Tearing The Country Apart

Ken AshfordObama Opposition, RaceLeave a Comment

Van Jones, ACORN, and now the video of the school bus brawl.

Anyone notice a pattern of the right-wing targets?

There seems to be a racial pattern to the target-du-jour of the right wing.

The school bus brawl incident is especially noteworthy, because it is clearly race-baiting.  I mean, some kids beat on another kid on a school bus.  Worthy of a national story?  Nope.  But when the kids doing the beating are black, well then…. we're off to the races.

Rush Limbaugh decided President Obama is somehow responsible for this.

"It's Obama's America, is it not? Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety, but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,' and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white."

And it's not just Limbaugh. It's also Malkin, and Gateway Pundit, and Drudge, and Tom Maguire.

Was the attack bad?  Of course.  Was it racially motivated?  There's no evidence — absolutely none — of that.  In fact, it appears to be about a bunch of bullies (who happen to be black) trying to dictate who sits where on the bus.

But that doesn't stop the right from engaging in some good ol' race-baiting that would do George Wallace proud.  The message?  "See what happens now that we've elected a black person?  Those uppity n****ers think they own America now.  And they're coming after us white people."

Which is just the sort of message to fire up the racist base of the GOP.  Why else would Limbaugh et al say such a thing?

Andrew Sullivan is right on the money:

The story was a classic schoolbus bully incident; it could happen anywhere any time and has happened everywhere at all times with kids of all races, backgrounds and religions. To infer both that it was racially motivated and that this is somehow connected to having a black president is repulsive. I know that is almost de trop with Limbaugh, but sometimes you have to regain a little shock. This man is spewing incendiary racial hatred. He is conjuring up images of lonely whites being besieged by angry violent blacks … based on an incident that had nothing to do with race at all. And why, by the way, does someone immediately go to the racial angle when looking at such a tape?

These people are going off the deep end entirely: open panic at a black president is morphing into the conscious fanning of racial polarization, via Gates or ACORN or Van Jones or a schoolbus in St. Louis. What we're seeing is the Jeremiah Wright moment repeated and repeated. The far right is seizing any racial story to fan white fears of black power in order to destroy Obama. And the far right now controls the entire right.

Do they understand how irresponsible this is? How recklessly dangerous to a society's cohesion and calm?

They don't.  Because at their core, they themselves are themselves racist, or, if not, then they're intentionally catering to racists by stirring up racial resentment. ("race-baiting").

Even one conservative is beginning to have second thoughts:

But that's not why I took down the item and the link to the video. I took it down because now we have Rush Limbaugh blaming Obama for black kids beating up a white kid on a school bus. This is what happens in "Obama's America," he said today on his radio show.

How low will these people go? Look, I think it's important to talk about black male violence, or at least as important as it is to talk about any other important social trend. I don't think we should be squeamish about discussing it in a responsible and fair-minded way, despite what the politically correct say. But good grief, Limbaugh is up to something wicked. He's plainly trying to rally white conservatives into thinking that now that we have a black president, blacks are rising up to attack white kids! Christ have mercy, what is wrong with these people?

I won't have anything to do with it, not even tangentially, which is why I took down the post. I can't see this as anything other than Limbaugh deliberately trying to whip up racial fear and loathing of the president. This goes far, far beyond tough criticism of Obama. Does that man Limbaugh have any idea what rough beast he's calling forth?


That world [of racism] seems like a thousand years ago. But it only seems so far away because many people worked too hard — and some even gave their lives — to drive those demons out. And now here is Limbaugh, of Palm Beach, and his ilk, calling them back insouciantly, for political advantage. This is evil.

It's undeniably true that black males, as a group, are disproportionately responsible for violent crimes today (and blacks are disproportionately victims, too). This is important to talk about. This means something. I hate the kind of political correctness that demands we pretend not to see what we see. But as far as I'm concerned, if the Limbaughs of the world are going to be doing this kind of thing, and trying to blame, with no logical grounds whatsoever, a black president for black-on-white violence, and if they're going to do this in an increasingly hysterical atmosphere of protest against that black president, I don't want to talk about these things at all. Now is not the time. With this kind of inflammatory rhetoric, they are quite simply tearing the country apart.

Where do they think this is going to go?

UPDATE —  I would remiss to not add Will Bunch to the mix:

Look, there's a lot to talk about with a new president such as Obama, who has a lot of policy proposals on complicated issues like health care or climate change, and so there's a lot there for a thoughtful conservative critique. But that's not where the conversation is going right now – it's all about the shiny black object. Fox News and its out-of-control Howard Beale, the seriously unanchored Glenn Beck, have spent most of the last several weeks focused on two issues: ACORN, and mid-level Obama officials like now-departed so-called "green jobs czar" Van Jones. Jones – did I mention that he is black — and ACORN have both shared a common mission, bringing a dose of political power to poor, mostly urban people who have not had power. And make no mistake, what really scares Beck, Fox News and the vast right-wing media is not the petty fraud of some ACORN employees or a few nutty things that Jones said in his more radical past, but the fact that they will succeed in their legitimate mission of empowering American citizens.
There's something else that the right wing finds alarming, and that is Obama's relative success in speaking to the American public in a calm and persuasive manner, as he did last week. I think it is this frustration, the worry that while it's mostly a vast work in progress that the president may not be "failing miserably" as Drudge and some Politico op-ed writer allege but showing signs of success, that have led to the new more overtly racial tone, dragging the current discourse to a low level that didn't seem possible. And so — as Maureen Dowd concluded, also reluctantly — I can't help but feel there was a racial edge to ex-Strom Thurmond acolyte Joe Wilson and his exasperated "You Lie" at the president. It plays right into the toxic narrative that is building on Drudge and talk radio and Fox like a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama's post-racial America? Good grief, were we really that naive, and so recently? I can honestly say that America right now, on the ides of September 2009, feels more racial, at least to me, today than it has any time in a generation, since I was living in New York City in the era of "Do the Right Thing." And the "Racial America" of Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and far too many of their millions of "dittoheads" is going to keep getting even more racial — if we don't call them out.