Today, the leading news story is that President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.”
Given the vitriol that’s been directed at Obama throughout his campaign and since his election as president, much of it fueled by racism, I predict that this amazing news will prompt a torrent of racist backlash. There’s some precedent for this if we look to the historic example of the reaction when Martin Luther King won the Nobel Prize in 1964. As James Fallows wrote in 2007 (after Al Gore won the Nobel):
“I am old enough… well, there are many ways to end that sentence, but for now: I am old enough to remember, from my school years, the disdainful reaction in my home town to the news that Martin Luther King had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
The reaction was, of course, racial at its root. This was a majority-white, minority-Hispanic small town with very few black residents, which went for Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson in the presidential election that same fall.
But the stated form of the objection concerned not King’s race but his obnoxiousness as a man. He was a windbag. He was pompous and self-dramatizing, He was holier than thou. Plus, he had started getting involved where he didn’t belong, in raising questions about the Vietnam War. Through the rest of Martin Luther King’s life, the father of my best home-town friend always went out of his way to refer sneeringly to “Martin Luther Nobel.”
I’d be happy to be proven wrong on this prediction and see everyone celebrate this award.