Top 10 Most Racist Obama Attacks of Campaign 2012
After four years of an Obama presidency, racial slights and insensitive rhetoric are still fixtures in presidential politics
Before he took the oath of office, before it was clear he’d rise to become the party’s presidential nominee, and before his racially tense exchanges with the Clintons, Barack Obama lit the American conservative extremists’ world on fire.
Upon Obama’s election to the White House, reports of a rise in armed militias and racist groups throughout the nation were no surprise to many people of color who felt the country was not so far removed from its sordid history of human atrocities toward members of various minority groups.
Yet after four years of an Obama White House -- seemingly long enough to dispel any remaining fears associated with having a non-white commander-in-chief -- Americans who were alarmed by and vehemently opposed to Obama’s election the first time around aren’t warming to the idea of a second term. The number of people who question the president’s religion, the frequency of conspiracy theories surrounding his birth, and bad apples in the opposing party openly flying their racist flags, have only increased, according to a group that monitors these things.
Above, view a gallery of racist remarks and displays during the 2012 campaign.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S., says the ranks of extremist groups continued to swell in 2011. According to the law center’s spring 2012 report, “growth of hate groups [rose] to a record 1,018 in 2011, up from 1,002 the year before and [is] the latest in a series of increases going back more than a decade.”
While the rise in the number of groups pre-dates Obama, much of the most recent growth has everything to do with him, says Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the law center and editor of “The Patriot Movement Explodes” report.
“For many extremists, President Obama is the new symbol of all that's wrong with the country - the Kenyan president, the secret Muslim who is causing our country's decline,” Potok said in a March news release about the report. “The election season's overheated political rhetoric is adding fuel to the fire. The more polarized the political scene, the more people at the extremes.”
Of course, not all racist or culturally insensitive speech directed at Obama or other targets can be linked to hate or extremist groups. One example: After actor Clint Eastwood stole the spotlight at this year's Republican National Convention with his speech-performance mocking an invisible, seated Obama, several images surfaced of lynched chairs hanging in yards in the South.
Much of the rhetoric from prominent members of the party opposing Obama does, in earnest, come from a concern over the president's policies -- not his race. But conservatives seem to get tripped up in how the message gets delivered. Pushback on the worst offenders has not been forceful enough to suggest conservatives are serious about disavowing racist speech.
[ALSO READ: Why the GOP Won't Talk About Racism]
Conservatives, too, believe liberals condone racism targeting whites. "FightBiggotry.com," a political action committee that alleges President Obama has been dismissive of discrimination against whites, has released an ad to that effect.
Before racism and cultural insensitivity become lesser players in U.S. politics, perhaps leaders will need to set a better tone.