Racism is alive and well in the United States of America. Jan Brewer was more than happy to demonstrate this as she greeted the President on his recent visit, a visit which has been captured for immortality by an infamous picture:
Taken on face value, this shows the governor of a Western state giving the President of the United States the cruelest sort of dressing-down. Has any President ever received such treatment, since General George McClellan snubbed Abraham Lincoln, who was awaiting him in McClellan’s parlour, by announcing he was going to bed?
Taken on face value again, this gesture of the raised index finger is the sort of body language used when an adult takes to telling off a small child … or when any adult takes to telling off another adult whom they consider to be inferior.
Aye, there’s the rub.
One wonders if the President who’d walked down those steps of Air Force One had been Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or John Edwards, if Brewer would have dared to display such a singular lack of deportment and manners? After all, common courtesy dictates that it’s rude to shake a finger in the face of another person. One wonders, as well, if the governor had been Brewer’s Democratic predecessor, Janet Napolitano, welcoming George W Bush, if she would have behaved in such a manner.
In both instances, I think it safe to assume that the answer would have been “no.”
I also think it’s safe, not just to assume, but to assert that this behaviour, as has a plethora of similar behaviour toward this President on both sides of the political spectrum, has been motivated by the fact that the President is African-American.
And that is a cause for shame for the entire country.
From the frozen frame of the picture, which shows a white woman aggressively dressing down a black man, to Brewer’s whiney response about “feeling threatened,” and the President being “thin-skinned,” you have the classic meme of the poor, little white woman being intimidated by the angry black buck straight in from the fields. And no matter how much blowhards like Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) try to excuse this action as part of the First Amendment, in that the President is not a King, the entire escapade comes down to one thing and one thing only: respect.
Until this President took office, each and every one of his predecessors had been shown the utmost respect by their own party, by the opposition and by the media. Even the crook, Richard Nixon. Even the fratboy incompetent, George W Bush.
From both Right and Left, for the past four years, this President has suffered a level of disrespect heretofore unparallelled. From Newt Gingrich’s Kenyan anti-colonialremarks to monkey pictures from the Right to Firedoglake’s bugaloo Bush and “house nigger” comments to Joan Walsh’s and Glenn Greenwald’s “Obamalover” euphemism to Ralph Nader’s Uncle Tom moment to Democratic Congressman Peter de Fazio’s “fuck the President” moment, all of this disrespect boils down to one thing and one thing only: race.
And that’s to our everlasting shame as a nation that we seem to be headed, not forward, but backwards in the direction the Newts and Ricks and Ron Pauls want to take us, back to the 1950s to a moment frozen in time by an equally infamous picture of another sort:
We really must ask ourselves, exactly, how far we’ve come since that moment?
The answer, I think, is simply not far enough.
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