For whatever the reason, a lot of white people seem to feel that since we elected a black man as our President, everything is A-OK on the race front. It appears that to them, the main goal of the civil rights movement was not to gain equal rights for people of color, or change hearts and minds, but to install a person of color in the highest office of the land. Anything else is gravy. So no one thinks twice about the level of rancor directed at our prized Black President or the fact that he gets 400% more death threats than Bush did, to the tune of 30 per day. Never mind that we have an almost entirely white movement calling for his head and hurling racial slurs at him and any other politician of color. None of that has anything to do with race, right? Because we’re past that! It’s just people, baby! White folks desperately want to believe this and for the most part they have blinded themselves to the actual truth.
So it’s unsurprising to me that people would act irrationally when confronted with an article about the danger of Obama becoming the “angry black man” stereotype in response to the oil spill crisis. Although, as the link says, most of the commenters on the article did not identify their race, I feel it’s safe to assume that the majority of the dissent comes from white people. I say that based on the comments themselves. For example:
“Why is CNN so race obsessed? Black in America part 27! Nobody cares about this stupid crap until they bring it up. The tiny slither of Americans that are racist against blacks are so small and insignificant it just isn’t worth mentioning.”
Somehow I doubt that any person of color would say “nobody cares” about race. The gall it takes to state that there’s only a tiny “slither” [sic] of Americans who are racist against black people could only have come from a white person. Contrary to what white people like the above commenter would like to believe, racism, both institutionalized and personal, is alive and well in the U.S. No need to retire those Klan robes just yet.
The level of ignorance regarding the significance of racial issues post-Obama is astonishing and somewhat frightening. What it reflects is white folks’ eagerness to not have to deal with the whole race thing anymore, without actually unpacking their privilege and doing the necessary internal reflection. Most white people have never wanted to work on their racism. They understand racism only as a personal thing, not a deeply entrenched part of our society. So now that we’ve made it to what white people consider the mountain top, it’s become offensive to call a white person racist because racism is over. Every time something happens that reminds us that racism ISN’T over, such as the Arizona immigration bill being passed or AZ outlawing ethnic studies classes, white people get defensive and angry at people of color who speak out against it for “playing the race card”. Sometimes, as a person of color, just EXISTING qualifies as playing the race card.
I become the Angry Black Woman when I think about how Obama has been treated by the white public. It’s hard for me to listen to criticism of him because so little of the criticism has substance other than just the underlying “he’s not in his place” sentiment. I’m not saying he’s perfect. But he does not deserve the level of vitriol expressed by so many towards him. Just like every other black person that succeeds in a white man’s world, he has to work twice as hard at the same job Bush half-assed for 8 years, and he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves. That makes me very angry. Maybe it’s because I identify with him; maybe it’s because I recognize injustice when I see it.
It’s hard to have a rational conversation about the pros and cons of Obama’s policy decisions in the midst of all the racist red herrings being tossed about by the likes of Glenn Beck and the Teabaggers. Mainly because most white people won’t accept the idea that he is being treated poorly because he is black. Being a black man and making it to the Presidency apparently means that racism no longer applies. I’ve spoken with people who are simply shocked that anyone would think that the hostile environment towards Obama is based on his race. When you look at what’s he’s done so far as President, he’s done nothing so egregious as to warrant an entire movement based on how he’s screwed up the country. But there they are, with signs that read “African Lion… Lyin’ African” next to a picture of a lion and a picture of Obama. Completely non racist, right?
So, I am an Angry Black Woman. I have to be angry to survive. I have to be angry to prevent myself from just giving up on social justice work period. I have to be angry to avoid the death spiral of depression that beckons to me every time I see a racist sign at one of those Teabagger rallies, or a man at an Obama rally with a semi-automatic weapon strapped to his back, or Bill Mahr on TV saying he wants a real black president — basically a thug with a gun.
Obama doesn’t have to be the Angry Black Man to rile white America. Just being a black man is enough.