The First African American US President
One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world (Barack Hussein Obama).
In November 2008, an African American civil rights lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, community organizer, and senator representing the state of Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected as the 44th President of the US. He became the first and only Black American to date in the history of the nation to hold the highest political office. He was also the first president to have been born outside the contiguous US.
During the tenure of Obama as president, more legislative measures were introduced to combat overt and covert racism in the country. But America, given its racial legacy both as a nation and as a people, could not handle a non-White male in the White House as president. Covert and not-so-covert racism increased, and this became manifest even in relation to the President himself.
Death threats and racist chatter on the websites of many White supremacists, directed toward the person of the President, increased to such an unprecedented degree that even while Obama was still a candidate, a bipartisan congressional advisory committee decided to assign Secret Service protection to him a full 18 months before the 2008 general elections (Parks & Heard, 2009; Pickler, 2007; Toomey, 2007; Zeleny, 2007). Some threats also targeted his Black American nuclear family.
I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people (Abraham Lincoln).
For example, Raymond Hunter Geisel was arrested in August 2008 for threatening to assassinate Obama (Parks & Heard, 2009). Geisel had been overheard using a racial epithet in his regard during a training class for bail bondsmen. He added, “If he gets elected, I’ll assassinate him myself” (ibid.). Also in August, another three men who seemed to adhere to the ideology of White supremacy were arrested after having disclosed that they planned to shoot Obama during the acceptance speech he was to give as his party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention (McKinney et al., 2008). In October, federal officials arrested yet another two White supremacists who intended to assassinate Obama (Lichtblau, 2008). These individuals had also planned to go on a killing rampage against a school in Tennessee that was majority-Black in its population, with the intent of beheading 88 African American children.
The day after the general elections in November, many citizens in Maine rallied against “a backdrop of Black figures hung by nooses from trees” (Parks & Heard, 2009). In the meantime, a betting pool progressed in one of their convenience stores as to when President Obama would be assassinated. A sign at the store read: “Let’s hope we have a winner” (ibid.). In Hardwick, New Jersey, an unknown individual burned crosses in front of the house of a biracial couple, while the phrases “Kill that nigger” and “Shoot Obama” (ibid.) were found spray painted in the free expression tunnel of North Carolina State University. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a poster of President Obama with a bullet going through his head appeared in a police station. At the University of Texas in Austin, the footballer Buck Burnette posted the following sentence on his Facebook page: “All the hunters gather up, we have a nigger in the White House” (ibid.). Second- and third-graders in a public school in Rexburg, Idaho, were heard chanting “Assassinate Obama” (ibid.), while in Vay, also in Idaho, a sign offering a “free public hanging” (ibid.) of the President appeared on a tree. Continue reading “Chapter 6: The first African American US President / Overt racism rises again”
State of the Nation in 2008
I have wept as I have gone from city to city and seen how far people have wandered from God (Billy Graham).
Both overt and covert racism continued to plague America, despite significant gains in civil liberties for racial and ethnic minorities, in addition to the ramp-up of federal anti-discrimination laws. In 1989, a White male shot “105 rounds from the . . . [AK-47 assault rifle purchased over the counter], killing five Southeast Asian children because he blamed minorities for taking jobs away from White men” (Sue, 2005).
Rodney King, an African American male, was beaten with significant brutality in 1991 by police officers in Los Angeles (LA), California, after having been arrested for motor speeding and evading arrest (Cable News Network [CNN], 2001). Three officers were acquitted from charges of having used excessive force against King in a trial by jury, the composition of which was 83% White. This acquittal sparked off the LA race-related riots of 1992, deemed the worst in the history of the city. During the riots, arson, assaults, and murders ensued by both Whites and Blacks. These riots lasted six days and ended after mandated interventions by the California National Guard, the US Army, and the US Marines. After the verdict had been handed down, the mayor of LA declared that the assailants of Rodney King did not deserve to be police officers. In the meantime, President Bush reiterated that the judicial system had worked (Mydans, 1992).
In 1997, an immigrant from Haiti was strip-searched, raped, and sodomized with a toilet plunger by some New York City police officers in Brooklyn after having been arrested and handcuffed for disorderly conduct (Sue, 2005). In 1998, three White males belonging to a White supremacist prison gang lynched an African American male in Texas in a savage manner, then “chained [him] to a pickup truck and dragged [him] to death, while his body was practically shredded and torn apart” (ibid.). This incident is discussed in more detail in the chapter The First African American US President. In 2000, a 21-year-old White male member of the supremacist group World Church of the Creator shot without compunction several African Americans, Asian Americans, and Orthodox Jews in Illinois and Indiana. Continue reading “Chapter 4: State of the nation in 2008 / Aftermath of 9/11 / Hate crimes and racial ridicule”
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force (Martin Luther King, jr.).
Covert racism tended to replace overt racism in the US after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Covert racism has been found to be associated with liberal political attitudes (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1996, 2000), whereas overt racism has been found to be associated with conservative political attitudes (Sue et al., 2007a, b). Although simplistic in nature to the point of naiveté, this dichotomization on the racism spectrum can serve to foreground the predominance of covert racism from the mid-20th century onward and provide an initial understanding of its internal workings and external manifestations. Covert racism persists to this day in addition to overt racism, which has returned among the American people in very recent history.
Starting with the Freedom Summer of 1964, three civil rights activists were killed in Mississippi by the KKK (Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC], 2007). Despite the most intense federal investigation being carried out at the time and the successful identification of more than 20 perpetrators, just one perpetrator was prosecuted. The case became known as Mississippi Burning.
Non-therapeutic clinical study. In 1965 the US Army, supported by the Dow Chemical Company, carried out a non-therapeutic clinical study on 70 inmates at the Holmesburg State Prison in Pennsylvania to study the untreated effects of dioxin (Cockburn & St. Chair, 1998-1999; Hornblum, 1997). Dioxin was injected subcutaneously into the selected participants, most of whom were African American males. Biopsies and painful procedures were frequent. Continue reading “Chapter 3: Covert racism”