Resurgence of American Racism: Same Song Different Beat

July 17, 2010

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.”

-WEB DuBois

The uptick in racist remarks and attacks on African Americans and Hispanics has caught the attention of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Color People) who of the America’s oldest civil rights organizations. This week the NAACP delegates passed a resolution to condemn extremist elements within the Tea Party, calling on Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches.

Racism has reached a dangerous phase in that many “mainstream” public figures are now taking about race in an openly racist manner. Racist attacks on blacks have become normative for Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, with Sarah Palin endorsing and supporting their racism. A survey of Limbaugh and Becks comments show how brazening they speak:

Limbaugh: “Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons.

Limbaugh: “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

Limbaugh: [To an African American female caller]: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

Beck: African-American is a bogus, PC, made-up term; “That is not a race. Your ancestry is from Africa, and now you live in America.

Beck: [To a seven year old black girl] “You want to go to Africa? I will personally purchase your airfare. You have to sign a contract that you will never return to the United States.”

Bill O’Reilly: Discussing a dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia’s, Bill O’Reilly reported that he “couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.” O’Reilly added: “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea.’ ”

To be sure, Beck, Limbaugh, and Fox News are proxies for elected officials on the right and the Republican Party. Hence, the blatant disrespect shown to President Barack Obama during his State of the Union Address by Congressman Joe Wilson (“You lie.”), the spitting on Congressman John Lewis by a member of the Tea Party, and the vicious and venomous naming calling and attacks of President Obama, prompting former President Jimmy Carter to attribute these attacks to race and racism, shows how these attacks have been integrated into the national dialogue.

What is most disturbing and what bears watching and “calling out” is that the body politic and the media have legitimized a space in the public dialogue for racism. At a time of high unemployment which is also fueling white anxiety, public policy is mirroring this racism expressed: Arizona’s immigration law, Utah “list” of 1300 purported illegal immigrants, Arizona legislators passing of bill ending ethnic studies.

Frederick Douglass cautioned that vigilance was the watchword of freedom. We would do well to heed his advice. Racism and violence is a reoccurring tendency in America. What we see now is the effects of racism in a different form.

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