Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

The Racism of Fear


Guest Blogger • Oct 14, 2008

By J.J. Smite
Let’s be clear: McCain and Palin have not played the race card. They have played most of the deck of race cards, using standard code words, dragging Obama’s middle name into speeches, linking him to terrorists (Ayers may be white, but the connection with the “real” terrorists is clear), and questioning his background and patriotism. They had been demagoguing crowds into anger, threats, and hatred before “backing down” toward the end of last week under increasing criticism, even from within their own party-which itself has perfected the racism of fear for years.

Fear has always been a handy and useful political tool, and one of the most effective in maintaining or securing power. The culture of fear fanned by the Bush Administration since 9/11 has been extraordinarily effective. But long before Bush there was Nixon, who never really seemed to shed a penchant for McCarthy-era redsearches for enemies under every table. It was Atwater who later perfected the genre with his devilish love of the racism of fear that still shores up countless campaigns-he of Willie Horton fame; he of minions who Bushwhacked McCain himself in North Carolina in 2000 with blatantly racist attacks. Now the earlier victim himself has picked up the fiery torch that burned him.

The most repulsive part of the current McCain story is his feigning innocence and taking umbrage whenever anyone raises the possibility that his and Palin’s fear-mongering is dangerous or racially-tinged. Last week Representative John Lewis-he of unmatched stature in the historic civil rights struggle-chided the duo for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” in ways that reminded him of the infamous Governor Wallace. McCain’s response railed against Lewis’ “character attack” that was “shocking and beyond the pale.” McCain said he was “saddened” by the remarks of one he had allegedly relied upon for sage advice. Right… guilty as charged, Senator.

This racism of fear is the driving force behind those who cannot abide the notion that this nation could be headed by an African-American, or that it could-indeed, will-become minority-white by mid-century. This is the deep and hateful fear that drives anti-immigrant forces, masked by their ludicrous finger-pointing at immigrants for the cause of every major problem facing the country-from urban sprawl to job lose to environmental degradation to the financial crisis. Last week the tottering Social Contract Press even tried to raise the scare bar by asserting that undocumented immigrants would/could cast enough fraudulent ballots to tip the coming election-to Obama, no doubt.

McCain-“immigration reformer extraordinaire”-must have been chuckling, as is his wont, all the way through the week at that one, concurrently wondering why he hadn’t come up with it. It really didn’t matter. He had enough of his own racism of fear to pile on the campaign, and to assure that the flames of hatred would still burn strong long after his latest campaign stop ended.

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