Sunday, September 15, 2013

Can supporting Barack Obama make someone a racist?

... or a supporter of racism, at the very least?
Do you think racism is dead in America after the election of its first black President? asks a commenter in one of my private internet groups. Few would agree that hate and discrimination no longer exist. This brings us to a deeper question.
"Sadly those who blindly support our current (president) unintentionally support racist attitudes," another commenter wrote.

But what is racism? And can supporting Barack Obama, blindly or not, automatically qualify someone for the label of racist?

The Multicultural Student Center at Boise State University defines personal racism as:

The individual expressions—attitudes and/or behaviors—that accept the assumptions of a racial value system and maintain the benefits of the system.

At this point, one would have to ask what racial value system an Obama supporter is allegedly subscribing to.

Race is, and always has been, an explosive issue in the United States. In Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama, Tim Wise explores how Barack Obama’s emergence as a political force is taking the race debate to new levels. According to Wise:

For many white people, Obama’s rise signifies the end of racism as a pervasive social force; they point to Obama not only as a validation of the American ideology that anyone can make it if they work hard, but also as an example of how institutional barriers against people of color have all but vanished. But is this true? And does a reinforced white belief in color-blind meritocracy potentially make it harder to address ongoing institutional racism? After all, in housing, employment, the justice system, and education, the evidence is clear: white privilege and discrimination against people of color are still operative and actively thwarting opportunities, despite the success of individuals like Obama.

Is black success making it harder for whites to see the problem of racism, thereby further straining race relations, or will it challenge anti-black stereotypes to such an extent that racism will diminish and race relations improve? Will blacks in power continue to be seen as an “exception” in white eyes? Is Obama “acceptable” because he seems “different from most blacks,” who are still viewed too often as the dangerous and inferior “other”?


Those who agree that people who "blindly support our current (president) intentionally support racist attitudes," might point to an exposé by Edward Klein—a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, former foreign editor of Newsweek, and former editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine. In The Amateur, he claims to pull back the curtain on one of the most secretive White Houses in history.

 He reveals a callow, thin-skinned, arrogant president with messianic dreams of grandeur supported by a cast of true-believers, all of them united by leftist politics and an amateurish understanding of executive leadership.

Boise State also offers a few other key definitions for this discussion:

Prejudice

A positive or negative attitude toward a person or group, formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge, will not be likely to change in spite of new evidence or contrary argument.  Prejudice is an attitude. Attitudes or opinions, especially of a hostile nature, are based on prejudgment and insufficient information.

Racism

Racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination, supported intentionally or unintentionally by institutional power and authority, used to the advantage of one race and the disadvantage of other races. The critical element that differentiates racism from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systemic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects. The combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races or ethnic groups that is grounded in historical assumptions and prejudice that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred or discrimination. Racism involves having the power to carry out systematic discriminatory practices through the major institutions of our society.

***

Is a blind, rabid, or other type of zealous Obama supporter involved in "racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination, supported intentionally or unintentionally by institutional power and authority, used to the advantage of one race and the disadvantage of other races?" Do they necessarily possess "a  positive or negative attitude toward a person or group, formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge, will not be likely to change in spite of new evidence or contrary argument?" as in the definition of prejudice above?

If so, how?

Further exploration is warranted.

No comments: