Once again, my poor President's health care initiative has been buried by an act of someone acting stupidly. After a South Carolina Congressman shouted that the President was a liar, the news has been deluged with stories about Joe Wilson. I think more people can tell you more about Rep. Wilson than define a public option. Don't worry, Eric Cantor (R-Va), your incessant texting during the President's speech to the Joint Congress also hogged the headlines.
As a diversity consultant, I must say that Barak Obama's Presidency is the gift that keeps on giving. Just as America was starting to pat itself on the back for coming a long way on gender, race and other polarizing issues, finally America is inching closer toward having an honest conversation about race.
Some have cautioned against using the "racism chip" to describe the vitriol that Republicans, the Deathers, the Birthers and the Schoolers have slung toward President Obama. They believe that couching disagreements with the President as racism is simplistic and inaccurate.
Yet, during this season of disrespect toward the President, we have seen more than just a little good-natured partisan ideological disagreement. From a Congresswoman calling for a Great White Hope to save the Republican Party (isn't Michael Steele the leader of the Republican National Party) to parental hysteria about the President's back to school speech, people who are not used to having a black leader are finding tacit ways to revolt.
Calling President Obama the "N" word and other racial epithets are not the only ways to manifest racial animus. Racism and discrimination are rarely overt in twenty-first century America. They are usually veiled in disparate acts of disrespect and unfairness. Rarely, when I practiced employment law did I come across the smoking gun where a manager called an employee a slur to express his or her disability, race, gender, or religious bias. When did we become so afraid to call out racism? (I find it interesting that women are still very vocal about calling out gender discrimination when they see it.)
As I rush to finish this post so as to not overshadow the importance of remembering September 11th, I'll leave you with a lesson last night's heckling taught me. Joe Wilson helped me to realize why John Kerry (D-Ma) applauded during George Bush's first address to the Congress after the 2004 election. I remember thinking that Kerry was a wuss. How could he applaud for the guy who just beat him in such an important election. At the time, I didn't realize that Kerry was exhibiting a quality that Joe Wilson does not posses -- class. Cynthia Hardy, a South Carolina talk show host said it best, "Joe Wilson didn't lose himself. He was just being himself."