By DeWayne Wickham
White racism — which was widely rumored to have been driven into remission by the election of Barack Obama is resurging precisely because of his victory.
Evidence of this reaction to the nation's first black president can be found in the uptick of hateful public speech and in the growing number of threats by activists who are armed and motivated to do harm. Much of this post-election ugly talk and threatened violence has been directed at the president — and even his family.
"Death to Obama," read the sign brandished last week outside a health care reform town hall meeting in Hagerstown, Md. The so far unnamed 51-year-old white man carrying it was taken into custody by the Secret Service. The crudely drawn sign also threatened the life of the president's wife and children. Obama wasn't in Hagerstown, but a day earlier he appeared in Portsmouth, N.H., for a town hall meeting where another white man, William Kostric, showed up outside with a 9 mm pistol strapped to his leg. He also carried a sign: "It is time to water the tree of liberty."
Those words are a reference to something Thomas Jefferson said in 1787: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." Kostric, who Salon.com said lists white supremacist Randy Weaver as one of his heroes, told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that he went to the school to protest because the United States is "traveling down a road at breakneck speed that's toward tyranny, away from liberty."
Acting on hate
In January, Keith Luke, a 22-year-old white man, allegedly went on a shooting spree in Brockton, Mass., fatally shot two blacks and critically wounded another. He was "fighting to save a dying race," Luke reportedly told cops. In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said the election of Obama has inflamed racist extremists who saw it "as another sign that their country is under siege by non-whites."
Between his election and Inauguration Day, Obama got more threats than any other president-elect in U.S history, said the center's Intelligence Report. Several white supremacists were charged in plots to kill Obama.
In June, James von Brunn, the 89-year-old white supremacist who killed a black guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, claimed that "Obama was created by Jews."
In another report last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center said at least 50 new anti-government militia groups have been discovered.One of them is made up of present and former police officers and soldiers. Their creation has been spurred by the presence of a black man in the White House, the center said.
"That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriotic movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate," it concluded.
One militia near Atlanta created its own grand jury, a kangaroo court that indicted Obama for fraud and treason. His crime, it said, was that he wasn't born in the U.S. and is illegally occupying the presidency, the center reported.That threadbare lie — the charge that Obama was born abroad — has been disproved for all but the president's most rabid opponents. Even so, the suggestion that he has committed an act of treason, a crime that often carries a death penalty, is especially worrisome.
These gathering clouds should not be ignored; the price would be too high.