Tim Wise on Health Care Reform and Racism.
Indeed several of the e-mails made this same argument about opposing "government dependence," all the while oblivious, it appears, to the way in which that concept has become so color-coded in the white imagination over the past several decades. In fact, this is a point I had made on the program: that according to a significant body of social science research (among the most prominent, Martin Gilens's brilliant book, Why Americans Hate Welfare), most whites perceive social program spending aimed at helping the have-nots (be they income have-nots, housing have-nots, or health care-have nots) as being about giving something to those people, who are, of course, conceived of in black and brown terms, and taking from "hard-working" white folks in order to do it. So if the notion of government dependence itself has been racialized--and the evidence says it has been--to say that it is only this dependence you oppose, and that racism has nothing to do with it is to either lie or engage in self-deception of a most unfortunate and unbecoming variety.
There were of course others who wrote to me, and who felt no need to finesse their hostility; those who wore that hostility quite clearly on their electronic sleeve, in fact. Like the one guy who called me, in big capital letters, a "FUCKING FAGGOT," because nothing demonstrates a keen command of the health care issue better than a little random homophobia.
Or the guy who mentioned--in response to an incident I had discussed on the show--that he too had cheered when the white man attacked the black woman holding a Rosa Parks poster in the Missouri town hall meeting. To him, the woman deserved to be assaulted and thrown out of the hall because she was (and here he was simply stealing the latest line from the woefully under-medicated Michael Savage) "nothing but a race baiter." This, unlike, say, the whites in the crowd with signs calling the President a nigger, or the talk show hosts who have been claiming for months that Obama hates white people, hates white culture, and really only wants health care reform as a form of reparations for black people. To him, the black victim of white thuggery is a race-baiter, but the white kid with the sign calling Obama a monkey is probably just an all-American boy, and the whites with the signs comparing the President to Adolf Hitler, are just under-appreciated amateur historians, making obvious analytical points that real historians are just too obtuse, or, ya know, educated, to understand.
In the end, although there are many people, with many different reasons for opposing the President or his health care proposal, the role that race and racism is playing cannot be ignored. With major conservative spokespersons stoking the fires of racial resentment daily, and with most whites having long ago come to the conclusion that social program spending is something done on behalf of racial "minorities" at their own white expense, it is not too much to insist that race is operating, for some quite overtly and for others more subtly.
And for those who insist racism has nothing to do with it, the question remains why they have said nothing to those persons coming to their rallies and giving exactly that impression by way of the signs they carry. Where are their letters or calls to Limbaugh or Beck, chastising them for saying Obama hates white people, or that health care is just a form of reparations--racial payback of white America? Of course they have written no such letters. They have made no such calls. They are too busy. Busy waxing nostalgic for bygone days, which they mis-remember as a time of innocence, of decency, and of self-reliance, but which days were really days of widespread injustice, profound indecency, and institutionalized racial preference for people like them.