The Fung campaign disavowed any responsibility for the tweet of a volunteer. What else can he do? So that leaves someone else to defend the right of a fair political comment. My turn in the barrel.
First, some context, last Sunday it was reported that President Barack Obama said in a New Yorker interview, some people "really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black man occupying the Oval Office.” The President also said, "Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”
I think that is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. I think the President’s remarks were overall correct in a general sense, and I don’t think his using the word “black” in and of itself was racist. I don’t think suggesting that some people are proud this country has a “black” or non-white President as a reflection of our triumph over racism and as a celebration of our nation of opportunity for everyone, is a bad thing either. But some felt, that in that statement, the President was implying that those who did not support him or his policies,“non-blacks” if you will, might be racist. Am I being over-sensitive?
I have heard and seen Democrats and Obama supporters claim that those who do not support the President’s policies are racist. Conservatives bristle at this, and are contemptuous of it. They fight back, often wryly and sarcastically.
The “offending tweet” was mocking the perception that the President’s had implicitly correlated his approval ratings to his race. That’s actually sort of a good post racial thing, isn’t it?
No less reflexive was the response of Jim Vincent who GoLocalProv reported as “with the RI NAACP.”( psst..He’s the president of the NAACP-Providence)
"When people talk about the President, I don't know why they have to mention his race -- what does it have to do with anything? I find it surprising that someone would mention his race in conjunction with his performance. It's inappropriate," said Vincent. "It doesn't help anyone's campaign to have someone who said that associated with them."
When the President talks about the American people, he doesn't have to mention his race either. But when he does, I am not searching for the opportunity to call him a racist; rather, I try to hear what he really means. We elected him President, twice now. But he did talk about race and he did so in a way that suggested some of his “non-black” opposition might be racist. Well, conservatives who feel they have articulated their policy disputes clearly, have a right to retort.
Ray Rickman and Jim Vincent were reflexive in their condemnation. Given this tweet was from a young volunteer and was obviously wry, sarcastic and sardonic, and given it was responsive to the President’s own remarks, they could have shown some forbearance. Instead they effectively blasted a young person as a “racist” and did so in print.
Ray Rickman and Jim Vincent are community leaders. I expect them to know when not to take the bait. I expect men of stature and power to know restraint.
But Rickman also called on the Fung campaign to remove the volunteer from the campaign. Not only is the young woman to be called a racist, but she is to be discouraged in her exercise of political rights, according to Rickman.
Maybe Rickman should write the President a letter and instruct him when he may and may not use the word “black.” Maybe the President should not campaign for the Democratic nominee in 2016.
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