The Overt Racist Attack Has Begun: Republican Bashing of Senator Obama

As I predicted, once Senator Barack Obama was likely to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, the conservative attack machine would crank up a systematic racist attack that plays into the old white racist frame, with its strong antiblack stereotypes, a frame held in most white minds for four centuries. (See the history here.)



A recent journalistic report describes this sustained attack from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who told an Iowa radio station here that

terrorists would dance in the streets if Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, is elected president — precisely because of . . . Obama’s position on withdrawing US troops from Iraq. (Also see here.)

That part is not too surprising. But what follows is one key racist theme and enduring meme that the conservative attack machine will use many times over the coming months.  Republican King told the station that:

because Obama’s middle name is ‘Hussein,’ his father’s Muslim roots, and his appearance — or ‘optics,’ as King put it. ‘I don’t want to disparage anyone because of their, their race, their ethnicity, their name – whatever their religion their father, father might have been.’

Obama’s Muslim father is quickly linked by this representative of the attack machine to his biology, to his physical appearance (quaintly put as his “optics”) –the classic white-racist framing of a black man since at least the 17th century in North America. King then adds:

I’ll just say this that when you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States — and I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam? And I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the, the radical Islamists, the, the al-Qaida, and the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11.

He further accents Obama’s middle name and Muslim father, yet does not mention he is a Christian and has regularly denounced terrorists of all types, a tactic which we have already seen other white conservatives often do:

It does matter, his middle name does matter. It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world, it has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name.

He links Muslim, black “optics,” and resistance to intervention in the Middle East for US imperial interests all in the same analysis.

As yet, neither Senator McCain not the Republican Party has decried the explicitly racist comments that seek to frame Obama as what until recently they mostly refrained from doing – a “dangerous” Black man. The next step in the ratcheting-up racist attacks from a Republican Party that since Senator Barry Goldwater has often behaved like the “white man’s party” (for further evidence see here) will come very soon, I firmly predict.

And the attacking actions will be both intentional and carefully planned, with the political goal being quite clear–to play into the old white racial frame in white voters’ minds, including those who have already voted for Senator Obama in the primaries.

Obituary: George Fredrickson, Expert on Racism, 73

The nation, and indeed the world, has lost one of the great minds who shaped the scholarship on racism. George Fredrickson, 73 and historian at Stanford University, has died. The New York Times obituary quotes David Brion Davis, a Yale historian, as saying, that Fredrickson’s  White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and South African History (Oxford UP, 1981) was, in the field of comparative history:

“a landmark book and a model that has not been superseded”

Fredrickson’s work certainly influenced me and shaped my thinking about white supremacy as a system and a social structure rather than a feature of individual psychology.   Echoing a point I made here a couple of days ago, Douglas Martin, author of the Times obit goes on to say this:

“In the early history of the United States, Mr. Fredrickson wrote, whites needed an ideology of racial superiority to justify importing slaves and uprooting and killing American Indians while pushing to establish an agrarian economy in their new land.

South Africa, by contrast, historically had more tolerance of racial mixing and a more pragmatic definition of whiteness, in large part because of a shortage of “pure” Europeans, especially women, Mr. Fredrickson wrote.

The countries differed in laws governing race. The United States had founding documents promising equality that over many years it tried, fitfully, to live up to. In Mr. Fredrickson’s view, the United States, with its history of slavery before the Civil War, had a worse racial past than South Africa did but a better means, in law, to move on to better relations.

South Africa’s early race relations, while never smooth, were more benign, he said. But in contrast to the American experience, the country’s race relations dramatically worsened, with the establishment of apartheid in 1948, laws that required irrevocable racial segregation. (In 1992, more than a decade after Mr. Fredrickson’s book, South Africans voted to end apartheid.)

Yet in Mr. Fredrickson’s judgment both countries had a huge similarity: both required an ideology of equality of white males to justify ‘dehumanization of blacks.’ “

Fredrickson’s last book (he wrote eight books and edited four) was published this year, titled Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race, is about Abraham Lincoln’s conflicted stance on slavery, emancipation and states’ rights.  His was a great mind and he will be missed.