Criticizing the President is a great American past-time, and certainly there has been no lack of criticism toward Barack Obama. And, such criticism of a President is proper and within bounds, when it concerns policies. But the personal attacks have been something else, such as the innuendo and rumor thrown at Mr. Obama by the idiotic question of whether he was born in Kenya instead of Hawaii.
Was that not just a sly maneuver to constantly remind voters that he is black – and therefore not one of “us,” meaning a lily white person?
Now, comes Wisconsin’s 9th District Congressman James Sensenbrenner to make fun of the First Lady by saying she has a “big butt” in criticizing her commendable crusade to reduce childhood obesity. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Columnist Eugene Kane called the remark “racist,” noting that he couldn’t recall another First Lady who had ever been similarly attacked by a clearly offensive, nasty remark. Read column.
Then there’s the story about the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a year ago ruled that there were no racial overtones when a white manager at a Tyson chicken plant in Gadsden AL called the adult black men employed there as “boy.” Now, just before Christmas, the Court has made the unusual move of reversing itself and agreeing that the term “boy” is offensively racist. See story.
How the learned judges of the 11th Circuit in Atlanta could have dismissed the use of the word “boy” in the South as anything but hurtful to black men in the first place speaks volumes about how far this nation still has to go to understand how racist terms can hurt. How could they not know that the term “boy” connotes inferiority and enslavement itself?
The judges in the 11th Circuit are from the South, and may have grown up using the term “boy” to refer to their black neighbors. That’s still no excuse, especially for supposed educated men wearing dark robes.
Now, Rep. Sensenbrenner is a born and bred northerner, representing folks in the counties bordering Milwaukee County. He made the “big butt” remark in a small group to be sure, but it matters little that he likely would not have said it in front of a microphone. The Congressman has apologized to the First Lady but such apologies are meaningless. The fact that he said indicates what his attitude is.
Sadly, too, Rep. Sensenbrenner’s racism rests in many of us, if we’re honest about it, just as it rested in the souls of the justices of the 11th Circuit.
Some may question whether we’re merely being “politically correct” in looking to avoid the use of hurtful references of a person’s anatomy or the use of terms like “boy.” It’s more than that: it’s a basic attitude that needs to be corrected. And racist attitudes can be just as prevalent in Wisconsin as they can be in Georgia. – Ken Germanson, Dec. 29, 2011