Will Racist Tweets Help Obama?
Why seeing hate in 140 characters or fewer might convince some to cut him a break.
So many pieces have been written in recent years about the danger of overusing the "r-words" -- racist or racism -- that a Google search of "the word racist is overused" produces more than 800,000 results. Not all of these articles are the work of conservatives.
Brande Victorian, a writer for the African-American women's site Madame Noire, also challenged Americans to be more selective in using "the r-word" so that we don't continue to lessen its impact. The point Victorian makes is that in efforts to police incidents of subtle racism (those that are not blatant and easy to pinpoint), at times we have become overly sensitive and spotted racism where it may not truly exist. To Victorian's point, as a result we have given fuel to the Coulters, Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world to accuse us of crying wolf. There they go again crying racism where it doesn't exist, one can imagine them saying.
What this wave of racist postelection tweets has done is knock the wind right out of the sails of the argument that blatant racism is extinct. When there was just a handful of blatantly racist incidents here and there, such as the man who showed up wearing a racist T-shirt to a Romney rally, conservatives could claim he was one knucklehead, and didn't represent a consensus. But these tweets are evidence that blatant racism is alive and well within conservative circles. They undermine the argument that none of the president's opposition -- particularly from Southern elected officials -- has anything to do with race.
Of course these social media messages don't prove that all of his opponents are fueled by racism. But they sure do lend credibility to the idea that more of his criticism and opposition is fueled by racism than many conservatives care to admit. This proof will only strengthen the president's standing as he prepares for battle over the looming fiscal cliff and a host of other issues.
It's worth noting that polls have shown a clear racial divide in how black and white Americans view racism today. According to Newsweek/The Daily Beast, "Seventy percent of whites, for example, think that blacks have an equal shot at affordable housing; only 35 percent of blacks say the same. Seventy percent of whites believe that the two races receive equal treatment in the job market; a mere 25 percent of blacks concur. And while more than 80 percent of white people say the cops and courts usually or always treat blacks the same as whites, that number doesn't even clear 50 percent among African-Americans. It's no wonder, then, that blacks are twice as likely as whites (82 percent versus 38 percent) to say that race played a role in the shooting of Trayvon Martin."
Perhaps the racism on display in social media after the first black president won a second term will help awaken a number of Americans to the fact that racism is very much alive and well. Once enough Americans make peace with that fact, perhaps the first black president will finally feel more empowered to tackle issues of racial inequality in housing, unemployment and elsewhere in a second term.