Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joe Wilson the new face of Angry White America

By: Harold Michael Harvey

I’ve often wondered how the individuals behind the face of angry white America really look. I’ve wondered ever since I attended the 15 April 2009 Tax Day Protest in downtown Atlanta. I have written else where about that angry white mob I found myself in across from the steps of the state capitol (The Three Reasons I Hate Being In A Crowd of Angry White People, The Harvey Journal, 16 April 2009). I wasn’t sure, but I had a hunch it was similar to the faces in the two other crowds of angry white people I had encountered in my short existence on the planet.

When President Barack Obama called a joint session of Congress to discuss his health care reform legislation the other day, it became painfully and shamefully clear just what the angry face of white America looked like.

It is predominately male, southern and bigoted. Just like the group that trespassed on my grandfather’s farm in 1955 and the group that stood outside the Lanier Jr. High School for Boys shouting insults at me back in 1965. I’ve cited these two incidents several times but I’m not sure my readers get the point. The point is not so much that these events occurred. They occurred on a regular basis back then. The object lesson here is, both of these groups thought they were right in their actions.

The mob following a pack of bloodhounds out hunting for a black man in the mid 1950s felt justified in their search and in the swift lynching that was sure to follow had they found him.

The young boys standing outside a public high school yelling “two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate” were absolutely sure they held the moral responsibility to defeat the “communist inspired” move towards the elimination of segregation in the South. Their arrogance led them to defy school authority and menacingly intimidate any black person who dared to cross their protest line that September morning 44 years ago last week.

Time, however, has a way of avenging all. We now know, which is to say that any white person of reasonable intelligence now knows (black people knew all along), that both groups of angry white males were wrong. We also know that what they feared and what roused them to anger cannot stop the turning tide of time. For what angers southern bigots and what they fear is a social order of shared responsibility after centuries of unlimited power and authority.

Male, southern and bigoted, just like Joe Wilson the Columbia, South Carolina congressman who represents the Second District in the United States House of Representatives. He has power. He can debate the issue in committee and on the floor of the House. He has a vote. Yet he resorts to heckling!

What manner of American is this who would sit on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and interrupt an important speech by the president of the United States of America with shouts of “you lie?”

Male, southern and bigoted. Just like the three dozen or more people who gathered outside the congressman’s office in Columbia, South Carolina recently who praised Wilson’s rudeness as an act of heroism. Not only does he owe the president an apology, but he owes an apology to the American people who tuned in to listen to an important policy address on health care reform, only to be distracted by a heckler disguised as a congressman.

Male, southern and bigoted. Just like William Browning, the 55 year old South Carolina man quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “I hope he [Joe Wilson] sticks to his guns. If they reprimand him, so be it.”

Such arrogance displayed by Joe Wilson and William Browning is appalling. The utter disrespect for Barack Obama oozes out of their pores by the pound.

How does one come to hate a person whose policies are different? There is but one simple answer. It is time to stop playing games and call a spade a spade. It’s racism pure and simple. Southern bigoted males have a very low tolerance for Obama’s skin in the game. It doesn’t matter southern bigoted males have rolled out a few black faces at their rallies. The majority of black people see through this ruse and are not taken in by the slight of hand of a band who proclaim an interest in restoring the “American way,” like patriots of old who dodged the race question in their day by counting darker citizens as chattel and worth, according to the federalist of that day, a mere three-fifth of the measure of a white man.

Grow up southerners. You are pouting like little boys pout on the playground. Like those little boys pouted on the steps of Lanier Jr. High School for Boys in ‘65 .

Watching this band of anti-government protesters march in the District of Columbia on 12 September 2009, I saw the same agitated and snarling faces I saw in the mob back in ‘55 and the mob of ‘65. You could contrast these angry faces with the determined, yet peaceable expressions on the faces of the men and women who attempted to marched across the Edmund Pettits Bridge on Bloody Sunday. When one considers this dichotomy of history, one realizes that the arch of justice stills bends towards the metaphysical progeny of Selma.

Alas, we knew this day was coming. We have known since the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. We have known since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. We have known since Martin told the nation about a dream that he had had.

Get over it! America is big enough for all of us to live in peace, harmony and prosperity.

Let’s say for the sake of argument the cause of angry white Americans is right and Health Care Reform will place a huge burden on grandchildren of conservative fiscal minded Americans. The corollary is also true. To do nothing will continue to place a tremendous burden on the families of that other America who are also a part of the grand melting pot that makes us unique in the universal set of world democracies.

Thus the reasonable discourse should be: How do we provide adequate health care for all American citizens without providing future generations with a tax bill that is insurmountable?

Anything else makes great sound bites for the six o’clock news and fodder to increase the great divide between conservatives and progressives, between Christians and the ungodly, between whites, blacks, browns, reds, yellows and the many shades in the box of crayons, that did not exist when the mob hunted for a black man on my grandfather’s farm back in ‘55.

© September 13, 2009


Anonymous said...

Very accurate, sadly.

Jim Brown III said...
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Jim Brown III said...
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Jim Brown III said...

Sorry for multiple posts. In a hurry. This one is the last attempt, fail or no.

Though I completely agree with the wrongness of all these actions, I do find it interesting that the same people who vehemently and without restraint vilified the last President of the United States and completely threw respect for the office out the window because he was 'a bad man out to destroy us' in their minds, are now complaining about their president getting similar treatment. I agreed with this sentiment, but I was saddened by the level of attacks thrown about and how much teachers taught my kids to show no respect for the office. These people feel threatened by Obama and they are reacting far less aggressively than people did towards the previous President. As you should know, showing respect does not mean you agree. Now the shoe is on the other foot and all the lack of respect is coming back.

Respect is one of the things I think we've lost and I wonder if we'll ever get it back.

Again, sorry for the deletes. Wanted to get this out before life pulled me away for hours.

lloyd said...

Lloyd C. - Proud Democrat.

Congressman Wilson has shamed himself, his state and his party. His total lack of self-control puts into serious question his emotional ability to make level-headed, prudent decisions for our country. He will forever be known for this stupid, disrespectful act.

Of more than 535 people present in that room, HE was the only one who couldn't hold his temper and couldn't act in the dignified manner that has existed in that Hall for more than 200 years.

It's time for Mr. Wilson to step aside so that a more mature, and stronger, candidate can take over. Iraq war veteran Rob Miller is just the candidate that South Carolina needs at this time.

Miller, a former Marine Corps captain and Beaufort County resident who is running against Wilson again, said supporters donated $400,000 to him in 19 hours — between 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

“As a former Marine, I was always trained to respect the chain of command,” Miller said. “I was surprised that Congressman Wilson would disrespect the commander in chief on national television. His actions really exemplify everything that’s wrong in Washington. Shouting and name-calling have no place when we’re dealing with such important issues.”

Well said sir. And thank you for your service to our nation.

onassignment said...

I appreciate that you have a personal history of suffering and heart ache that I cannot relate to, except in the most superficial way, but this is not 1955 and it is not 1965. Our culture must never be about race again!
I admit that there are ignorant ones, on both sides, who want to see the race issue perpetuated but they are in the minority and America will never stand for a return to this kind of division in the human family!
You have every right to express your fears as you see them. You basically are telling us that what you see is a return to racist mobs of the past. First you profiled the mob as angry, white, southern bigots and then you expanded the category to "Angry White America." I am white and I am American but I am not angry. However, I clearly see that there is an element that works to keep the wounds open. Wounds for which there is no cure but healing.
Our President, like the last one, has those who are going to fight everything he does to get their own way. I'm sorry, this is politics. Right or wrong, President Obama knows politics. He's a smart guy. He will win some and lose some but he does not need us out here throwing gasoline on what is actually a very small group wanting things their way. I think when you speak of the 1950's and 60's, it better serves their purpose than if we stick to the President's agenda, whether we agree or disagree.
Does racial division serve a purpose of which I am not aware? I am very naive when it comes to the realm of politics but it seems to me, that the media and other influential persons, such as yourself, are very focused on making it an issue.
The first 16 paragraphs of your blog actually served to indoctrinate and inflame old hatreds and injuries for which there is no cure. And you have every right to express yourself, just as the angry, white, southeren bigots you described have a right to protest.
But, if we continually open these wounds, there will never be civil, common ground relationships between all peoples.
The last three paragraphs of your blog was the approach to use to engage peaceful dialog.
Please, don't use your gifts to return to a place none of us want to go.
If not with us, brother, then when, and with whom?

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Onassignment, thanks for commenting. You have aptly described the problem.

"...but this is not 1955 and it is not 1965. Our culture must never be about race again!"

Which is exactly the point,yet the paradigm of the 21 st century is the paradigm of 1955 and 1965. If someone does not point it out, we will never get beyond that period in time. I am a writer, a witness to history and can only write no better than I have seen. When the Joe Wilson's of the world crawl back under the rock they came from and I see better, I will write a different history.

Ms Lee P said...

Michael you always get your point across. Of course these men were rude and definitely out of order and would have been rude and out of order anywhere. But to disgrace themselves to all of America and the world also shows just how ignorant they are. Just recently, my daughter has been invited by her congressman who is retiring after this term to run for the position he is vacating. She is a stanch fighter for reforming public education in the state that she lives in and has made remarkable progress and strides in this field since she decided to take it on. I'm not too sure she should do this. Politics is mean and very often you can come into contact with truly evil people. My daughter is an honest (almost to a fault, she won't let me cheat on anything) and hard working individual who wants to right the wrongs of the world. But when I see this kind of display it reminds me that all is not nice in our political system and I would worry about her taking on such a public position. But maybe she could be the one to teach others how to behave and to do what is right and correct. The Bible says to avoid evil because it is contagious and goodness is not. If we all walked around with only our church crowds and avoid the masses how will they know what the correct things are? Hmmmm, I got carried away and digressed. I agree with you these two should be ashamed of themselves for showing their rudeness and ignorance in front of America and the world.

Your friend, MsLee

onassignment said...

Thank you for your response. I do value your opinion and respect your gift. I pray, in our time, a different story can be written. Bless you in all you do for our country.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I think you have a lot of things right in your blog entry for today ("Joe Wilson the new face of Angry White America"), but I think you also miss an important point.

Is Joe Wilson acting out of narrow minded racism? Perhaps. But perhaps he is using the narrow minded racism he knows is rampant amongst his constituents as a tool for manipulation. With that single outburst, played as an emotional one despite having foreknowledge of the contents of the speech, he went from being a congressional non-entity to being a national figure (of ridicule to some, but a hero to others).

Wilson may simply be a racist, an angry white male. But he could also be something more insidious: a political manipulator of the angry white vote for his own advancement and for the cause of the corporatocracy that the Republican party in particular serves. If he is the former rather than the latter, then he too is a pawn of that corporatocracy.

Obama's skin colour is a convenience for that shadowy manipulator of government. It makes him easier to villify.

Rory M.

Anonymous said...

Another well-written article that gently draws out truth like medicinal paste on an ugly wound. Thanks for sharing.

Jacqueline Benjamin-Thomas

Anonymous said...

The individuals behind the face that's awesome!


Harold Michael Harvey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

As u say "call a spade a spade. It’s racism pure and simple." ...excellent post!

Black Nerd Network

Dori said...

Great post! You could so see the seething rage in Wilson's face. Thank you for calling out this hate.

Juanita said...

He apologized to the President, the Vice President but he sill not and he does not think he has to apologize to the American people. Such a sad statement about what he thinks about his office. He should be removed if he does not understand that he is NOT a person he is an office that represents THE PEOPLE. And to, specifically, the state the he represents.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Harvey,

As always you are on target, however Joe Wilson is not from Columbia, SC; he is from Charleston, SC. Me being born and raised in the GREAT State of South Carolina (Columbia) I was really embarrassed by his behavior! However, as my boss so eloquently puts it, "It is what it is!" Talk to you soon!

Nickalus T. Holt

fr41trek said...

keen observer as always dear friend

Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read that article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Paper Puzzle