Opinion

They said despicable things about the Obamas but say they’re not racists. Yes, they are

Has a Black president changed America?

African-Americans speak about Barack Obama’s legacy, racism and how they feel about the departure of the country’s first family from the White House.
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African-Americans speak about Barack Obama’s legacy, racism and how they feel about the departure of the country’s first family from the White House.

(This column first appeared in the Lexington (Ky.,) Herald-Leader.)

Psychologists have long recognized rationalization as a defense mechanism that people use to excuse unacceptable or offensive behaviors by offering some pseudo-logical reasoning or self-serving explanations.

Perhaps we justify that sumptuous dessert because we have earned a reward for sticking to our diet. Or we tell our boss we are sick, when we really want to go to the last game of the season. Some of these excuses are harmless, but far too often they are not.

For the last eight years, people who have mounted despicable attacks on President Obama and his family have tried to rationalize their bigotries. Consider these examples:

A Republican candidate here in Kentucky won a legislative seat, even though he had posted images of the Obama family as a band of monkeys, but he says he is not a racist.

Yes, you are.

A public official in West Virginia said she will be glad to have a dignified white first lady, instead of seeing an ape in high heels. But she says she is not a racist.

Yes, you are.

In Sheridan, Ind., people made a parade float of President Obama in a toilet, but said they are not racists.

Yes, you are.

A mayor in Pennsylvania ran a picture of Michele Obama on a wagon of orangutans under the caption ‘Move-in day at the White House’, but denied being a racist.

Yes, you are.

The people who insist that President Obama is not a native-born American deny they are racists.

Yes, you are.

A candidate in Tennessee posted a billboard with the caption “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN,” but he denied that he is a racist.

Yes, you are.

A mayor in Washington State ran an image of Michelle Obama as a gorilla, saying she could be attractive only to another monkey like her husband. Of course, he says he is not a racist.

Yes, you are.

When a gorilla escaped from a zoo in South Carolina, a GOP politician in South Carolina posted a Facebook page telling people to be on the lookout for Michelle Obama’s ancestor, but he says he is not racist.

Yes, you are.

After the 2008 election, some right-wing extremists circulated bumper stickers, quoting Psalm 109, that pray for God to kill President Obama, leaving his wife a widow and his children orphans, but they denied they are racists.

Yes, you are.

One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln stories relates his encounter with an elitist lawyer who, during a trial, dismissed him as a rustic bumpkin. Lincoln posed him a simple riddle. “If we call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse have?’ The smug lawyer replied, “Five.” Lincoln corrected him. “No, he still has four legs, because calling a tail a leg does not make it one.”

People are free to engage in self-delusion if they wish, but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, it is a duck, and these comments are racist. But perhaps these bigots should heed the poet Robert Burns’ advice in the poem “To A Louse.”

‘O would some power the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us.’

(Roger Guffey lives in Lexington, Ky., and is a math professor and a Sunday school teacher.)

"There's no magic to the phrase 'radical Islam'... It's a political talking point. It's not a strategy," stated President Obama, two days after the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. Forty nine people were killed by a gunman in an Orlando,

 

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