Throughout the 2008 Democratic nomination process Barack Obama played the race card. Poor Hillary didn’t have a chance against the smooth offense of Obama/Axelrod and their Obamaniac army charging her with racism for daring to stay in the campaign against the Dear Leader. Clearly, the battle to wrest the Black and youth vote for Obama was based on presenting the Illinois senator as both a victim of “dog whistle” racism and the only possible champion of a new racism free America. When among Blacks Obama pretended to be a child of the civil rights struggle.
When pitching to Whites he presented himself as the no-longer-tragic mulatto no White person need fear. He played America’s dissociative racial identity disorder from every side.
We know how that strategy turned out.
Yes, Obama played a few versions the “race card”. I don’t have a problem with acknowledging that fact. What troubles me is the absurd notion that he invented the idea or the tactic of gaining political advantage by using it. There is a total historical amnesia about the true history of the so-called race card.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the “race card” and its history:
In the less critical sense, the phrase is commonly used in two contexts. In the first, and more common context, it alleges that someone has deliberately and falsely accused another person of being a racist in order to gain some sort of advantage. An example of this use of the term occurred during the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, when critics accused the defense of “playing the race card” in presenting Mark Fuhrman‘s racist past (e.g., his recorded use of the word “nigger” in addition to his being accused of tampering with murder evidence in prior cases, as well as his use of the Fifth Amendment to avoid potential self-incrimination upon questioning) as a reason to draw his credibility as a witness into question.
Another example would be a criticism of Georgia Representative Cynthia McKinney‘s assertion that she was the victim of racial profiling after she allegedly struck a United States Capitol police officer who had grabbed her at a security checkpoint. A more recent example would be criticism of Yale University student Jian Li‘s formal complaint against Princeton University, which asserted that Princeton and other elite universities discriminate against Asian Americans while setting the admissions bar lower for other minorities, including African Americans and Hispanic Americans.
In the second context, it refers to someone exploiting prejudice against another race for political or some other advantage. The use of the southern strategy by a political candidate is said by some to be a version of playing the race card, such as when former Senator Jesse Helms, during his 1990 North Carolina Senate campaign ran an ad showing a black man taking a white man’s job, intended as a criticism of the idea of racial quotas. The ad was interpreted by many people as trying to play to racist fears among white voters.
On the other hand, George Dei, Karumanchery, et alia, in their book Playing the Race Card argue that the term itself is a rhetorical device used in an effort to devalue and minimize claims of racism.
Frankly, the above description is limited in scope and pretty recent. The “race card”, played by the White political establishment goes way,way back, to the first justification for denying the African-American his/her due. Playing the race card is a method of creating racial cohesiveness among a diverse and sometimes antagonistic group of ethnic whites for political gain.
Kevin Phillip, Nixon’s campaign director said this about the “southern strategy” in 1970:
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.
Lee Atwater, Republican political strategist commented in 1981:
”You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.
”And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.”’
The most famous and successful example of playing the race hate game is the 1915 D.W. Griffith film “the Birth of a Nation”. The film fueled the revival of the Ku Klux Klan and justified the destruction of Black cities and the atrocity of lynchings and burnings of African-Americans.
How many politicians have played the color game for political gain? Too many to name.