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Walter Rhett

arack Obama and

Racial Hate

Barack Obama and Racial Hatred

hen I step back, I see one of the strangest sights I have witnessed in contemporary American politics. Among the Democrats: grumbling and disenchantment about


ama being

country off a cliff, even as he saved it from recession.

unwilling to lead the

That recession created massive fissures: persistent high joblessness, general dissatisfaction with regulatory enforcement, mortgage bankers parading home owners to foreclosures, and an oft-repeated assumption that the smooth talker was milquetoast when it came to action. Among the Republicans: a willingness by social conservatives to endorse a serial adulterer, a scheming thief who is a megalomaniac, a Ph. D. who tells the kinds of lies not seen since eighth grade, a willingness to ignore the extremes of his legislative positions on centerpiece Republican issues, his relish of large, activist government, and his claims of constitutional violations so absurd they border on treason.

ow did it happen that the Democrats thus repute a President who ended two wars, opened military service without regard to a preference for intra-gender relations,

reformed the Medusa of health care, established consumer protections, cut middle class taxes, and consistently beat the Republicans with the last move? And how did Republicans grow to embrace a failed, badly flawed Washington insider whose smokescreens of big ideas (mirrors in space!) would expand government and debt? I am sure you find much to disagree with, but grant me the broad outlines.

a theorist and a writer, a historian who sees complex dynamics and tries to grasp the whole and its contradictions and its negative space.



fact, this year's voter deals are being cut in negative space. The deals involve a concept from complex systems theory called joint utility.

Joint utility traces how satisfactions or dissatisfactions are reinforced by disparate groups.

Why not just campaign hard, door knock, make calls, and vote? Because theory is action's negative space. Theory let's you maximize your effort, order your understanding, avoid pitfalls and make better moves. It helps focus attention on the resonating issues, and direct the message in way that builds support and blocks objections. It cuts down on mistakes, lets you test options. Political decisions are front loaded with a thousand deep commonalities. Joint utility theory has to do with connecting front loading to outcomes. The negative space around Barack Obama has to do with his being black. The economy not withstanding, the deeply embedded resistance to his race has increased. Monday (December 19, 2011) the site FreakOutNation reported a Tea Party leader, who ran for a city council seat and is described as a Ron Paul libertarian, posted on facebook:

ssassinate the fucken nigger and his monkey children.


years ago, I didn't see this kind of raw and vile treason, immoral, criminal speech toward Obama, certainly not toward his family; by contrast, this level of hate makes Newt's offenses look like a choir boy's. This element wants to pointedly establish that the character and zany ideas of the lowest white man is better and superior to the highest ranking black, no matter he be an elected President. Newt's candidacy--all Republicans augment race and policy; a joint utility for views on race that are front loaded and locked in. Now Tom Friedman disagrees. In a panel of New York Times editors and columnists on Charlie Rose, he suggested the GOP craves the opposite. He argues they want a candidate that sounds erudite, speaks with confidence and fluency, who can attack the nuances of Obama's positions, and take the high road to negatives. Perhaps. Tom doesn't understand the dynamics of race and how they operate in the negative space of culture and politics, but even so, Newt fills both bills, Friedman's and mine.

Democrats, on the other hand,



dropped race from their political view. Thinking it might dangerously inflame passions and turn off supporters of the President. By doing so, they are conceding the racial dynamic to Republicans.


refusing to defend racial equality, to assert Obama's full humanityto point out the nasty, increasing undertone of race hatred in this election, by ignoring the overwhelming litany of daily hate speech, they open a back door that tacitly sanctions and admits all forms and expressions of hate. Democrats are offering no resistance to one of the fastest growing campaign elements. Their silence concedes a battle that could and should be fought and won, and should be cast into the light from the negative space. Already, the denials come. Using the word nigger doesn't make you a racist, one writer argued. No. It


It makes you a
es you something worse.


is being smuggled and distributed like drugs. The budget is a media distraction, a big stage issue that has no immediate effect. It has become a public clich. Its faked passion hides the build up of the most powerful racial backlash since slavery ended. The only black woman to write an account of the Civil War and her service on its front lines in the Deep South, at Hilton Head and Charleston, before and with a black regiment, Susan King Taylor wrote about the unexpected grow of hate and violence after the Civil War: (The Alabama cotton worker below was born 2 years before freedom.)


. . the war of 1861 came and was ended, and we thought our race was forever freed from bondage, and that the two races could live in unity with each other, but when we read almost every day of what is being done to my race by some whites in the South, I sometimes ask, "Was the war in vain? Has it brought freedom, in the full sense of the word, or has it not made our condition more hopeless?"

In this "land of the free" we are

ed, tortured, and denied a fair trial, murdered for any imaginary wrong conceived in the brain of the negro-hating white man. There is no redress for us from a government which promised to protect all under its flag. It seems a mystery to me. They say, "One flag, one nation, one country indivisible." Is this true? Can we say this truthfully? .. .it should be the one that has caused the world to cry It does not seem as if our land is yet civilized. It is like times long past, when rulers and high officers had to flee for their lives, and the negro has been dealt with in the same way since the war . . .




was published in 1902. The conversation about race has changed since then, it does so each time

is restructured by social change. Slavery changed the conversation; freedom changed it again, so did segregation and civil rights. Now, with Barack's election. Each time the reasons and actions of resistance changed to fit the new order, with the goal to defeat change. Race in America has deep contradictions and unchanging assumptions about the lives of people of color. Physical intimidation, lynching, and violence have given way to institutional assaults on education, economics, health, crime, widening institutional gaps between blacks and whites even as personal barriers have been brought down. But Barack Obama is the real target of a deep underground of racial hatred that runs from extreme to those who on second thought add race to the reasons why they feel he isn't qualified. In the politics of joint utility, race hate pairs easily and indiscriminately on other issues and links like a parasitic host with blame. The


der appeal of hatred is blame! I can "blame" and be a down-low hater, never having to admit it!

I can even have diverse friends--and blame! I can blame Obama for not being a leader, and the joint utility of my blame unwittingly joins those living in a phantasmagoria of hate. It's an alliance many don't even realize they are making.

o for Republicans, race is the elephant in the room. It's the immovable object that Democrats tiptoe around, without realizing its volatile raw force, its potential structural damage or passive linkages, or how it indirectly implodes other issues by its size. Hate is used to anchor, escalate and reinforce decisions about Barack Obama as a repeat candidate for President. An American analogy, race: is the turned-down, winning face card that Republicans think they have palmed. It's a multi-suited wild card they are counting on. It tilts the odds. Right now, the Democrats have consigned it to the fringe, having forgotten its power. Because of its negative joint utility and the shape of their message, Republicans believe the rest of America will partner with them.


Prove them wrong. Racial justice and its joint utility of human dignity is one more reason to stand with Barack.

4th of July, 1937. Hill House, Mississippi. Dorothea Lange Photo. LOC.