done what he did. Booing is standard operating procedure. Move on.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  9. warren Taylor

    spelling error: in my blog, the word acception should have been exception. Sorry for the spelling error

    September 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  10. jenn

    ilona, so a group of people get together to protest, they are mostly white and therefore that means that all white people are racists and hate the president?

    i will not say that there are no racist white people out there, but lumping us all in together and saying we are all the same, is the same thing as saying mexicans and ecuadorians are all the same, after all they are all "latino" and therefore must think the same way?

    September 16, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  11. Conserve' for USA

    Harry Reid called President Bush a liar. Nancy Pelosi called the CIA liars. President Bush was booed by the democratic senators. Does this make it right? No!
    You who call this racist have very small minds, and that's being a compliment. Is that the best arguemnt you can come up with? Is the race card going to be played every time some one disagrees with the president? Remember, you can only cry wolf so many times as it becomes ineffective after a while.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  12. ceelo

    first off all these people that say its not racist don't know what the hell they are talking bout. if y'all remember president obama talked about health care his entire race to the white house among other issues . we tend to think that racism is always blunt .but that's not always the case and .yes i will admit that some people are quick to pull the race card . but those upset protesters yelling give us our country back and signs showing our president as a witch doctor . there are alot of undertones in the republican party and i just wish some one would address and denounce these ridiculous claims and have an intelligent conversation!

    September 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  13. NL

    Stop twisting the real issue. Rep. Wilson is not being called racist because he said Pres. Obama lied. The point is Rep. Wilson disrespected the president by his outburst, interrupting the President in mid-sentence, in front of the nation and the world. Come on, we all called Ex-Pres. Bush a liar, however, no one in Washington dreamed of shouting it to his face on national TV. Why can't these politicians show some respect for the office of the POTUS? Because Pres. Obama holds this office now? The sad part is that many Americans are showing just as much disrespect, more now than ever before.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  14. Denis Boudreau

    Far Right Republicans are accussing Obama of racism on a daily base. If that is not rascim, what is it? The Bush administration drag the US in War by lying, ruin the US economy and was responsable for countless injustice against Muslim Americain who simply where at the wrong place at the wrong time. But never did the members of the Demotratic party critisims rise at hight or virilant against President Bush. The problem with a large part of the crisisms directed against Obama is that it is clearly motivated by hate. In this case, rascim is like an elephant in a small room: It is so big and flagrant that nobody can (or won't) see it!

    September 16, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Joanne P.

    President Carter said it all. And...said it in a gentile manner. The actions and words of Joe Wilson were reprehensible...a good example of bad taste and behavior. Let's hope that this is a "one time only" teachable moment.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  16. Terry King

    Race is an issue and I doubt that anyone who is a closeted bigot will admit it. So, it is a brain-numbing question to bother asking. Asking if there is a population that feels President Obama should politely go to the back of the bus is like asking if bears pooh in the woods.

    What shocked me was Obama managed to get elected at all. Yes, I voted for him, but I really thought we were going to hand the white house over to a good but very old man and a broad from IdaNo. not misspelled....

    Terry from WA the state

    September 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  17. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    Racism exists and, unfortunately, is the fact that only when there is equal opportunity for blacks, is that it will decrease.

    Barack Obama occupies the highest office in the country, but It will not be easier for him. He will be the target of racism, there will be different with him.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  18. Winston Roy

    I agree with Andrew, lets just leave the race card out of the picture! And with Cindy it is the most ridiculous post on the 360 blog! I think Shawnetta Cluck hit the nail right on the head. Race only becomes and issue when someone throws it in there. This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the promise Obama has made to this country!
    Call it the way it is!

    September 16, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  19. nancybo

    Give it a rest. If Obama wasn't trying to get all the things he wants (which a lot of people have problems with) before anyone can read what they vote on or shooting down anyone who disagrees, there might not be so much protest. I firmly believe in 'who' the best man for the job' based on their principles and goals for the country. The color of one's skin matters not. Get over yourselves already.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  20. Grace

    Racism has pretty much always existed. Africans weren't the only slaves. Do a
    little research on how the Irish were treated at the same time in history. Abuse and slavery was just as common. Racism exists on all sides of the color spectrum. It's sad but true but it's not always the excuse for peoples actions against eachother.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  21. SandraWI

    Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  22. Katherine

    Americans of all ethnic backgrounds voted for Obama. Color is not an issue with the vast majority of Americans.

    Though I deeply empathize with the blacks in regard to the horrific past conduct in America, to continue to generalize racism and to continue to play the race card in such situations as to be considered flimsy accusations just causes greater strife and division. I totally disrespect those who make such faulty accusations.

    I agree with MikeO, "Save the racism charges for when there’s actual racism and they’ll pack a bigger punch."

    September 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  23. Beverly

    President Carter said it was racism and he grew up in the south. You gonna call him names too???

    September 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  24. John Scott

    President Carter hit the nail on the head with comments about racism and Congressman Joe Wilson fits the scrfipt, believe me he has a problem and this country does if it evades the truth. Thanks you President Carter for telling it like it is. Be real America.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  25. Cindy

    This is the most ridiculous post I think I've ever seen on the 360 blog. To equate Wilson as a racist for saying Obama lies is ridiculous. First off he did lie...go to Factcheck.org and it tells you several lies that were told in his speech. Therefore Wilson was right! Secondly just because you oppose Obama's agendas does not mean you hate black people. That is a bit of a stretch to say!

    Cindy...Ga.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  26. Andrew,

    So let me get this straight – anyone who complains about President Obama is now considered a racist per certain african-americans and President Carter – so does this apply to them when they complain about white congressman that their considered racists now also – guess the race card could be played both ways – silly huh – lets just leave the race card out of the picture!

    September 16, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  27. Liz Blair

    I also was annoyed by Mark Williams' smurk. I also don't like his tea party's slogan about "taking back our country." Who is doing this "taking?" Who are "they" taking it from. I can't relate to their group, but its my country too.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  28. Amazing

    Yup, it would appear Obama as president is bringing racism to the front burner, only it is racism of blacks towards whites. To try and say Wilson is racist because he said "you Lie" is totally insane. Obama lied and was called on it, I don't see what being black has to do with lying, unless those pulling the race card are saying black people are liars!!

    September 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  29. Ilona, Tempe, AZ

    Anyone who continues to state that racism is not the real reason for the unruly behavior of these folks carrying signs with disgustingly racist remarks and pictures is a liar. They know it....as does Mr. Mark Williams who's been on AC 360 2 nights in a row now, smurking away and trying to convince the viewers there's just a few on the fringe, just 3 or 4 out of 10.000 who may be racist. Give me a break!!!
    I have never seen so many White folks marching in protest demanding to get their country back (from the Black man.) They admit to have never been interested in politics before, yet now they threaten to come armed in the future.
    What an ugly, ugly side of America.
    Fear and ignorance make for a toxic mix and the Republican leadership should issue a strong statement discouraging these nuts from acting out before someone gets hurt.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  30. Rachel

    It is a definite shame that it has come to this. Despite the race of our nations leader, he deserves the respect due to his title of office. No matter how much some try to hide it or deny it, race plays a role in our society and the sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can make strides to mend the gaps between us all.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  31. MikeO

    Save the racism charges for when there's actual racism and they'll pack a bigger punch. This article makes good points, but using the Wilson/Obama incident to bring it forth just cheapens its points and makes it ludicrously simple for critics to shoot down the valid points it makes. Call the Wilson/Obama incident what it was: A teabagger intent on making noise to hide the fact that he has no substance to his stance. No racism, just a guy with no morals trying to fight dirty and raise a ruckus.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  32. Winston Roy

    Is anyone surprised to find racial discrimination alive and well?
    Disrespect on all sides seems to be the norm these days.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  33. Alexis Harrell

    In the midst of this racial hatred and disrespect, we tend to forget one thing. The President can handle himself. He's a big boy. I'm sure that in his lifetime he has come up against racism and he knows what it smells like. It's just very embarassing that we show America's true colors to the world. When President Obama took office the world celebrated with us. They believed that we were on a new path to civility and equality, we are showing them quite the opposite and I am ashamed and we are the poorer for it. We look at Iran and others and wonder why they hate so much, we really need to look at ourselves. They use suicide bombers, we use suicide protesters. We are not different from them, we just use different tactics.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  34. Shawnetta Cluck

    Race only becomes and issue when someone throws it in there. This has nothing to do with race and Everything to do with the promise Obama has made to this country!

    September 16, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  35. Lampe

    Let's Get Something Straight! Do you remember the story of the little boy who cried wolf? This has to Stop! And Please don't say "GWB was never disrespected on the Floor when he was giving a speech." If you do a little research I'm sure you can find a few times when this happened. If White People had not voted for Obama, he WOULD NOT be POTUS. Are there some RACIST ? YES! But it is both Whites and Blacks. I'm an AA women, who thinks all of this is CRAZY! IT is our right, to be able to disagree with our elected officials. Blacks didn't like GWB, does that mean they were all RACIST?

    September 16, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  36. fashi bon

    The protest in front of white house against Obama looked absolutley racist and unexceptable.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:03 am |