In the Age of Obama, conservatives continue their tradition of racial slurring—without actually saying the word
By Chauncey DeVega
Now, racism (what is, “power” plus “privilege”) is distorted as “reverse racism” (an oxymoron, a type of newspeak, as to reverse racism actually means that there is in fact no racism). The concept is rooted in the bizarre notion that it is white people who are the actual racists; rather, it is black Americans and those others who dare to talk about white privilege and white supremacy that are guilty of that sin. Similarly, when White America is asked to no longer use a racial slur, it is the former who are now somehow victims of “anti-white discrimination” and “unfair” racial “double-standards.” The ultimate effect of the right wing’s deft rewriting and reworking of the language of race in America is to fuel a white victimology and grievance industry, of which Fox News and the Republican Party are the main purveyors and beneficiaries.
The ugly irony of this latest fake outrage is that Fox News, the Republican Party, and the white right more broadly have been calling America’s first black President a “nigger”—normally in all but name, but sometimes even in plain speech itself—since his candidacy for president began, close to a decade ago.
While some conservatives and their defenders will immediately object to such a claim, the reality is that there are in fact many ways—deployed throughout modern history—to call a black person that word without ever saying it outright. The word itself came into common usage in the 19th century, as an “evolution” of earlier words used by white people in the context of white-on-black slavery, rape, violence, and the Maafa. Language has symbolic power. Words can be inherently provocative and violent acts against the minds and emotions of those individuals they are directed at. (The law even acknowledges such language as “fighting words.”)
Barack Obama was subjected to a racial litmus test known as “Birtherism.” His legitimacy as president of the United States was questioned because of a deep belief that he is some type of foreign Other, incompatible with what it means to be a “real American.” (Read between the lines: A white American.)