The tactic of rebutting a legitimate charge of racism by taking loud and oafish offense is not simply the tactic of David Yerushalmi, but of ridiculous bigots in general. We've seen this tack taken over the years by everyone from Geraldine Ferraro to Rush Limbaugh. The practice is indeed as old as slaveholding white supremacists insisting that the abolitionists would make slaves of white.
One thing I've never seen is a bigot cite actual racism as a defense against their own racism. Enter the bizarre case of Barbara Espinosa, a right-wing radio host in Arizona who said the following of Barack Obama
"I don't believe in calling him the first black president," she said, "I voted for the white guy myself. I call him a monkey."
When confronted with the fact that what she said might be racist Espinosa insisted
"with a last name of Espinosa I'm anything but racist." She then rather spectacularly claimed that she was referring to a cartoon, as though this were a defense. You can click through at your peril. Suffice to say it's merely a Google image search of cartoons depicting Obama as a monkey.
I don't even know how one begins to follow that logic. It's worth noting that the head of the Arizona GOP was a guest on the show when the monkey remark was made. The gentleman stayed silent through the entire exchange, intervening only to denounce Obama as a "national sickness."
As a footnote, I need to say that it has been pointed out that cataloging racism is a sight below the standards of this blog. I sort of agree. But over the course of the Obama presidency I have become convinced that no single force exerts a greater pull on his presidency than white racism. Not white resentment. Not white populism. White racism. I don't know how else to explain a health care denounced as reparations, the rather continuous disrespect, the sense that he is a Kenyan illegitimate or all of the attendant theories. I do not know how else to explain a state like West Virginia, arguably the most racist in the country
, where delegates are now refusing
to endorse the president.
There will be more on this in the coming months. I don't want to scoop myself. But my point is I can only stop talking about racism, when it ceases to be a significant force in our politics. When the mere act of being white gives Obama's opponent "a home-state advantage nationally,"
I can't stop. It would be deeply wrong to stop.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power