As a Black man who is conscious of the history of racism in America witnessing the current growing white anti-Obama campaign, I realize there is nothing new or surprising about this racist backlash phenomenon.
The white backlash, or ‘white-lash’, is racist measures (intimidation, violence, propaganda, policies, laws, etc.) used historically to counter Black progress. The first racist backlash was after slavery. During Reconstruction according to scholars there were more than 1,500 African American political officeholders in the South. To counter the rise of Black poiticians, Southern state governments’ instituted repressive Black Code laws, coupled with Klu Klux Klan terrorism.
The next major racist backlash measure was to counter the gains of the Civil Rights struggle and Black Power movement. Commenting on the racist white backlash Martin Luther King stated: “The persistence of racism in depth and the dawning awareness that Negro demands will necessitate structural changes in society have generated a new phase of white resistance in the North and South. Based on the cruel judgment that Negroes have come far enough, there is a strong mood to bring the civil rights movement to a halt or reduce it to a crawl. Negro demands that yesterday evoked admiration and support, today, to many whites have become tiresome, unwarranted, and disturbance to the enjoyment of life.”
The main counter measure used during this period was COINTELPRO, an an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program, a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at investigating, disrupting, and destroying progressive Black organizations, including murdering its leadership.
From the moment Barak Obama was sworn in as the first African-American president the white backlash swung into motion against him. This racist backlash movement has taken organizational form in the Tea Party and the Birthers. These organization have led many anti-Obama marches, many of their protesters carry signs depicting him as a ‘Monkey’ that should go back to Africa, demonizing him as a‘Communist’, and a foreign born ‘Muslim’.
Indeed, the racist propaganda characterizations of Obama are historical, nothing new! From slavery white racist propaganda has depicted Black men as monkeys to dehumanize us; historically Black male leaders struggling for racial and economic justice were labeled as Communist to discredit them; the communist boogey man was used particularly against Martin Luther King, Jr.
Islamophobia, whites fear, dislike, and hatred of Muslims is nothing new. The Black Muslim movement, and its well known leaders Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farakahn were despised and attacked. On October 29, 2009, Imam Luqman Abdullah of Detroit was politically murdered by the FBI for being a Black Muslim leader.
As Black people what we are witnessing at the moment is the full, ugly furor of the racist white backlash, aimed directly and indirectly at us as Black men embodied in the first Black president Barak Obama. Where is the Black movement to advocate and protect our interests and counter the right-wing ‘Tea Party’, ‘Birthers’, and growing white supremacists?