Jimmy Carter is America's 39th president, a respected elder statesman, and a lifelong resident of the deep South. He's clearly not just some crafty ideologue who's talking out of school. So when the Georgia native says the animosity directed towards President Barack Obama is rooted in racism, it raises yet another serious flag in this increasingly heated debate.
Speaking to NBC's Brian Williams in Atlanta Tuesday, Carter said:
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American. I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans....And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."
Of the angry opposition the president's been facing, Carter said: "I think it's based on racism. There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president."
Bravo, President Carter, for having the guts to stand up and say what many believe but are afraid to say publicly for fear of being accused of playing the un-PC race card. But the reality is, much of the vitriol directed at Obama is indeed because he's in a very powerful job that's been held by rich white men for 220 years. It's an ugly truth, and we may not be willing to accept it, but there are a lot of whites in this country who, as Carter's comments basically imply, are repulsed by a black man calling the shots from the Oval Office.
To be sure, the hatred we're seeing towards Obama is rooted in generations of deep-seeded ignorance, fear and insecurity. These racists are trying to delegitimize Obama's presidency in any way they can -- no matter how irrational, illogical or offensive -- and further fan the "he's not one of us" flames which serve to turn people rabidly against him. Whether it's the "birthers" who claim Obama's not a U.S. citizen; those who've labeled him a socialist, communist, fascist or terrorist; those who kept their kids home last week rather than have them hear his back to school speech; or South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's "You Lie!" outburst at Obama's address to Congress, there's a raging disdain and disrespect for this president unseen in U.S. political history. And it's because he's black. I'll say it again: it's because he's black. Carter has served America well by calling us as a nation out on it.