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Catherine Meeks, Ph.D. Headshot

All the Voices Are White, and They Are Being Heard

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Magic Mulatto, Mrs. YoMama, Touching A Tar Baby, Your Boy, Orbameo, Watermelons on the White House Lawn, cartoons with the President Obama's head and a chimpanzee's body, references to monkeys who escaped the zoo being related to the First Lady, and the list goes on with the racial slurs that have been hurled at this President and his family. Along with these is the recent attack of racial slurs against 11-year-old Malia, his youngest daughter.

Along with these insults is the greatest insult of all coming from the birthers with racism bubbling from every word that they speak. There is not any way that rational people would have initiated this very bizarre discussion regarding the citizenship of the President unless it was undergirded by the blinding energy of racist fear. What truly thoughtful person would have the notion that a man who is trained in constitutional law and who is an African American would be unconscious enough to imagine that he could pull off being President and not be a citizen. The entire discussion is almost beyond comprehension for those of us who are not being blinded by bigotry and hatred.

I am really not interested in hearing anyone say that these comments are about not wanting President Barack Obama to be criticized because nothing is further from the truth. Whatever policy issues that anyone finds themselves at odds with him about should be spoken about, debated and fought over in whatever civilized manner that discourse can occur. But I am talking about this low level of racist discourse that has been going on since day one. A discourse that has exhibited no respect for the office of President in the first place as well as no respect for this man, his wife and children. But even larger than this is the lack of respect that is being shown toward every African American in this country.

It is such a lie for a person to make a comment such as that of California Mayor, who said, "that there will be no Easter Egg Hunt on the East Lawn of the White House this year because there will be watermelons there" and then to say "that he did not know that African Americans liked watermelons." Amazing, if he did not know that stereotype why didn't he make a reference to the First Lady turning it into a garden or some other general comment? The intention seems rather clear to me and many others who are paying attention to what is being said and the tone that continues to grow stronger in this country regarding the expression of hatred and disrespect for this President.

The irony is that so many of us wish that he could be the radical change maker that he had hoped to be, but he has discovered that there are so many limitations to making changes and has not been able to do many things that many of us wish that we could see him do. So in some ways many things have not changed that much and all of these folks who are so distressed about Obama's policies and feel the need to make racial slurs to express their frustration need to check themselves out and see how their not so thinly veiled racism is shining through their words and many of their behaviors.

Another frightening thought about all of this expression of racist hatred is the fact that if President Obama and his family are treated this way, what about the young black men and women in the many racist pockets of this country who do not have the protection of education and power to buffer such attacks upon them? So many of them stand in the courts everyday and are treated to a massive dose of racist laced justice as they receive unfair treatment and find themselves being given sentences that never would be given to young whites who have committed similar crimes. This spirit that some politicians, media pundits and the birthers are fueling adds to the racism that already exists across this country and we will live to regret it if we don't find a way to show how unacceptable it is.

As a member of the Anti-Racism Commission for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Georgia, I know how difficult it is to get good people who are trying to be fair and open minded to see what is really going on now. But all of us need to stay clearly focused upon the fact that the only thing that it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to be unconscious and to congratulate themselves on not being evil. This evil has to be named and resisted every day no matter what your particular political party might be since it goes deeper and further than politics. We cannot allow the artificial lines of division to deter us from standing together because we are losing our souls and the country's soul while we watch in silence.