Monday, September 21, 2009

Conversations on Race: The Race Card

Last week, in an interview with Brian Williams, Jimmy Carter accused Joe Wilson's comments, and the current political tenson, to be racially motivated.
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American," Carter said. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans," continued Carter, who is famously from Georgia:

"And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface becauseof the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."

Those who have disagreed vehemently with Obama's policies, particularly those regarding health care reform, denounce these statements with equal vehemence. They have called Carter's comments ridiculous left-wing rhetoric that bubble up from his "sanctimonious guilt". Glen Beck, not surprisingly, took it one step further and touted that Jimmy Carter's comments were analogous to terrorist attacks:
BECK: Nobody is saying we’re blowing children up or anything like the Taliban. But this is the same kind of tactic being used now in America. You can’t get your agenda, so you unleash the hounds and point the fingers, and everybody is a racist.

I have read several op-ed pieces that call out Carter for pulling the "race card".

What do you think? Do you- my white, black and brown friends- think the fervor demonstrated regarding politics today has anything to do with Obama's being black? I think it is interesting that the White House spokesperson stated that Obama does not feel that the opposition to his policies are racially related. Do you think that is really true or is he just trying to stay above the fray?

I find it interesting that Jimmy Carter is even considered to have a race card. He is white, and therefore, seems excluded from the right to even carry one (Of course, he could, theoretically, have a white one, but certainly can't have one a black one in his deck, if he is, in fact, not black. But, this would also bring up the matter of whether or not a white race card even exists). I think Obama is right to disagree with Carter's assessment of his opposition's motives because he himself is black. He can't say he's being discriminated against. People will assume he is just pulling the race card and dismiss it. But, Jimmy Carter, precisely because he does not have a (minority) race card, he is able to call it as he sees it. He thinks its time to discuss this issue.

These conversations on race are critical at this time in history. It is an ideal time to talk publicly about the state of race relations. Our children are growing up in a culture that communicates openly about the value of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, etc. But, they see something that is altogether in conflict with those messages. They hear adults say they refuse to vote for a man whose middle name is Hussein. They see people of color without jobs. They see the media filled with pictures of dark criminals. How can they be called to value people of other races when their parents have not had opportunities to show them? Well, we have one now. What next?


  1. I think Carter is right in sentiment and wrong in execution. We cannot honestly say (as a racial majority) that the scale's in our hearts were balanced when a black man entered the presidential office. So, Carter is correct in thought but should know, as a retired president, that any accusation he makes will empower some and alienate or marginalize others and thus be more detrimental than beneficial. But, I don't want to make this sound like I'm saying this shouldn't be discussed. I'm really only remarking upon the venue and delivery of the message. I suppose it's a catch 22 situation for me though, like, someone who holds sway needs to say something, but, that person also can't use their public prowess to drive a message because at that point it becomes less about the message itself and more about the individual's agenda.

  2. I know a whole lot of people that are very angry and frightened by Obama's radical agenda, but not one person that cares about his race (and for crying out loud, I live in the South!). I'm sure there are white people that didn't vote for him because he is black, and I'm sure there are black people that voted for him because he wasn't white. It's racism for both groups. Obama was still elected, so obviously if there is a group of folks that had racism behind their lack of support, the group wasn't big enough to have an impact on his election. So to now assume that the "overwhelming animosity", as Carter puts it, toward Obama is primarily racially based and not politically based makes no sense to me. I don't think Jimmy Carter necessarily called it like he saw it either, but I won't comment any further on what I think of him and his political agenda. I find it hilarious that Cynthia McKinney is on that "race card"! But I won't go into that one either! : )

  3. behind. at the risk of sounding extremely ignorant (esp. considering im the one who posted the "race card" picture)...who is cynthia mckinney? and why do people think she pulled a race card?

  4. dont you think ol' jimmy was speaking more about the level of intensity and not the actual opposition that has to do with race. i mean, there have been oodles of presidents who have had people oppose their policies, just not with this level of anger. what do you think that is from?

  5. umm... seth (artful dodger) - you're quite the wordsmith. miss you buddy. how's philly? okay, back on topic.
    i know i'm married to sarah and all, and i'm constantly affected (in a persuasive way) by her propaganda, but i live in the south too and racism among the white, educated, middle class from age 5-105 is very prevalent. maybe peoples' definitions of racism are so different that it is difficult to have these conversations. none of my friends burn crosses wearing pointy white hats, but plenty of my friends are racist... and yeah, my fingers pointing back at me too. i see racism at its finest when i hear the common resentful use of 3rd person plural pronouns (referring to groups of minorities) and when i see people who boldly proclaim (naively) that the playing field is level because we're all americans... except for those damn immigrants of course.