Muslim, Black, Unpatriotic, Un-American, Sexist: Just a few of the words used as insults hurled at Barack Obama since the inception of his presidential campaign. Despite Barack Obama's commitment to American politics, distrust of him runs deep in many parts of the US.
As if the previous attempts to slur Obama weren't enough, at a town hall meeting on Friday, one of John McCain's supporters took the bigotry to a whole new level when she stood up and claimed that Barack Obama is "an Arab." McCain responded that Obama was not an Arab, but a "decent family man." The video is below:
Bloggers were perplexed by the woman's question as well as McCain's reaction. A Moro in America said of the incident:
Should one laugh or cry ?!!
Al Falasteenyia ("The Palestinian") thinks the anti-Arab remarks are simply a stand in for anti-black remarks that would be considered less acceptable in the United States. She says:
ah yes, i knew it was just a matter a time before the bashing would begin. how much does the attack on obama have to do with the fact that he's black- and are people using the term 'arab' instead because anti-arab racism is better accepted here than say, anti-black racism?
one second obama is arab, the next he's muslim. these words are thrown around and serve as an insult. (so basically, instead of telling someone their mama is a whore,telling them that their mama is an arab will now suffice). 'Arab' is also now a poltiical weapon:' i don't trust obama, he's an arab':
The blogger also wonders when someone will stand up for Arabs:
so in light of this type of arab-bashing poltical climate who in their right mind is going to come out and say: i'm an arab.
no worries- when i meet you and reveal my identity, i'll try to make the experience extra terror-fying for you by barking like a dog and jumping on one foot.
alternatively, i could keep quiet about who i am and wait till the day when some white person raises their hand and says; "hey, so what if obama was arab" (which by the way, he clearly is not- nor is he is a muslim, so get over yourselves) - but we all know thats not going to happen during my lifetime. welcome to america folks, where we serve you a steaming hot side dish of racism and expect you to swallow it whole. and its not just about being arab- its about being black, latino, asian, etc.
It seems that the belief that Obama is Arab is not just the quirky mindset of one woman. KABOBfest's Will shares a number of videos on the subject, remarking:
There is a nefarious movement seeking to associate Barack Obama with "Arab" in the hope that this will cost him the election. This is part of a general increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim expression in American culture -- both the instrumentalization of hate for political purposes and its frightening resonance with popular fears.
Arab-baiting takes place in public accusations aired on Fox News, and in Youtube videos, such as this slideshow that seeks to explain Obama is actually 7/16ths Arab and therefore misrepresenting himself as an African-American.
Will commented further, saying:
Though I can only guess that vilifying Islam, Arab politics and respected scholars and linking Obama to them leads to ethnocentric alarmism, and hate crimes, I think this is safe to assume. This is frighteningly close to the types of hysteria that has caused serious violence and destabilization in other parts of the world. While many would hope this is constrained by the rule of law in modern America, in the case of continued economic downturn, this will not be a pretty country for foreigners and minorities.
This may sound like a mirror image of their alarmism, except that the logical end of my alarmism is tolerance and rational discourse. The logical end of their's is a exclusivist society with no tolerance for difference.
As the Politico article linked above makes clear, no elite nor media have addressed these attacks, but as long as Arabs and Muslims are used as political wedges, the candidates need to address this before xenophobic loonies get too crazy. The safety of millions of Arabs and Muslims is at stake -- the irony is that no one will recognize these hate crimes for what they are, terrorism. And political rhetoric should not fuel this.
Palestine-based body on the line is angered by the slideshow as well, and says:
i don't need to repeat what the iron sheik already said rather eloquently, but there is a new smear campaign picking up steam in the white, racist, neo-con klan. if you can stomach the obscene racism here, courtesy of a so-called journalist named kenneth lamb, i'm posting the video below. but really, didn't we stop trying to quantify how much "blood" someone had after slavery? this guy is clearly a throwback to the days of phrenology. it's disturbing how easily blatant racism is rearing its head here in this campaign. but, clearly, this narrator/"journalist" has a lower iq than sarah palin
Journalist and blogger Ray Hanania also believes that few would speak up for the Arab-American community:
When one of his supporters went to the microphone at a Republican presidential rally and called Democrat Barack Obama an "Arab," John McCain immediately took the microphone away and said "No ma'am." And then McCain added the line that really hurt more than the woman's outburst of racist hatred, when he probably unintentionally wanted to remind people that Obama is not an Arab, but he is a "decent family man." What happened at this event in Philadelphia this week was not an effort to temper racism, but rather a depiction of the two kinds of racism that exist in America today that is coming out in the presidential election campaign and is directed at Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, people who "look" like they are Middle Eastern, and anyone who doesn't fit into the profile of who is an "accepted" minority.
The woman displayed an outward burst of raw hatred by calling Obama an "Arab." She did not say it because she was making a comment pertinent to any discussion but to assert the "flaw of being Arab."
McCain's response was not an outright example of racism, but was a form of subtle racism. What McCain did was come to Obama's defense viewing the woman's comment as slander and then responding to the slander.
What McCain did not do was say "There is nothing wrong with being an Arab." And that is what he and other Americans will not say.
I don't believe McCain said it on purpose that way. It was probably something that happened so fast he just responded. But impromptu responses often are reflections of the true inner-self of individuals. How you respond from your gut probably reflects what you believe because it requires an immediate response without the ability to think about what you are going to say.
For more perspective on the Arab-American community, check out Amira Al Hussaini's post: Obama: Is the Arab-American vote in his hands?