A series of racist emails sent out on State of Alaska email accounts have targeted President-elect Barack Obama. In one, the concluding line assessed Obama's victory and impending move to the White House as: "Another black living in government housing!"
According to the Associated Press, three of the racist messages were confirmed by the state's information technology division after an electronic search of the government's e-mail system, Administration Commissioner Annette Kreitzer said Wednesday.
One of the emails, entitled "Night Befo Crizzmus," was forwarded dozens of times.
Whether Governor Sarah Palin had knowledge of the emails in advance of the AP story is uncertain. She has so far not commented on the email. Her spokesperson, Bill McAllister, who is of African American descent, indicated that there was an ongoing investigation and has "nothing to do with the governor's office."
But sources that I have spoken to in Alaska acknowledge that there is a pervasive "atmosphere of racism" throughout pockets of state government. "You hear it all the time," said one. "It's accepted as part of normal conversation. No one can be surprised by this. Sarah has done nothing to stop it."
Palin's failure to condemn the emails immediately is troubling--but not out of character. When supporters at her rallies shouted out threats about Obama, such as "kill him" or "off with his head," she similarly failed to condemn such outbursts at the time.
One supporter at a McCain-Palin rally was caught on tape declaring about Obama, "I'm afraid if he wins, the blacks will take over. He's not a Christian! This is a Christian nation! What is our country gonna end up like?"
Palin refused to distance herself from such remarks.
Palin has long had strained relations with Alaska's African American community. "Blacks don't have the levels of access to the governor and state commissioners as with past administrations," said African American attorney Rex Butler and an Alaska resident since 1983. "It seems the posture of (Palin's) administration with Blacks is: Don't need them, don't worry about them."
During the presidential campaign, Gwendolyn Alexander, the president of Alaska's African-American Historical Society, detailed controversies such as Palin's staffing practices, Palin allegedly stating she "doesn't have to hire any Blacks" for major projects and her refusal to attend that state's major African-American celebration - Juneteenth. "Gov. Palin was the first governor not to send out a congratulatory letter or assist us in any way with our Juneteenth activities," Alexander wrote. "I didn't have the courtesy of receiving a reply when I asked for a representative from the Governor's office to come and speak at our Juneteenth Celebration."
To see how those in the right-wing Republican circles responded to the news of the emails, one need only go to FreeRepublic.com. "This what you get [sic] with an affirmative action fraud who has gammed the legal systems all his adult life," wrote one respondent. "This fraudulent leftist is the end result of allowing affirmative action and political correctness to destory [sic] the nation and sissify our governement [sic] and courts."
Palin, herself, was accused of making such comments about Obama herself prior to her receiving the VP nomination. Those who know her are split about whether they believe she made them or not. "I don't think she did," said one longtime resident of Wasilla. "But my husband thinks she could have. Who knows? I've never heard her say anything like that."
But on the campaign trail, Palin ramped up the rhetoric about Obama to the point of being incendiary. "This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," she declared. She also charged him with"pallin' around with terrorists" and declaring that "he's not one of us."
As many people noted, Palin's rhetoric was racially coded--and the implications were clear.
"He's 'not one of us?'" observed African American congressmember Gregory Meeks of New York. "That's racial. That's fear. They know they can't win on the issues, so the last resort they have is race and fear."
Even her positioning herself as a "hockey mom" had racial implications. "Who are these hockey moms?" asked New York Representative Yvette Clarke. "Is that supposed to be terminology that is of common ground to all Americans? I don't find that. It leaves a lot of people out."