Whenever African Americans attribute some injustice to race, the backlash is swift. We are accused of playing "the race card,” as a tool used to invoke sympathy. We are accused of playing it so that all will ignore what is really going on.
But as this president and his administration have played “the race card” over and over, as they have attacked and tried to dismantle policies put in place by the Obama administration and many people before him which have helped many, but most especially black people , there has been a deafening silence.
From the moment Obama was elected, there was an undercurrent of resentment by many white people – from both the North and the South. The decision of white Republicans to make Obama a “one term president,” and the silence and non-support of the president from white Democrats as well as from the GOP, was the race card being played in full view of everyone.
The attack on voting rights was “the race card” being played in an arrogant effort to make sure black people didn’t get things twisted; the battle to keep black people from voting has been a central and ongoing fight by this country, and just because there had been progress made which made it possible for record numbers of black people to escape voter suppression did not mean things were going to stay that way.
The dealers of white supremacist policy and beliefs would make sure of that.
The race card was, of course, the reason for the Civil War, though redactive/revisionist history would say otherwise. Whites in the South wanted to preserve their way of life, which included the enslavement of people of African descent. The race card was played as after Reconstruction whites in the South fought to put blacks back “in their places” by engaging in convict leasing, creating black codes, and once again prohibiting them the right to vote, forcing black people to live in a way which would maintain white power.
The race card is behind what this president is doing and saying. When it was recently pointed out that his criticisms and fights seem to be reserved for prominent African Americans, his retort, via Twitter, was “make America great again.” He speaks the language of racism to a body of people who believe that blacks are inherently inferior to whites and believe that black people are not supposed to ever consider themselves to be equal to whites.
It is the race card.
In a document written in the early 50s called We Charge Genocide, the preparers of that report noted that “white ideologists proclaim that (oppressive situations) are as blacks want them to be; they skillfully and cunningly twist facts that expose the evils of racism to enable them to assert the inherent inferiority of blacks.”
The race card is played as whites in power refer to their belief that blacks are inherently criminal and without morals. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said as much as she talked about the crime problem in Chicago – caused, she said, by a lack of morality. (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sarah-huckabee-sanders-chicago-crime_us_59569eb1e4b05c37bb7e3a6c)
When the president said Mexicans are rapists and criminals, that is none other than the race card being played. (http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/31/politics/donald-trump-mexico-statements/index.html) He dismisses the worth of immigrants, and his Muslim ban is none else than the race card being played yet again. His immigration policies seek to keep America white; the so-called “browning of America” is disconcerting to Trump and others in his administration …and among his base. (https://www.alternet.org/how-whites-are-reacting-browning-america)
The regular attack of law enforcement on people of color, especially black men, has been a central component of American life for generations. Even as the president criticizes black athletes for “taking a knee” to protest what goes on in our communities, the facts show that white officers and members of the white community have been allowed to murder and attack black people without retribution as a matter of course. Many of those attacked and killed by white officers and/or community members have been veterans of America’s wars, home from active duty, still in uniform. There are countless stories about this phenomenon. The race card, played by whites, then, to criticize African Americans who are participating in the worst travesty of justice and the worst kind of disrespect toward war veterans, is particularly heinous.
All of it is the race card, being played regularly by white people, but we don’t hear the protestations that it is being played. It is only an issue when a person of color brings to bear an obviously racist action, policy or statement. This country is filled with people who believe that America was created by white people for white people. White people played the race card as soon as they got here, as they worked to annihilate the Native Americans whose land this was. Playing the race card is a part of the American political tradition.
White Americans assert their privilege in playing the race card and getting away with it, while at the same time castigating African Americans who bring up legitimate instances of racism. The card is the same; the way it is played is different. Whites reserve the right to play the card to hold onto their power and position in the world, but shamelessly work to intimidate blacks for demanding justice when they play it.
This administration is playing the race card shamelessly, as are many of his base who declare that they will make America white again.
If that is not the race card, nothing is.