• DOUBLETAKE 08: “Taking a second look at race and racism in the 2008 presidential elections”

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DoubleSpeak Dictionary Entry #1

“The Race Card”

Commentary by Organizer KL

This phrase is often used to point a critical finger at people of color
whom draw attention or criticism to racism and discrimination. Example here. But what’s underneath the use of this phrase? When used by white people toward people of color, accusations of “pulling the race card” imply that naming racism as a reality and a problem is illegitimate and a manipulative political
tool.

In early August, Barack Obama was accused of “pulling the race card” by
the McCain camp. Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis stated that
“Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom
of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”

This statement was in response to a speech made by Obama in which he
highlighted the smear tactics that would be used by the Republican party
in order to distance voters from the Democratic candidate: “…what they’re
going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, ‘he’s not patriotic
enough, he’s got a funny name,’ you know, ‘he doesn’t look like all those
other presidents on the dollar bills’.”

The moment that Obama spoke with even just a mild criticism of the
“othering” strategies used by the right, he was branded as divisive.
What’s wrong with this picture? In a climate where any assertion made
about racism is stigmatized as a manipulative political tool, white people
with political power are able reinforce control over naming what is and
isn’t a problem in the United States, ultimately excluding critical
examinations or racism and white supremacy.

Rather than pointing a shaming finger at those who critique racism,
perhaps the question we should all be asking ourselves is: Who’s really
been pulling the race card for the last 55 presidential elections? And
maybe the more accurate depiction of the “race card” is this one:

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