Less than a year ago, at the dawn of the Obama era, there was a lot of talk about how the nation had just elected its first post-racial president. With his multi-racial and multi-religious background, and African immigrant roots, Barack Obama represented the hope of millions that the country was moving beyond its long, tragic history of divisive racial politics.
To be sure, Obama’s election as the first black president of the United States was an historic event of immense significance. But the idea of a post-racial presidency was a fantasy. Comments this week by former President Jimmy Carter reminded us that racial politics and prejudice are alive and well in America.
“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,” Carter told NBC’s Brian Williams.
The issue of immigration was directly implicated in Carter’s remarks. The now infamous shout of “You lie” by Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) during President Obama’s address to Congress last week came after the president asserted in his speech that undocumented immigrants would not be covered under the proposed health care overhaul.
“I think it’s based on racism,” Carter was quoted by the Washington Post as saying of Wilson’s outburst. The former president made the remark in response to a question at a public forum on Tuesday at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
The entire episode — Wilson’s shout, Carter’s critique, and all the various charges and counter charges, accusations and denials flying around Washington and in the media – suggest a very rocky future for immigration reform. (more…)