Joe Wilson’s Outburst, A Black Woman’s Perspective

Someone asked what black people thought of Joe Wilson‘s “you lie” outburst.  Of course, there isn’t a monolithic black answer to that question.  I am a black person but I can’t speak for black people and  I didn’t get together with other black people to form a consensus.  But I did read a blog post on this topic by a woman who calls herself “Black Woman Blogging”.  Judging from the name of her blog, I assume she is a black woman who blogs.  I contacted her and asked if I could share her views here.  She gave her permission.  So here is one black person’s view on Wilson’s behavior and, by the way, I happen to agree with her:

I have been on vacay this week, trying to dig myself and BMNB out of our garage full of twenty years’ worth of crap in time for a neighborhood garage sale. I’d been avoiding the Internet, avoiding anything related to work, and not reading the newspaper. I was doing well until I tuned in to watch President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on health care reform. I was multi-tasking, I admit, trying to listen and load the dishwasher and sort clothes that had been in storage for five years when I heard the following in response to the President’s statement that illegal immigrants would not be covered under health care reform:

“You lie.”

WTF? I knew I didn’t hear what I thought I’d heard. Considering the audience was, or should have been, members of Congress and high-ranking officials associated with the President, who would dare to call the President of the United States a liar in the Capitol building, on the floor of the House? What idiot would dare?

That idiot would be GOP Representative Joe Wilson, courtesy of South Carolina, the same state whose governor is intent on not only flying, but flaunting, his freak flag AND staying in office.

Mind you, Black Woman Blogging is not a role model when it comes to Black businesswomandecorum. I’ve blogged about throwing shoes at President George W. Bush. But I wouldn’t have really done it. He was, after all, the President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World. And I wasn’t an elected representative held to a higher standard, nor will I ever be, given this blog.

But calling the President a liar in the nation’s Capitol? That’s going way too far. Representative Wilson wasn’t alone in his breach of decorum, however. What we out in television land couldn’t see were the members of Congress who held up signs like they were at a party convention instead of a joint session of Congress. What we did hear was the mocking laughter when the President said that some specifics of his plan remained to be ironed out. I think Representative Joe Wilson, along with some conservative members of Congress, the Tea Party people, the conservative shock jocks, and the Birthers, are, as we say, “smelling themselves.” Now that Rep. Wilson has broken the decorum ceiling and heckled the President in the House chambers, what’s next? Throwing shoes? Dare I say it — the “N-word”?

There’s a strange dynamic going on here that no one seems to want to talk about, including President Obama: Some, but not all, of the disrespect and disagreement shown him is the product of racism. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel noted that no president has ever been treated like this by Congress, ever. Hmmm . . . I wonder why? What makes this president different than all the rest that he would be treated so rudely?

Race. Let’s just tell the truth and shame the devil, or devils, as it were.

Ask yourself: Do you think President Obama would be treated as poorly as he has been by those who disagree with him if he were white? Somehow, I don’t think so. That’s not to say that some who disagree with his policies and plans aren’t rational or well-reasoned, even if they express their disagreement in a fever-pitched and shrill manner. But the rational and well-reasoned folks seem to be in the oppositional minority, and, unlike John McCain, they aren’t checking their whack job and sometimes racist compatriots. I just don’t recall the disagreement rising to such a level of disrespect under the Bush Administration — at least not on American soil — or under previous administrations, but let me know if I’m wrong. And those aspiring assassins like John Hinckley and Squeaky Fromme don’t count, since they were plain crazy.

I bet President Obama probably thinks that by drawing attention to the veiled racism in all this, he will ultimately lose the battle for the ideas and programs he believes in because the race discussion will become a distraction. I get that. What I don’t get is why the rest of us — of all races, mind you — who can and should call attention to the role of racism in the opposition politics aren’t saying more about it.

Is it fair to ask those who oppose President Obama’s policies in such strident and rude ways, “Would you have heckled President Clinton? Do you contend that Senator McCain, who was born on a U.S. military base in Panama, is not a citizen?” I think it is incumbent upon those of us who see the covert racism involved in some of the fanatical opposition to expose it for what it is. I bet that most of those who oppose health care reform on the grounds that it’s socialism can’t spell socialism or don’t know the difference between socialism, communism, and capitalism. You can usually get to the bottom of the racism at work when you ask, “What about President Obama’s policies don’t you like?” and the only response you get is something on the order of, “I just don’t like him at all.”

And I’m just waiting for a member of Congress or some other elected official to forget their mic is “hot” and say the word they’ve probably been using all along about President Obama: The N-word.

Think about it — what else could unite people who, on paper, have interests that could not be more divergent? How is it that working class and poor whites — do you see wealthy whites at the Tea Parties or among the Birthers? — would line up with big Pharma, the insurance industry (on the DL), and other corporate interests against health care reform when, given their proportion of the population, working class and poor whites have more to gain from health care reform than any other group?

In the meantime, I think it’s time for the President to stop taking strategic communications advice from Axelrod and Gibbs and start taking it from Williams and Iverson — Katt and Allen, to be precise. I think the time has come for him to stop being so magnanimous with his opponents and stop assuming that wise and reasoned discussion will prevail. It’s time for some presidential swagger as only a black man and Bill Clinton can provide. He needs to stop being so articulate and reasoned and start throwing some ‘bows like Iverson and smacking around those blue-dog Democrats, like they were, well, you know, to get the votes he needs to get the job done. He needs to go all out with the votes he has and with the votes he’s entitled to –yes, I said entitled to  — merely because he is the leader of his party. He needs to act like he won’t get a second term. Hell, he won’t even get a second half of his first term if the mid-term elections turn ugly, so he has nothing to lose by acting up.

I’d suggest he signal the beginning of this race-conscious and less magnanimous Obama adminstration with a private meeting with Representative Wilson in the Oval Office behind closed doors that begins with his head slightly cocked, his eyes slightly squinted, and the greeting, “What did you call me? I know you didn’t call me a liar . . . . “

I should disclose that the photo in this piece is a stock photo.  This is not a photo of Black Woman Blogging.  I don’t actually know what she looks like.  I just liked the photo.


  1. says

    No, not every comment that disagrees with President Obama is racist. It’s HOW the dissent and disagreement are voiced that is, under certain circumstances, racist. It’s fine to engage in civil discourse and debate, but you don’t get to disrespect the Office of the President just because it’s occupied by a black man. It’s not a chip on anyone’s shoulder; it’s an acknowledgement of what people don’t want to admit openly. And whites, too, including NYT columnist Maureen Dowd, have questioned whether there is some element of racism in the manner in which the discord and disagreement are expressed.

    We need to be able to have an open dialogue about racism or it will never end. We need to be able to openly question whether something is racist without anger. To question whether similar people (presidents)are being treated dissimilarly because of race is not racist. It’s gotten so that to even raise the possibility that race is a factor in someone’s actions is considered racist itself. That tactic has been used to silence people who speak out about racism. I will not be silenced.

    I’m entitled to my opinion, and you’re entitled to yours. This IS still America, right?

  2. mllnprod says

    For some reason everything has to come back to the “r” word. I feel its for people who can’t think of anything else, have extremely limited views and can’t stand up to a true and honest debate.

    I don’t respect racism – even reverse racism, which really doesn’t exist because it’s an oxymoron. Racism is racism either way. I don’t respect racists and take offense to people like Sharon Kyle and Black Woman Blogging because, in my option, I feel they are racist. Keep in mind, that the word never came up until they opened their mouths!

    There are many people out there, Glenn Beck included, that have legitimate gripes and questions which aren’t being answered. This White House is doing everything possible to dive under the rug when faced with such inquiries (Taking two separate jets to Copenhagen costing well of $2 million of our tax money for Chicago Olympics, relationship with Valerie Jerrett and how she ties in with the 2016 Olympic committee, how Obama knew nothing about Acorn receiving government funds when Fox had been reporting on it for six months, why Obama wasn’t more responsive to the atrocity that Acorn employees were committing by advocating illegal child prostitution – if that were the Catholic church he’d be all over it, and the list goes on and on and on)

    These are simple direct questions, and if asking them brings up the “r” word in your mind, then you are a racist.

  3. Angry Tax Payer says

    So any negative comment about Mr. Obama is racest? Take the chip off your shoulders folks. As a Republican, I freely admit that Mr. Wilson;s comments were in bad taste, disrespectful to a sitting president (no matter what his/her political affiliation, race, age or gender may be) and simply rude.

    What they were not, however were racest.

    Please stop it.

  4. MadAsHeckNurse says

    Thanks to Sharon Kyle, Black Woman Blogging, Tom Degan, Nancy Martin and LA Progressive for this honest article and the comments in response. I could not hope to be as articulate as any of you but I do want to to concur! I might also add that,in addition,I happened to be in Washington, DC for a pro healthcare rally, not sponsored by Fox News, Glen Beck and the haters. Realistically they may have had 50,000 people, almost entirely white, many elderly and disabled in wheelchairs shouting about wanting their country back and the government to stay out of their healtcare, (Medicare??. My friend and I, both nurses, mothers, white, and middle-aged were appalled and sicked by this crowd and their overt rascism, Bible thumping, hate filled hypocrisy. The signs they carried have been seen in the news since then. I was stunned and sickened! They marched around calling themselves patriots, waving the American flag,”Don’t tread on me flags”,and signs calling President Obama Hitler, Socialist, Communist. The reality is that the Bush administration, which most of this crowd supported blindly, largely met the definition of fascist. That is what we need to take our country back from.

    I was so angry that I even tried to engage in a civil discussion with several people from the crowd as we walked into the amazing National Gallery of Art-A government run museum, at no charge. For that matter I am still angry and even more afraid. Afraid of where this country is headed with this type of discourse. What will we do to stop the hate and save ourselves, from ourselves and the corporate take over of our country.

    President Obama is not responsible for the mess the Bush administration left this country in, he is our hope. He is intelligent, measured and frankly amazing! (So is Michele). Now Wilson is the hero of these largely delusional people, being played by big money, the hate jockey’s who make money off this hate spewing evil, and the Republican Party whose only goals are to defeat President Obama at any cost, at every turn for political gain. Now they are suddenly feign being worried about the deficit? Right! These are dangerous games with dangerous consequences. Nancy Pelosi was courageous to show the real emotions welling up as she warned of the rhetoric and it’s potential violent consequences.

    We the people, of all races and cultures must unite to fight the corporate take over of our country that has arisen since deregulation began and trickle down economics have proven disasterous. We cannot truly be a civilized nation until we act responsibly, morally, and truly assert that “all men are created equal”. Qualit health care and education for all are civil rights the masses are being deprived of. Quality Education and Health Care for All, Not Warfare!

  5. says

    Tom and Nancy,

    Thanks so much for speaking the truth and responding to my words. One of Professor Derrick Bell’s Laws of Racial Standing is that the complaints of people of color about racism aren’t taken seriously until validated by a white person. I don’t know if that’s still true, but I appreciate that whites also see the racism involved in all of this and are willing to speak up about it.

    Thanks also to LA Progressive for reprinting my blog entry.

    Yours in the struggle,

    Black Woman Blogging (and, BTW, the woman in the stock photo looks way better than me and about 50 pounds thinner)
    .-= Black Woman Blogging´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  6. Nancy Martin says

    I am a 68 year old white woman who was born and grew up in the south. I never went to school with a black person. I had black friends that I played with, but it’s a funny thing, after we started going to school we stopped playing together so much. I was actually taught that I was smarter than any black person…stop laughing :-) I used to question a lot, but only in my head. Why did my friend have to walk four blocks to catch her school bus to go to a school five miles away? Why was my little white a.. sitting under a fan while a black woman was doing the ironing without a fan. OMG I could go on and on. Sometimes I feel like throwing up when I think of all the things that went on. I think I know why so many of these white people are so upset with Obama. Guess what…he is smarter than you are….a lot smarter. Doesn’t matter what we were taught. It felt good to you to have people to look down on, didn’t it? You know…feel better than somebody. You always had the blacks. Guess what, those days are over. They were never true to start with. Read the bible that you so freely thump. Thank God my children and grandchildren did not grow up like that and they will help change the world. In other words, I agree with you 100%. The problem these rednecks have is racism.

  7. says

    This is all about the underlying, hideous factor of the racism that is so deeply ingrained in the American character. The attempt to portray this president (Of all people!) as a socialistic, left wing extremist doesn’t even pass the giggle test for people who have bothered to pay attention to their times and their history. Let’s face it – Franklin D. Roosevelt, he ain’t! They can’t obstruct his agenda with a manufactured scandal regarding his personal life, as they did with Bill Clinton. eleven years ago. Their only hope is for enough of the American people to become really frightened by the Big, Bad Negro Commie. An ironic description when one takes into consideration how boringly moderate Obama really is.

    Think about this: In the last presidential campaign only one of the nominees of the two major political parties was born in the United States – Barack Obama – John McCain was born in Panama. Do you find it as revealing as I do that it was the black guy had his citizenship called into question? How much more proof do we need of the overt racism that is inherent in that party – or in our own country for that matter? Honestly, this isn’t rocket science, folks!

    And now Glenn Beck is slated to become the Martin Loony King of the Far Right thanks to his stupid “March on Washington” yesterday.

    Isn’t life interesting?

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

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