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article imageOp-Ed: Jimmy Carter was Right on Racism

By Sitafa Harden     Sep 19, 2009 in Politics
Some have tried to portray former President Jimmy Carter as outdated and out-of-touch for his comments regarding racial undertones in the opposition to President Obama. But the truth is, he hit the nail right on the head.
When it comes to the now-frequent attacks against President Obama's character, racism has always been the elephant in the room. Carter was just brave enough and wise enough, based upon his wealth of personal and professional experiences, to call such attacks out for what they really are.
In an article entitled "Obama as witch doctor, racist or satirical?", CNN's Ashley Fantz wrote:
"Posters portraying President Obama as a witch doctor may be racist, organizers of Tea Party protests say, but they reflect anger about where he is leading the country."
Similary, Karen Finney, former Spokeswoman and Director of Communications at the Democratic National Committee, wrote in a piece for The Huffington Post:
"To suggest that racism plays no role would be naive, but there are other factors that should not be ignored."
Each of these articles began by conceding that racism was a motivation, then in the same sentence went on to try to diminish what that meant. Each ignored the fact that when it comes to racism there is no "but". This is not an issue on which a person can be of two minds. Either you believe that all people deserve to be treated equally or you don't.
The Atlanta Journal Constution's Jay Bookman noted in his dissenting blog post that "racist" is a term that must be applied cautiously.
I agree. And protestors and opponents of the Obama Administration must apply that same caution and forethought to ensuring there is never any trace of racism, either stated or implied, in any of their speech or actions. In our political discourses there needs to be a zero tolerance policy toward racist speech, behavior, propaganda, and innuendos. In a nutshell, if you're not sure if your statement or action may have racist implications, you better take the time to ask somebody before you jump out there and put your reputation and respectability on the line.
CNN contributor Roland Martin correctly noted:
"I don't think one can paint a broad brush in saying that all of these folks who have criticism, anybody who criticizes the president ... is based upon the issue of race,"
I agree. And if you are a person who has legitimate concerns about President Obama and his administration that are not based upon issues of race, you should not have been offended by anything President Carter said. He wasn't talking about you. He was talking about those that do harbor and express such horrible sentiments, then attempt to mask them behind false displays of anger over other matters. Those folks need to understand that regardless of the legitimacy of their viewpoint or message, as soon as they infuse it with racist rhetoric and hate speech it becomes tainted and invalid.
I regret having to expend any effort addressing racism when there are so many other pressing issues at stake, particulary the need for healthcare reform. I'm sure former President Carter would also rather have spent his time this week talking about more substantial matters. But he recognized the racially charged atmosphere created by some militant birthers, town hallers, and tea partiers and stoked by Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) unprecedented, shameful public outburst. He saw the potential for such behavior to morph into more dangerous hate-filled actions and the former president spoke out.
President Obama's recent assertion that race is not an overriding factor for the majority of his critics is his politically-correct attempt to diffuse a situation that is already growing out of hand. Rightfully, he refuses to elevate the ignorant by entertaining further discussions of their antics through his office. Yet, the president has made it abundantly clear time and again where he stands on opposing issues of racism and discrimination.
In true presidential fashion, Obama has set the bar at a high level and now it is our responsibility to enforce that standard here on the ground. It is incumbant upon all Americans who are concerned about the tone of these kinds of attacks to take a firm stance against them and send a message to all the would-be racist hecklers out there that it is we who will not be muzzled.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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