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Confronting America’s racial reality

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Sep 4, 2014 - 11:24:55 AM

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President Barack Obama talks with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss the situation in Ferguson, Mo., in Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard, Mass., August 14. Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
WASHINGTON—Fourteen years into the 21st Century, more than 450 years since people were stolen from the African continent and dragged to this country in chains in the holds of slave ships, it appears the only way people in the United States can even approach this country’s racial identity is by confrontation.

For several months what appears to have been “open season” for murdering unarmed Black men seems to have been declared—Florida, New York, Ohio, Missouri. In response, Black folks have amplified demands for equality and fair treatment. But American society appears bent on restoring the shackles of servitude, rather than fulfilling the promise of justice for all.

Even as the country’s first Black president approaches the end of his sixth year in office, Barack Obama has become a glaring symbol of White intolerance. When he was elected, many hoped for a new era of “post racial” harmony where skin color would be no more important in this society than eye color.

But after six years of intractable opposition to every single policy Mr. Obama has proposed—including policies he adopted from once-Republican proposals—the hard core, right-wing-dominated federal legislature has outdone itself with exaggerated, non-stop, over-the-top vitriol directed at “all things Obama,” including the color of a suit he chose to wear and the number of days he’s had on vacation (fewer by far than any two-term president in 34 years). And by extension, the lives of ordinary Black folks have been spiraling downward in the process.

It’s no longer accurate to call the knee-jerk, jingoistic, White, radical right-wing “Republican,” according to one influential writer. “There is effectively no Republican party any more,” journalist Andrew Sullivan declared earlier this year at andrewsullivan.com. “There is a radical movement to destroy the modern American state and eviscerate its institutions in favor of restoring a mythical, Elysian, majority-white, nineteenth-century past.”

In a fundraising letter from Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), chair Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare March 2014, Mr. Pittenger drove that point home in terms amplified by other GOPers who suggest the president be impeached, despite the absence of one single scandal or moral embarrassment in his administration after more than 4,000 days in office.

“My friend, make no mistake, Barack Obama is Enemy Number One!” Mr. Pittenger said in his fund-raising letter.

The pendulum has swung drastically in the 12 years since Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) left Congress after 24 years in office. Instead of rhetorically piling on against Black people as members of Congress are doing today, twice during his tenure, Rep. Hall introduced legislation in the House calling on Congress to officially apologize for the enslavement of Black people in this country. His measures won little support and were never voted on by the House.

“I’m still pretty pessimistic about that,” political scientist and pollster Dr. David Bositis told The Final Call when asked about how to confront America’s racial identity. “It’s going to take a long time. Right now, the politics in the country—it’s sort of a stalemate—you have one side that not only denies there’s a problem, but overtly expresses racist sentiments. In this day and age, people who overtly express racist sentiments are racists themselves. There’s no two ways about it.

“Change is coming, generational change, but we’re at a point right now where things are, it’s not possible for people who represent the ancient regime (to) be brushed aside,” Dr. Bositis continued. One reason is the political system has been gerrymandered to favor the entrenched right wing. In the 2012 congressional election, for example, Democrats won 5 million more votes than Republicans, yet the GOP—controlled by its arch-right-wing Tea Party action—won nearly 40 more congressional seats.

“The politicians aren’t following their voters,” said Dr. Bositis. “For example, if you listen to the Republicans and the people on the right, with a few exceptions, if you listen to them, you’d think that the American public is anxious to get into more Middle East wars. ‘Let’s go fight some more. We’ve got another trillion (dollars) in debt we can roll up.’ Their voters don’t think that way.

“They’re throwing them red meat about some things. They say some racist things. They say bad things about poor people. Of course they say bad things about (President) Obama and the Democrats. But at the current moment in time, I’m very pessimistic about there being anything positive happening.

“I think there will be conversations. In the long-term it’s a winning issue, and certainly will be a winning issue in 2016, but, 2014? You look at the battleground; the battleground is mostly in conservative states. It doesn’t make me optimistic about what might happen,” Dr. Bositis concluded.

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