A lot of people wanted to believe that when we elected our first black president, it signified the end of racism and racial division in this country.
You see, racism is alive and well. In fact, racism seems to just get more bold and blatant and “out there.” And I find it very, very discouraging. A few recent examples:
- A swim club in PA kicked out a bunch of black day campers, apparently just for being black. Read about it here. The swim club in question is now trying to say that they “didn’t realize how many kids would be there” when they originally agreed to the once-a-week swim sessions and gladly took the day camp’s money. Only problem is, other members of the club said derogatory, racist things to the campers and in front of them on the day that they went there, only to be kicked out. And the club’s president (who obviously needs a PR person to make his statements for him) told media that “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club…” Poor choice of words there, bozo.
- The leading candidate (and, as it turned out, the winning candidate) to be the new president of the Young Republicans allowed and encouraged racist (and some seriously over-the-top hateful) comments on her Facebook page. When this was publicized, she took a page out of the Palin playbook and played the victim, calling criticism of her racist comments on Facebook and other sites “political attacks.” There’s a summary page of several stories about this here.
- In what strikes me as just about the worst of all these incidents, commenters and proprietors on the wingnut site Free Republic went to town on Malia Obama Thursday, after she was photographed in Rome wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign on the front. That’s right – they called an 11-year-old “a typical street whore” and “ghetto street trash.” Just when you think these nuts can’t sink any lower…well, you can read all about it here, and according to David Shuster’s Twitter feed, he will cover this story on Monday (more info here).
That last one really makes me feel sick. When people can’t even agree that an 11-year-old should be off-limits, there is something wrong with the world, or at least the wingnut corner of it. Sadly, the type of comments described are fairly typical of coverage of the First Family lately. I read a lot of blogs about Michelle Obama (including Michelle Obama Watch, East Wing Rules, and Mrs. O), and there are always plenty of haters that seem to pop up in comments. (Of course on major news sites and political blogs it’s even worse. Mostly I just have to ignore the comments section.) They call Mrs. Obama “ugly,” “arrogant,” “trashy,” and other adjectives that I don’t think any rational, non-frothing-at-the-mouth person could ever use to describe her.
Part of this is, I think, the problem of perception. People will see what they want to see. They don’t like the fact that a Democrat is president, and especially a black Democrat, and they lash out at President Obama and his family, however inappropriate that is. But I’m honestly shocked at the vitriol. For instance, I really really hated our last president. I thought he was a total douchebag and said so many, many times. But I never found any reason to criticize his wife (although to be honest I can’t imagine how a seemingly-nice lady like her ended up with a douchebag like him, but I digress). She did all of the things that Michelle Obama does – travelled with her husband, ran the social side of things at the White House, got involved with community service and charitable causes – but nobody seemed to have it in their hearts to call her ugly or trashy or arrogant. Believe me, I read Daily Kos regularly – nobody was picking on Laura Bush there.
So what’s different when it comes to Michelle, and by extension, her daughters? Michelle is not getting involved in anything political (at least not so far). Her activities have been wholly uncontroversial – planting and harvesting a kitchen garden with local elementary school students, visiting schools and daycare centers, travelling with the President and dressing and behaving in a tasteful and traditional way while she does it.
Is it because she’s black? I think when the First Familiy is referred to as “ghetto,” there’s really no other conclusion. And that makes me really, really sick.
Today, the President and his family toured Cape Coast Castle, a former slave port in Ghana. Speaking about why it was important for Malia and Sasha to see this site, he said:
“And hopefully one of the things that was imparted to them during this trip is their sense of obligation to fight oppression and cruelty wherever it appears and that any group of people who are degrading another group of people have to be fought against with whatever tools we have available to us.”
Apparently, there are a lot of people right here in the good ol’ US of A who still need to learn this lesson, Mr. President.