ARTICLES BY RUBY SALES<  Back

Same Old Game with a New Name
September 2009

How do we explain the recent hysteria that the right wing has set off in the nation over President Barack Obama’s intention to deliver a Back to School Address to the nation’s youth? I don’t know about you, but despite claims that we live in a post-racial world, this hysteria is all too familiar. I heard it as a child who grew up in the segregated South, which, in today’s vernacular, is a "red region". As a youth, I grew up in a black-baiting era, where white supremacists mobilized hysteria within white quarters throughout America, by depicting Black men as beasts who threatened the purity, superiority, and the prerogatives of white civilization.

Additionally, their racist diatribe targeted black children, women, and the family. As a matter of fact, these purveyors of white supremacy and terrorism traumatized us by devaluing our lives and desecrating and murdering our bodies by way of lynching, rape, and other forms of terrorism. Despite their propaganda that extolled southern hospitality, they were inhospitable to blacks, and they created inhospitable environments where we were not safe or treated with respect or dignity - not even our children or our elderly.

Even as they made the world unsafe for us, they made the safety and sanctity of white women the heartbeat of their white supremacist war against our communities. They raised white women high above all other women as symbols and icons of purity that epitomized the white South’s gentility, stability, safety, and virtue, and all that was sacred and worthy of martyring oneself. Fearing the emancipation of black men from enslavement to freedom, and fearing black men as economic equals, they used public lies to construct rigid racial lines that maintained the social order of a white-supremacist patriarchal hierarchy. They raped black women and branded a scarlet "W" on our foreheads to hold us in check, and to camouflage their hypocritical lusting of black female bodies that they told the world were unclean and licentious.

White supremacists created black "bogeymen" stories to hold white women in check, by causing them to faint and tremble at the thought of half-animal black brutes, waiting to feast on their white female flesh. Out of this social cloth of lies and bad faith, Southern white-supremacist patriarchs took this constructed and mythological cult of white womanhood, and used it as a rallying cry to unite their community in a war to control blacks and make us bend to white systemic oppression.

Refusing to take responsibility for the violent and fascist world that they created, these southern white-supremacist patriarchs transferred their sins onto the backs of black men, women and children, while at the same time, intentionally and insidiously, creating a public narrative that obscured the real source and nature of southern white-supremacist patriarchal violence and exploitation. They skillfully hid their mission of white domination and terrorism under the guise of being chivalrous guardians, whose life mission was to create a safe space for white women/nation from the uncivilized, bestial, and immoral advances of black men. For them, black male advancement in society was a precursor to hordes of black men invading the public and private spheres of white men.

Sandra Gunning points out in Race, Rape, and Lynching: The Red Record of American Literature, 1890-1912 that whites believed that "blacks in search of citizenship must also desire to invade all other aspects of white life, including the white home. As one man in Reconstruction Georgia put it, speaking of his fellow whites, ‘If you talk about equality, they at once conclude that you must take the negro into your parlor or into your bed - everywhere that you would take your wife.’"

Against this historical and racialized landscape, many modern feminists rose up against the cult of womanhood, where they existed as objects of white men’s desires and ambitions. In short, they refused to allow white men to use them to further the aims of a white-supremacist patriarchy. Because of their stance, which breaks from this element of white unity and tradition, white supremacists must now look for a new symbol of white purity and nationhood. Sarah Palin’s attack on President Barack Obama as a child killer unveiled the strategy of white supremacists today to unashamedly use their children to fashion a white power movement that recovers the power and ground that they think they lost with the election of Barack Obama as President of The United States.

In their movement to reclaim white power, they changed the symbols, but they still use the same old racialized images and language that slander black men as beasts and predators. Instead of claiming that today’s black men want to steal their wives, they level the charge that black men want to invade their homes and steal their children’s minds and loyalty. This includes President Obama, who is, in their estimation, using his victory in the public square as President to invade their homes and schools, in order to carry out an agenda that stands over and against the safety and survival of the white family/nation by contaminating the purity and innocence of their children.

To them, President Obama is not a loving husband and caring father. Instead, these right-wingers and white supremacists strip him of these human qualities and remake him into a predator and black beast in white sheep clothing. Not even the high office of the Presidency or his mulatto lineage can, in the minds of these hysterical white supremacists, remove the taint and stigma of black maleness from President Obama. President or not, their children are not safe, and they must protect them by any means necessary - even through violence!

Yet, even as they cry “our children, our children,” they originate policies that create unsafe environments, which rob children of their innocence around the globe. In many communities, they support repressive regimes that swell the ranks of children living on the street. What about the safety of Iraqi children who live in an unsafe world of U.S. bombs and death squads that kill their parents? Where is the cry from right-wing quarters that implore the United States to lay down its weapons and give to other children the safety that we demand for our own? It is important to note that the United States' militarism and aggression disproportionably affects the children of colored communities.

Let me be clear: racism by any other name is racism. The center of gravity has not shifted. We still live under the weight of racism that fuels the myth of white superiority and black inferiority. There is nothing post-racial in the latest rallying cry of white supremacists and right-wingers, “our children - our children”, or their slander and depiction of black men as predators who pose a clear and present danger to their children. What is new is the insinuation that President Obama is a dangerous predator, who will exploit and contaminate the minds and beings of white children. This implication still carries with it, however, white-supremacist rumblings of black men as amoral perverts, predators, and molesters. As such, President Obama symbolizes the 21st-century black male predator, who uses his mind and power, rather than his physical prowess, to steal and corrupt the most vulnerable members of the white community - thus stealing the future of the white nation.

History teaches us that white violence accompanies this kind of white-supremacist hysteria. It also shows that if we do not stand up to stop it, it will spread like wildfire, and once again, black people will live in the shadow and fear of white terrorism and oppression. If our allies remain silent, once again, they will allow themselves to be implicated in heinous crimes and injustices against black people. Come on, people, let’s not repeat bad history that might take future generations years to overcome. The time is ripe for us to unite to provide the nation with a different vision and narrative that emerges out of love, human dignity, and justice! As our deceased Sister Poet June Jordan told us, “we have the power in our hands to shape the world” - if we would only do it.

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