September 17th, 2009
12:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Race and politics in the age of Obama

President Obama during the 2008 campaign faced questions over race and politics
President Obama during the 2008 campaign faced questions over race and politics

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Race and politics are a combustible combo that explodes into headlines when an ex-president lights the fuse, as Jimmy Carter did recently.

"When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds," the Democrat told students at Emory University on Wednesday.

"I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African-American," he added.

The controversy erupted this week when Carter first raised the race issue to NBC.

"An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," he said.

Bill Cosby, a black comedian and actor, said Wednesday in a written statement that he agrees with Carter.

"During President Obama's speech on the status of health care reform, some members of Congress engaged in a public display of disrespect," he said.

CNN contributor David Gergen said that some of the allegations of race-baiting might have some weight among Democratic voters.

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Filed under: President Carter • President Obama
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. The Voice

    It's clear it is racist, because everything they are condeming him of doing or becoming, Bush did for eight years. They just do not want Obama as President or to succeed because he is black and intellegent. Plain and simple.

    But unfortunately, you always don't get what you want. America has voted for change and we are moving forward!

    September 17, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  2. 60's survivor

    true every word. there are many who have not evolved beyond their learned prejudice and proud of it I'm afraid. I live in the south and though this isn't a regional monopoly. some express quite openly their inability to accept this president. and absolutely nothing he does no matter how brilliant will never be accepted. how do you fight that kind of hate and ignorance ?

    September 17, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Phat Elvis

    its a fine line–Republicans were also very rude to Pres Clinton. maybe its just that there is a pervasive attitude among Republicans that Democrats somehow have no legitimacy in leading the country, but that is an attitute they themselves have fostered. Obama has had to endure criticisms beyond what Clinton endured– offensive pictures in African caricature, questioning his birthplace (and therefore trivializing his very existence), public accusations of being a terrorist, a communist, a fascist, etc.

    Sub-conscious Xenophobia is an underlying component of racism, as is attitudes that one is less human or less capable than another. this is what the Republicans repeatedly express. maybe they should change their tone, because if they are not racist, they sure come close

    September 17, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. Joe citizen abroad

    Jimmy Carter's comments were, unfortunately, accurate. He has a habit of speaking the truth, in spite of our nation's desire not to hear it. I admire him for that.

    September 17, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. melissa kania

    I am a white woman in my early 40's, growing up I have witnessed racism. I'm often times loudly opposed to it and not afraid to call someone on it. It is still happening today and for people to try and deny that it still happens need to get their head out of the sand. I agree with President Carter, I've personally seen and heard it. I'll get unwanted emails that are racist about Obama, I send them back with a note to not send anymore, they aren't funny. People need to just admit it and try to stop being that way.

    September 17, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. David from WI

    The left and far left bring up race as an issue ARE THEY OUT OF THEIR MINDS?!?!?!?

    WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!?!?!

    OH yeah that is going to go over well.

    September 17, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. Bridgette

    It's nothing new under the sun that is going on in America. This hatred and the love of money is going to destroy us beyond recognition.

    September 17, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Melissa

    Carter is right. Unfortunately.

    September 17, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. Emma

    I agree 1,000 per cent with Bill Cosby and former President Carter. I lived and grew up in the South and I recognize racism for what it is.

    These white cronies of the Republican Party and old boy southern Democrats just hate that a black man is President. This is the reason a lot of folks do not address him as President Obama. You even have racist reporters who refuse to address in properly.

    I recognize that bigoted smile because a saw a lot of it growing up in the South.

    September 17, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  10. Jesus Francisco

    Carter and Cosby are right. A lot of this hate and angst toward Obama is race-based and the Whitehouse might as well face up to it ... and hit back!

    September 17, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  11. miken

    A great many democrats are pointing to a very very small number of right-wingers on the fringe of the republican party and trying to label all republicans as racists. Its really dispicable. The democrats are in this way being racists themselves – a great many of them.

    September 17, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. sammieb51

    Having been raised in mid-west and lived a number of years in south, Carter is right in saying that racism exists all over this country. The south holds no corner on it anymore and in fact in many ways has made bigger strides than the north in this area ....

    I also agree that the entire charade of protests that surround anything Obama does - carry out the terms of the bailout signed by Bush, further the GM bailouts instituted by Bush, talk to school kids about education when we are now ranked #31 in the world for Math/Science with a 30% dropout rate - is totally based on race.

    I also am more than a little stunned that no one seems to recognize that Obama is as white as he is black. Smacks of the old Jim Crowe 'laws'.

    September 17, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  13. Steve, PA

    If this Country really was a Racist Country like these people CNN continues to interview, then McCain would be in the White House and Obama would still be a Senator. For anyone to say otherwise is an idiot, because you obviously did not see the bigger picture. This claim of Racism is the only thing left for Democrats to use, to try and rebuke the people who are protesting. Yes, there is Racism, and there is also Reverse Racism, but no everyone that protests the Governments policies are a Racist. I'm white and do not like the way this Administration is not being held accountable for all their spending and corrupt dealings. Does that make me a Racist? No. I disagree and that's all there is to it.

    September 17, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  14. Freedom

    Hello I just wanted to let you know that my wife ,and I attended several TEA PARTIES. We are in protest of several of Obama's policies. We think the Cap and Trade in our area which employee's several oil ,and gas workers will lead to lay offs. As well we think it will lead to higher energy bills. Our congressmen who is a DEM. aslo agrees with our group. Their are other Obama things we also disagree with. So before you draw your finger at my family ,and call us racist. My wife is AFRO AMERICAN ,and my daughter is also AFRO AMERICAN. They also disagree with Obama also. So please have some respect my family isn't rascist. We love this country very much we just don't like socialist.

    September 17, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  15. turnip

    Funny how the report of black students assulting a white student on a school bus in Bellville, ILLinois managed to fly under the "Racism Radar".

    September 17, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. Cindy

    I'm not black, but I've got your back, President Obama.

    The President has done more to elevate to dignity of the Office of the Presidency than any of the presidents in recent history. These people who are trying to denigrate and trivialize him... are wrong. The people who have been influenced by them, are misguided.

    History will show... Barack Obama will be amongst the great ones.

    September 17, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Former President Jimmy Carter was right on point about racism in America today. If you look back through some of the news article or TV video tape you will see some of the signs people made trying to make a statment about President Obama . Even today There people in the United States Of America still refuse to say President Obama. Just like this weekend, at the tea party in Washington D. C. people were saying President Obama is not their President on National TV. Don't forget some of the town hall meeting. True! some people VOTE RACE, Nothing was said about RACE when there was only European (WHITE ) candidate running for President or elected as President. Ican see why other nation are confused by American democracy

    September 17, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Leonard

    Race will continue to be a problem until we have a discusson on it. Just because a Black Man is President does not mean racism just went away. Not talking about it and just saying it does not exist is plain ignorant. Ask hispanic , black and honest cucasion if racism still exist.

    I for one will tell you it does still playa part in all of America not just the South.

    September 17, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. David

    Yeah, it's beyond the bounds when it is the leader of your party but when it is the other guy it is ok and within bounds of their freedom of speech. I saw these same signs and pictures of Bush. Get over yourselves. The two party system is a scam. They are laughing at us all for not figuring this out and playing into this stuff.

    September 17, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. arias

    There is definitely a racial element to the tea baggers. Just look at their signs and see the racial venom. There's absolutely no denying it.

    And the GOP is embracing these bigots with open arms. Birds of a feather.

    September 17, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  21. R in Maine

    He nailed that comment accurately enough. That dork Wilson harmed himself and his party, but he did let the real feellngs come out.

    September 17, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
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