“Prejudice and discrimination still sit, defeated, dormant, or virulent, somewhere in the soul of each white man in this country.” So said MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on his show Countdown last Monday. Racism, apparently, still lives in America.
Discrimination is still all around us in so many ways, openly re-directed toward immigrants who are doing nothing more than following the path that brought my recent ancestors here and probably yours, too or focused on gays predicated on a mumbo-jumbo of biblical misinterpretations or leeching out still against black people in things like the Tea Party movement.
Although Olbermann criticized instances of racism from both supporters and antagonists of President Barack Obama, he specifically targeted the tea partygoers who, he believes, are using “euphemisms” to hide what is really racism: denouncing the president as “socialist” or accusing the Democrats of “destroying America”. What is at the core of the Tea Parties then, isn’t so much racism — it’s fear.
To the anti-government protesters, Olbermann said: “You’re scared and you’re in a world that has changed in a million ways and the most obvious one of them is something unforseeable just a decade ago — a black president.” The suspicion and prejudice of past generations linger on, he noted, and they are expressed nowadays by the likes of Rush Limbaugh who pretends that Obama owes his electoral victory to “white guilt”.
His charge that the Tea Party movement is infested with racism seems rather an exaggeration therefore. Undoubtedly there are racists among today’s demonstrators. Sadly, racism still does exist. But fear is much more likely to instigate people to revolt than misguided notions of racial superiority.
What Olbermann dismisses are the sincere, rational concerns about the Obama Administration’s policies. Although much of the Tea Party movement appears without ideology and although much of today’s Republican Party is without concord, there is ample reason to fret about the future of American capitalism. Label the entire Tea Party movement as “racist” and you risk repudiating any opposition to the president, intelligent or not — which will only intensify the already polarized political discourse in the United States.