The important thing about former President Jimmy Carter’s declaration that the blowback against President Barack Obama has to do with the fact that “he’s a black man” is not how true it is, but how sad it is.
Black people have been saying this all along, but when an old Southern governor who understands the Old South says it on national television, it has the weight of a revelation.
It is clear that the people making the most noise are the ones who came out on the losing end of the last election, an election that so embodied the idea of progress that it felt like it was leaving a lot of things behind. But, apparently, the old, tired racism that tries to relegate black people to permanent second-class citizenship in the United States stayed with us.
The sad, and tiresome, part is that we have to have that same damn conversation over and over again. We can take some comfort in the fact that part of the intensity we see from the vein-popping angry populism of the birthers and the tea-baggers, the Joe Wilsons and the Glenn Becks flows from a desperate recognition that they are on the losing end of a historic argument. Obama’s presidency is the checkmate against an ugly America that they want to preserve, but that they see fading not-so-slowly in the rearview mirror.