A few months ago, during the Obama-at-Notre Dame controversy, I had a conversation with a journalist, during which I opined that the whole issue of life versus death was”and has been since the time of Moses”a contest between light and dark, and would continue to be so. The journalist said, “you just said ‘black and white,’” and teased me for being a racist.

But I’d said “light and dark,” and he admitted, when he stopped laughing, that he had heard “light and dark,” but had immediately extrapolated it to “black and white” and then thought of Obama, hence the tease.

This fellow is no one’s idea of a racist (including mine), and he was a vocal supporter of President Obama. But it was his mind, not mine, that went there. The New York Times ’ columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote that when Representative Joe Wilson shouted out “You lie” during the president’s address to Congress, she heard it as “You lie, boy ””the racism clear, even though Wilson hadn’t actually said it. The blogger and law professor Ann Althouse invited her readers to speculate on whether the fact that there are white people shouting “You lie, boy” in Dowd’s mind means Dowd is a racist, projecting her own racism on to Wilson and, presumably, the tea-partiers who recently marched on Washington and, basically, anyone who disagrees with Obama on policy.

Because Barack Obama”being a Democrat president”cannot be anything but brilliant and correct. Therefore dissent, which last year was the highest form of patriotism, is now only “racist.” And as the conservative blogger Ace O’ Spades notes , “Conservatives cannot oppose anything on legitimate grounds. We only can oppose out of fear, anger, hatred and ignorance/confusion.” So, you see, there can be nothing credible in people protesting a president for spending more in his first six months than every president before him, combined, ever spent. There can be nothing credible in people protesting the government for sticking by a failed “stimulus” plan that is creating zero jobs in the private sector, as the unemployment number crests ten percent.

There can be nothing credible in people protesting a government that will send taxpayer money to Brazil ”for oil exploration and drilling”but will not allow new drilling, or the building of new oil refineries, or the tapping of natural-gas resources, or the promotion of oil-shale refining , in its own country.

There can be nothing credible in pointing out that all of those things would create the “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs” that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims she wants to find , and they would increase tax revenues aplenty; they would help make the country more energy independent, too. But this government is not interested in doing any of that, because America, an environmentally responsible country , might”gasp”responsibly use energy made from stuff that might not even be fossil fuels , when what it really needs is a ruinous energy policy guaranteed by this president, in his own words, to “skyrocket” the costs of powering our homes, our schools and our industries.

There can be nothing credible in people objecting to the straw man of the president’s claim that, in essence, he is “not going to listen to anyone who won’t work to make this better” (apparently defining “better” as “everything I want”) after ignoring every line of the opposition’s suggestions . Or adding, “they can’t stop us,” ”all while mouthing platitudes on civility and “working together.”

There can be nothing credible in people objecting to an entire Congress full of elitist, over-lobbied fatcats who can’t be bothered with listening to their constituents because they’ve decided that their privileges translate, roughly, into “we really do know what’s better for everyone else.”

There can be nothing credible in people objecting strenuously to a president naming over forty-five “policy czars” who each wield enormous power (and enormous taxpayer-funded budgets) while being unaccountable to congress or the American people”unaccountable to anyone but this president.

There can be nothing credible in people distrusting and mocking a media full of “professional gatekeepers” and “mediating intelligences” who decide that the American people who decide that the American people don’t need to hear about the “9/11 Truther” who Obama appointed his Green Jobs Czar or the other czar who planned to give money from the National Endowment for the Arts to those artists who would use their gifts for the promulgation of Obamian propaganda. And no one else should be allowed to report those stories , either.

There can be nothing credible in people protesting the fact that their government’s leadership seems intent on licking the cream from the bowl of American prosperity and ingenuity while telling the taxpayers to content themselves with the skimmed leftovers. Nothing credible in people who want to dream, to invent, and to explore their potentials protesting the fact that this government is seriously unfriendly to private enterprise and entrepreneurship

Nope. It’s all racism” because no one who voted for Obama is the least bit unhappy with his policies. They wouldn’t dare be unhappy, or they’ll be called racists or, if they happen to be black, “Uncle Toms.”

I’ve written before (and been called a racist for daring to say it, or for even trying to discuss race in an up-front manner ) that the race-fixated people of the world may well be the very definition of racist.

Recall Barbara “Call me Senator” Boxer lecturing an African-American businessman who was testifying before Congress (and refusing to be boxed in by her citing black liberal groups to him, as though he were supposed to get back in line): “[This other black man] would be PROUD to be here ,” (testifying before her majesty) said she.

Recall Joe Biden calling then candidate Obama “clean” and “articulate.”

Recall Howard Dean pandering by saying that in a GOP meeting the only people of color allowed in the room would be the waiters.

Recall Hillary Clinton making a joke about Gandhi being a gas-station owner . Or was that Vice President Biden, again ?

Recall Hillary Clinton talking about “hard-working Americans, white Americans.” Maureen Dowd writes that President Obama is “at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension.”

Well, if there is “racial turbulence””and that is the dubious narrative the press and the Democrats are trying hard to install (see the Newsweek cover story, “Is Your Baby Racist?” )”it is not due to Obama’s ascendancy (which did not exactly occur in a vacuum) but Obama’s clumsy validations and the willingness of so many of his associates to deal the race card.

Consider Gatesgate: While admitting he did not know all the facts about the brief arrest of his friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, the president still opined that the local police acted “stupidly,” during an altercation where perhaps neither the police nor the professor covered themselves in glory. We’re still reading about the incident in the papers, thanks to the president’s overeagerness to jump into that fray: In Cambridge, there is a twelve-person council being convened to investigate Gatesgate.

At this moment, however, there is not a single investigation being ordered by any Democrat into ACORN and its connection to voter-registration fraud. There is not a single investigation being ordered by any Democrat into ACORN’s willingness to assist others in defrauding the government, evading taxes, and engaging in the sex-trafficking of minors .

Perhaps even more important, the mainstream press is trying not to report on these stories; on the rare occasion when they do, they edit like mad .

How can that be? Why is that? The easiest explanation is that ACORN is an organization closely linked to President Obama, whom the press adores, and is thus untouchable. But if one wanted to be Maureen Dowd, one could just as easily suggest that the Democrats are so afraid, so paralyzingly afraid, of anyone calling them racist that they will not call for investigations of that organization. Rep. John Conyers, (D-CA) to his credit, did call for one last year, but later backed off , saying “the powers that be” got in the way.

One can only imagine that it is fear, again, that keeps anyone in the press or in Congress from examining the Obama Justice Department’s the last election. No other explanation makes sense, because both the ACORN issues and the voter intimidation issues are serious matters that demand serious investigation, yet neither are being treated as such.

Congress managed to move with remarkable swiftness in formally rebuking Rep. Wilson for his impolitic outburst during President Obama’s speech. But nearly a year after voters were intimidated, and more than a week into the burgeoning ACORN scandals, there are no investigations being ordered by Democrats into either matter, and news stories are scarce and vague.

And if you and I ask why? Well, we’re racists , we’re told. That’s why.

Is there racism in America? Of course there is. Where there are human beings who do not take the time to get to know one another, there will always be racism. As cultures shift, as populations immigrate and neighborhoods evolve, there are sometimes flare-ups too, because people do not trust each other. People trust what they know and they assume that they know someone who is like them. That may be why President Obama still enjoys disproportionately high approval ratings among African American voters. It is possibly why some Hillary-loving PUMAS still grind their teeth and hate on Obama because the president is a he and not a she.

But it is very difficult to cry “racism” when President Obama was elected by a plurality of Americans, of all races, all classes, all backgrounds, and even all parties.

My registered-Republican mother-in-law voted for Obama proudly. She’s regretting it now. Does that mean she wasn’t a racist when she voted for him, but she is one now , because she objects to his policies and feels”with some justification, I think”that she and many in the nation had a bait-and-switch played upon them?

The people who loudly scream “racist” at those who dare to dissent need to ask themselves a question: Bearing in mind that President Obama has maintained so many of President Bush’s policies, which should already more than annoy the left and the press (but seems not to), what would they be doing, right now, if it was Bush who was firing the CEO of the UAW but not the head of GM? If it was Bush’s Justice Department that was ignoring a case of voter intimidation? If it were Bush declaring that he didn’t want to hear from people who disagreed with him and who told his supporters to “hit back hard”? If it was President Bush who was increasing the deficit to 1.3 trillion dollars and doing nothing to help create jobs in a time of record unemployment? If Bush was naming one unaccountable czar after another, without so much as a raised eyebrow from the press?

What would they be doing, if President Bush were the guy taking his wife out for a date in New York that costs tens-of-thousands of dollars, while people are out of work and facing long-term high unemployment?

They’d be protesting in Washington, in huge numbers”that’s what they’d be doing. They’d be demanding accountability and decrying czars. They’d be calling Bush “Bushhitler” and hanging him in effigy, writing books and films about what it would be like to assassinate him . They’d be drawing pictures of him being decapitated. They’d be calling him Stalin, or using gunfire sound effects when mentioning him on the radio . They’d be yelling, “hey, hey, ho, ho, this president has got to go!” They’d be demanding to see pictures of the coffins from Afghanistan and saying “we have lost; we are murdering innocent civilians; we love our troops, so bring them home, miserable failure . . . unwinnable situation.”

But, because the president in the White House doing all of these things is a Democrat, these same people are silent. There are no problems. Everything is great.

Well, everything is not great, but they won’t criticize harshly, and that is partly because there is a whole “close ranks; you needn’t fall in love, just fall in line” mentality at work, here. A great deal will be put up with in order to acquire and maintain power. Presidents may peacefully surrender their power, but bureaucrats never do.

Still, they should ask themselves, these “racers” , if they also do not criticize the president because”being utterly fixated on race”they are all too conscious of the color of his skin; if they are not just a tad too concerned that criticism can be equated only with racism. They’ve used the race card to defame or shut up others so frequently that they cannot imagine a scenario where racism and criticism do not equate.

Whether subconsciously racist or not, Maureen Dowd does, in fact, betray a glaring bigotry in her piece, when she immediately declares that she heard a “You lie, boy,” beneath Joe Wilson’s inappropriate shout . She betrays a mind prejudiced against white Southerners, content to know nothing about them beyond the stereotypes we have all explored with distaste for the last forty or so years, aided in our imaginings by the condescending white racist sheriff of In the Heat of the Night and countless other films. Dowd does love her movies and pop culture, after all. The popular culture is the wellspring from which all of her deathless prose is watered.

I once wondered whether it is truly possible for any of us who came up during the civil-rights era to be wholly colorblind , because race was such a huge part of our social upbringing. It was in the news all the time. Bull Conner spraying nonviolent marchers and setting the dogs on them. Lunch counters. Dr. Martin Luther King’s soaring oratory which moved my parents to tears. There was Cecily Tyson’s awesome performance in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman . Roots . A Raisin in the Sun . Race awareness is rather ingrained in us. But my experience in America is that most people are genuinely trying to develop colorblindness. Most Americans understand just how ugly and unjust the horrible racism and segregations of the past were, and they’re sincerely working to move beyond it.

That’s difficult to do when one half of the country refuses to acknowledge that there have been some changes made, that things are not as they were even thirty years ago, and that things might be even better”for the whole nation”if one half of the country did not want to hold on to a toxic playing card because it is just too valuable for them to give up or because”even worse”crying “racism” is easier than critically thinking, easier than honestly talking.

Easier, certainly, than admitting that maybe, just maybe, Obama would have been a better president if he had first been a vice president, if he had actually gained some political experience in hearing a passionate opposing viewpoint and working out a compromise. If he had actually done something beyond voting “present” in his state and federal senate seats while tirelessly, endlessly campaigning.

Attorney General Eric Holder said America was a “ nation of cowards ” on the issue of race. It is hard to disagree when we watch the press and the Democrats (and the mostly spineless GOP ) cringe and go silent, unwilling to criticize a president (or a negligent attorney general ), who could probably use some constructive criticism; when they cringe and go silent again once that president’s pet taxpayer-funded “community organization” is exposed as deserving investigation, all because someone might call them racist.

The Maureen Dowds of this world, the Newsweek editors of this world, should ask themselves how much exposure they have to those everyday Howard Deanesque “people of color.” They rub elbows with a few of the more privileged minority movers and shakers, and that makes them feel so good about themselves, so certain about the purity of their minds and motives. They have no problem shouting “racist” at the drop of a hat, because, well, no one could ever believe they were racists: Look at who we are and where we live! Look at the minority people in our earnings strata that we let into our lives! Which is why Obama”who is very smart”played them so very, very well. He understood precisely who he was dealing with, when he hitched his star to the liberal media elites; the people who would attempt to silence all critics with a blanket cry of “racism” when the inevitable difficulties came, and who would be too afraid to ever, ever ask a hard question, for fear of having the scream echo back upon them.

Elizabeth Scalia is a contributing writer for First Things . She blogs at The Anchoress .

Articles by Elizabeth Scalia

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