Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Tuesday, 28th July, 2009

By Opiyo Oloya

THERE is a war going on in America right now, and they are not taking any prisoners. It is a race war, but you would not know it.

Everyone involved couches their comments in clever, carefully disguised language that only the combatants know. Most of the incoming artillery is directed at President Barack Obama, the first African American to assume that high office. It is not about scoring points in the short run, although that would be nice.

No, those pushing the racial warfare have a far loftier goal in mind—rallying enough whites to believe that Obama is a lousy president because he is black, and almost certainly against the American way of life including gun ownership and freedom of speech.

For that reason, Obama must not be re-elected in four-years’ time. And they are using every single weapon in their arsenal to reach their goal. Consider for example the big brouhaha about the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Gates Junior by Cambridge Police.

The incident started innocently enough with a call by a bystander who noticed two men jimmying a door. The police responded immediately, and upon arrival found Professor Gates already in his house. The lead officer who was white demanded that Gates produce his identification which the well known black professor did.

Words were exchanged and at some point, Professor Gates was arrested and taken to the police station. A day or so later while holding a news conference about healthcare reform President Obama was asked about the story. He acknowledged that Professor Gates was a friend, and that he knew little about the specifics of the case, but concluded that the Cambridge Police acted “stupidly” for arresting Gates in his own house.

Right wing show hosts on radio and television gleefully jumped on the phrase “acted stupidly”, and within hours twisted it around so that Obama came across as a racist president who hates whites, especially white police officers doing their jobs.

It did not matter that there are five million Americans without healthcare insurance. What mattered at that moment was pushing the president’s comments as a rallying cry for the conservatives to raise millions of anti-Obama campaign dollars.

Afraid that the story was getting out of control, Obama was forced to backtrack, call the officer who arrested Professor Gates (likely to apologise) and invite him for beer at the White House. Both Professor Gates and the officer have accepted the invitation.

Many blacks were decidedly angry with Obama for backing down on the “police acted stupidly” comment which they felt was bang on target in describing how blacks are treated by white police officers.

However, President Obama knew better—what was not being said out loud was that the racist elements among conservative whites had hijacked the storyline and turned it around so that Obama came across as the racist.

He had to put a stop to it, and he did to the dismay of right wing commentators who wanted the story to last forever. In fact, the Professor Gates incident was merely the latest ammunition for conservative America working overtime to discredit President Obama.

For weeks now, a group of conservatives quietly supported by elected officials in Washington have been pushing the racist story that Obama was born in Kenya.
At first, right-wing media commentators acted coyly around the story, pushing it without appearing to be pushing it.

Last week, the “birther’s movement”, so called because it questions the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate issued in Hawaii, gained several mainstream media support.

Leading the cheer in questioning whether Obama is an American was CNN so-called independent host Lou Dobbs. Dobbs whose racist rants against President Obama is an art form, gave the birthers a platform to continue their quest.

Later in the week, with many questioning Dobbs’ own journalistic standards, Dobbs began to wilt. But for the conservative racists who have never accepted that a black man could be president of United States, last week was a big success. They succeeded in getting big media attention in doubting whether Obama is American.

They have also successfully used the forum to get more whites to listen to right wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs for daily updates on how the Obama administration is on the verge of collapsing. Limbaugh himself openly said he would be very happy to see Obama fail. Overnight, there are bumper stickers saying: Impeach Obama.

So far, Obama has stayed above the fray, dancing nimbly like a champion pugilist, dodging incoming jabs. But make no mistake about it—the war being fought in America may have shades of class war or even an ideological one, but it is mostly a race war.

White conservatives are determined to wrest away power from the black man who dared to sit on the throne only meant for one race.

To this end, they keep digging dirt on Obama. Already, some are pushing the rumour that President Obama supports Al Qaeda (yes, they believe this too).

Most of the stuff is easily dismissed as crazy nonsense, but the conservatives believe that if they work hard at it, soon American voters will start paying attention, and begin to doubt Obama and will vote him out in four years.

Unfortunately for the racist elements in the conservative movement, President Obama is holding his own. Most importantly, the majority of Americans, blacks, whites, Latinos and so on, are still behind him.