The first of three Presidential debates between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is over and just in the nick of time, we’ve seen a reinsertion of the “Jeremiah Wright” race monger card!
Let’s rewind a bit. By now, everyone knows that the concept of the post-racial era following the election of the first Black president is, and has been, a complete myth. Over the past four years we have witnessed an even more heightened sensitivity to racial issues. Critics of the President are quickly labeled racist as are supporters, even if they also happen to be Black. There is that outlaying presumption that African American supporters of the President have his back out of racial solidarity and that alone. Black critics are dubbed Uncle Toms or Race traitors. Notwithstanding the ever present racial tensions percolating slightly above the surface in these hotly contested political times, all sides still attempt to position themselves as above superficial lines based on anthropological racial groupings. Even though in our personal lives and social circles we are stratified by self-segregation, we like to quickly accuse the other side of choosing sides based on race. So when yesterday evening conservative gotcha! Journalism blog The Drudge Report revealed what it first announced is a newly-released video of then Senator Barack Obama, all ears perked hoping the video would be the appropriate response to the Mitt 47% video. The video turned out to be from a 2007 Obama speech at Hampton University. Obama is heard talking about the importance of government assisting the homeless and downtrodden obtain skills to find jobs. He points out the inequities in benefits and attention between Hurricane Katrina and 911 victims. And of course, in the video, he calls the controversial figure Reverend Jeremiah Wright a friend. It was only 5 short years ago on the road to the White House that Obama had to disavow Wright’s divisive language over race and distance himself from his once favorite church pastor. Since its release yesterday, other news sites have debunked the “newness” of the video as it was released by Tucker Carlson in 2007 when he had a show on MSNBC shortly after Hurricane Katrina and had been circulated, discussed and even appeared on Politco’s top 10 2008 political gaffe listing. By mid morning today, the sting of the video dissipated, only a short few hours after it “dropped.” Still, it may be worthy to peel back the onion and try to uncover why Wright keeps being brought back again and again. The answer simply is RACE. Part of the apprehension some may have had about the election of a Black president in the first place may have come from an underlying concern that perhaps he would elevate the interest and concerns of his own race, perhaps in retribution or retaliation for slavery or past ill treatment of blacks in American history. Today, there are plenty out there theorizing that we are in the era of rampant anti-White discrimination and treatment. And those who had nothing to do with slavery, Jim Crow and do not outwardly practice discrimination do not want to have to bear the burden of the sins of the nations’ slave-holding forefathers. This close to the debate, it is a no brainer that we see the reinsertion of Jeremiah Wright and redeployment of the mythical mysterious and unknown man of Kenyan heritage who has been leading the nation these past few years. We are seeing an attempt to reignite of those visceral fears and concerns once more. Can we trust this guy? Is he really all he says he is or is he another race-baiting fear monger, hell-bent on enflaming a race war among his people to the detriment of hard working, God-fearing Whites? Where did that Southern, almost Ebonics-like, accent come from, some have asked? The Obama in this video is very unlike the mild-mannered Obama with proper diction and no outwardly signs of his blackness, and no Negro dialect, as per Senate Majority Leader Harry Read circa 2008. The reinsertion of the “Wright” card is strategic and perhaps is being played to convince independents and centrist whites that they ought to reconsider whether they want to learn what an Obama 2nd term would have in store for them. Invoking fears based on race is an easy, quick and dirty way to accomplish that. And as we go into the first Presidential debate of the season, we can be certain that dog whistles may be blown. Who hears those subtle messages, irrespective of how subliminal they may be will most likely depend on whether the listener is susceptible to racial solidarity messages or not. If anything it should make for a great drinking game.