America is a country that is undergoing the throes of racial animosity. For many the recent election process has brought to light the racial tension that has been brimming under the surface.
The Republican Party understood very well the racial division, and has sought to capitalize on it by encouraging its supporters through the use of rhetoric to identify Obama as an ‘other’. It has become so virulent that Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement felt compelled to chastise John McCain by comparing him to George Wallace.
In part of his statement he said that John McCain was, “sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.”
He followed that commentary by stating, “George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.”
John McCain took great umbrage with the statements made my John Lewis. During the final debate he said, “Every time there’s been an out-of-bounds remark made by a Republican, no matter where they are, I have repudiated them. I hope that Senator Obama will repudiate those remarks that were made by Congressman John Lewis, very unfair and totally inappropriate.”
This of course is a blatant falsehood.
The very first time that McCain decided to address the racism that his rhetoric has made public was at a rally when one of his supporters called Obama an Arab.
His repudiation only occurred after the racist taunting had received much attention by the media, and online. John McCain is correct in asserting that he has never publicly advocated the separation of the population based in race, however condoning racism is the same as openly advocating it.
It is the very act of condoning racism that caused General Powell to support Obama.
On Meet The Press Powell stated, “And we have got to say to the world it doesn’t make any difference who you are and what you are. If you’re an American you’re an American.”
While it may seem to some observers that these attacks are solely aimed at Obama, in fact they are reflection of black/white tension that continues to run rampant in American society. It is the blackness of Obama’s body that allows McCain to be able to assert the politics of difference. Had he been running against Hillary Clinton, or even John Kerry, he would not have been able to energize these so-called “fringe members” in this way.
McCain’s campaign rhetoric is an attack upon people of color residing in the US. It says it does not matter what your birth certificate says, or what your achievements are in education, or what class position you belong to: if you seek to assert your racial equality you will be deemed uppity. So firmly has the race hierarchy been ensconced in American society that one man’s attempt to become president has lead to an assault on all brown bodies.
When Obama is depicted as a monkey, symbolically lynched, or he is depicted with fried chicken and watermelon, blacks recognize that this is a reminder that we are over stepping our bounds. Privilege will always act in its best interest; and therefore when the politics of difference are engaged in, it cannot be mistaken as anything but a purposeful act.
Racism is never accidental, and from its inception has been used to justify exploitation. When whites sought to occupy Native land, it was because the Indigenous people were deemed as inferior societies, who supposedly did not know how to cultivate the land that they resided on for centuries properly.
When whites engaged in the Trans Atlantic slave trade, it was because black bodies were deemed akin to beasts of burden. Each reduction in the humanity of a particular racial designation has served the purposes of enriching another.
When McCain engages in racial politics he is seeking to invoke whiteness to justify marginalization. Not only does this uphold white hegemony, it encourages whites to continue to justify the social “othering” of people of color for personal gain.
When at rallies the crowd cheers USA, it is a rallying call for whites to bond together in their shared history of exploitation. It cannot be mistaken as a cheer denoting patriotism because “American” at these rallies is understood as white. It may not be as visible as a cross burning, but propaganda need not be obvious to achieve an objective.