How do you distinguish criticism of President Obama based upon policy from that motivated by racism?
There are some telling clues. For example, in a recent Facebook exchange, a commenter weighed in on a post featuring a picture of Obama, accusing the President of “Nixonian” behavior and (ironically) racism.
Let’s deconstruct that.
It is beyond debate that President Obama has encountered massive resistance to even his most uncontroversial initiatives. (There’s a lively debate over whether the enormous and vicious hostility to this President is “one of the worst” or “the worst” in history–not having been around for all of that history, I’ll leave that argument to the historians.)
It is perfectly understandable that Americans would disagree with the priorities or suggested policies of this or any chief executive. (The current opposition to the TPP is a good example.) But it’s also clear that racism drives a great deal of the hostility.
There is a simple test that lets you tell the difference between genuine disagreement and bigotry.
I’ve previously blogged about the woman who complained that, every time she had a principled policy objection to something Obama was doing, she encountered accusations of racism. I commiserated, then asked her which of the President’s policies she objected to. Her response was “He’s a socialist!” When I asked her which policy positions she considered socialist, she raised her voice; “He’s a Muslim!”
Gee–I wonder why people think she’s a racist….
A similar dynamic was obvious in the referenced Facebook exchange. The objections to the President were all what we call “ad hominem” attacks–name calling. Labelling. Not a single concrete example of a wrongheaded policy or a “Nixonian” activity.
I happen to admire President Obama. But even though I think he’s done a remarkably good job under unbelievably difficult circumstances, I can identify policies he’s pursued with which I disagree. (NSA, anyone? Drones?)
So here’s the test: when someone protests that their criticism of POTUS isn’t racist, ask them to specify the policies with which they take issue. If they can’t–if they respond with characterizations and indignation rather than a factual, verifiable example of something the President has actually said or done–then yes, they’re racists.
And boy, there are a lot of them.