Freedom of Speech as guaranteed by the US constitution has long been a cherished right of most Americans, A*K*A the right to express yourself the way you feel, when you feel like it, with a few narrow exceptions of course. This right has been equally transferred to various other forms of non-oral communication including music, gestures, art etc.
For this reason a large portion of the negative commentary about the President along with the satirical drawings that seem to pop up like weeds in a untended garden everywhere you look are an example of Americans, especially white Americans, exercising their constitutional right to say what they feel about the President – just as many of us, myself included, did with the previous President.
However, the difference with the current political rhetoric and criticism from that of the past is that the criticism leveled at Obama often comes with a strong stereotypical or racial overtone, as the pictures above clearly illustrate. Another unique feature is that it tends to include the First Lady along with the couples’ two children. Prior to the last 3 years in which the nation has had its’ first black President, and first African-American family living in the White House who weren’t employees or servants, this was considered a political no-no. As there were never any satirical or controversial drawings of Laura Bush or her twin daughters; but evidently, when it comes to the Obamas the gloves have come off and political civility has gone out the window.
I wonder why?
A January 31, USA Today column by columnist DeWayne Wickman was further evidence of this current negative trend of individuals showing disrespect for the President and the office he holds. If you missed this latest act, it occurred when Arizona Governor Brewer (the same governor that passed the harshest immigration law in history that later had to be rejected by the US Justice dept. as it allowed any police officer to question any Hispanic about his or her immigration status) raised her voice and stuck her index finger in Obama’s face as he was deplaning Air Force One.
In most corners of the civilized world, people are taught that it is considered disrespectful to point your finger into anyone’s face. As a result, it’s a gesture rarely seen outside of a parent reprimanding a wayward child or an irate couple having a lovers’ spat. Due to its objectableness, the gesture is not even tolerated in the workplace. Take a second and imagine how you would feel if your boss or co-worker turned to you in anger and thrust his or her finger into your face screaming, “now you look here”. Safe to say you probably wouldn’t be too happy about it.
But if that wasn’t enough in itself, what if it was a subordinate doing the finger pointing at a superior? I’ll forgive you if your favorite move from SMACKDOWN suddenly popped into your head, but that’s essentially what Governor Brewer was to the President.
Once the governor’s inappropriate disrespectful behavior went viral, resulting in a firestorm of criticism. In an attempt to justify her actions, she fell back on the well worn racial stereotype of the helpless “white damsel in distress” being threatened by the proverbial ”bad nigger”, by claiming she felt threatened by President Obama.
Let me repeat that SHE SAID SHE FELT THREATENED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
For a second, let’s forget that she was the one doing all the screaming and finger-pointing. Or that her tirade took place in front of two Arizona mayors, a detachment of Secret Service agents, the Presidential Press Corps, and a small group of well-wishers who had gathered on the tarmac.
Ignoring all of that, can anyone explain to me exactly how she felt threatened by the leader of “the free world”, a Harvard Educated lawyer, former college law professor, and married father in the presence of over 50 people in broad daylight?
If governor Brewer had made the same accusation against former President Bush, she would’ve been laughed out of Arizona. But when a white woman says she feels threatened by a black man, even if the black man just happens to be the President of the United States, our history won’t laugh it off.
In 1921, the Tulsa Race riots that destroyed over six hundred black on businesses and led to over eighty deaths was caused when a white woman said she felt threatened by a black elevator operator. The same incomprehensible nonsense got Matt Ingram a black farmer thrown in jail and charged with rape by leering. I REPEAT, RAPE BY LEERING after a 14 year-old white girl said Ingram looked at her in a frightening way.
The same twisted belief that all black men are out to harass, threaten and rape supposedly helpless white women has led to black lynchings and race riots through out America’s bloody history.
Still, here it’s 2012 and another white lady, this one supposedly educated is once again falling back on this outdated racial stereotype to justify her own misbehavior.
Why? For the same reason that many Americans feel it’s perfectly justifiable to depict the President and the first lady as a pair of glorified apes, or as a Muslim extremist couple, or to publicly joke about doing the President or his family harm. There remains a large percentage of individuals in this country that refuse to see black people as anything other than dangerous, brute beast, who are somehow less civilized or deserving than others, regardless of how many Civil Rights movements take place, or what the law says. In their book, it will always be, “if you white, you alright, if you black, get back”. Governor Brewer was well aware of these sentiments when she opened her mouth to say she felt threatened by Obama.
In Dred vs. Scott, the US Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney summed up the view of most of these individuals, governor Brewer included, when he said, “Blacks have for more than a century before been regarded as being of an inferior order…so far that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
There it is.
Despite his education and eloquence.
Despite being elected by a majority of Americans to be their leader.
For Governor Brewer and all of her kind he is still a black man and as such “has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”
Not even the right to be free of her finger wagging in his face.