Zealous Obama partisans require no evidence to make this claim. Those they accuse of bias need not have besmirched the president’s lineage. Nor need they question his intellectual capacities. It is enough that they are white and that he is black for the charge to be brought forth.
Nor does it matter that the American people have twice elected Obama to the nation’s highest office. Their history of racism, especially in the South, is deemed sufficient to prove their current prejudice.
What the president’s defenders fail to take into account is a bit of wisdom that was once widely acknowledged. As a child, I, along with millions of other American children, was admonished not to cry wolf. We were told the tale of the shepherd boy who falsely called for help and so did not receive it when it was really needed.
The moral of this story is that when we repeatedly proclaim an untruth, it eventually loses its ability to persuade. Thus, if we wish to influence people, we must be careful not to make claims that are easily refuted.
The racism charge is one such claim! Oh, I do not mean to assert that there are no vestiges of racism abroad in our land. Nor do I maintain that there are no longer any blatant racists among us. That would be going too far in the other direction.
What I mean is that African-Americans are no longer oppressed to the degree that was once the norm. I also insist that blacks now possess opportunities formerly closed to them. Clearly the presidency is one of these.
Something equally important has been transformed in the nation’s psyche; something the race merchants rely upon. White guilt has become a pervasive feature of the landscape. Merely to be called a racist is a fate most Caucasians dread. It is the equivalent of being labeled a mass-murderer. (Just ask Mark Fuhrman.)
What I am about to say is totally impolitic, but I believe it is true. In many ways, Barack Obama deserves to be called our “white guilt president.” Remember how he came to national prominence. It was with a single speech delivered at the national convention that nominated John Kerry.
Obama then declared that we were neither black nor white, but Americans first. He thereby proclaimed himself a uniter and not a divider. His message was that it was long past due that we put our racial divisions behind us and that we work together for our mutual good.
This was a message a huge proportion of voters welcomed. They too were tired of the racial tensions. Moreover, they had come to regard black persons as human beings who deserve the same rights as others. Obama gave them the opportunity to put these beliefs into practice. By later voting for him, they could demonstrate their allegiance to social justice.
Countless Americans anticipated that this decision would help heal the wounds inflicted during the preceding centuries.
This, however, has been a vain hope. As the Paula Deen affair, the Trayvon Martin case and the recent knock-out games have demonstrated, tensions remain high.
Worse still, they are exacerbated when fervent partisans refuse to recognize that disagreeing with a person who is black does not always imply that it is because he is black. In fact, to assume it is, is to demand that African-Americans never be criticized.
The problem for those who hold this reverse racist view is that the more often they express it, the less believable it becomes.
They are in essence crying wolf and will reap the traditional rewards for doing so.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.