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

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The “Obama as Muslim Terrorist” Problem

There’s been a LOT of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric throughout the election season this year. The idea that Barack Obama is a “Muslim Terrorist” is spreading rampant throughout right-wing circles, and countless photoshopped images of Obama in Arab garb can be found in a quick google image search. The implication in these images, of course, is that being a Muslim or being Arab MUST mean he is also a terrorist. Even if Barack Obama WAS Muslim, which he is not, what’s the problem? But anti-Muslim/ anti-Arab racism is so deeply held in this country, that using the term “Muslim” has come to be code word for “evil.” Check this image…

Senator John McCain’s campaign has done little to offset these stereotypes. In fact, in some instances, the Republican campaign reinforces or encourages this racist thinking. For example, Governor Sarah Palin last week suggesting that Obama has been “palling around with terrorists,” referring to a long-ago and vague connection between the Senator and former 60’s radical William Ayers

Or in this clip here, where a woman at a McCain rally says “I don’t trust Obama. He’s an Arab,” and John McCain responds: “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man and citizen.” As if being an Arab and a decent family man and citizen are somehow mutually exclusive! The rage at McCain rallies in the last week often centers on this assumption that Obama is connected to terrorism and that he is a Muslim.

Don’t fall for these racist tactics and rhetoric. We at AWARE_LA encourage everyone to reject the hate in 08. No matter who you vote for, we must stop this racist rhetoric and thinking.

Fortunetaly, others are working on this issue. A non-partisan organization called FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) has launched an important campaign to look at anti-Muslim rhetoric in the news media.

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Remember the “Terrorist Fist Jab?” What about the “White Power Grab?”

Earlier this summer, Fox News reported on a simple gesture between Barack and Michelle Obama on stage. It was a fist bump, but the Fox News reporter questioned, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.”

Fox News’ coverage of the Obamas’ fist-bump raises serious questions about the implications of such coverage. Why do we need such an elaborate analysis of, what essentially amounts to a goodbye/ good luck send-off gesture? Do we do the same thing when it comes to handshakes?

Of course we don’t because handshakes are the primary greeting among white folks, so therefore they are normal, but “the fist bump” is something that, within the lens of whiteness, is odd or peculiar: it is outside whiteness. More accurately, it is cast as something specific to black folks; not something the majority of white folks would do, much less understand.

Fox’s report sets up the experience of black folks as foreign to what is normal, where normal is equated with whiteness. And the assumption that whiteness is normal is thoroughly racist.

We made this video to point out what it would look like to flip the script on the racist assumptions of Fox’s report. While there are some subtle critiques of white supremacy, we primarily wanted to point out how patently absurd Fox’s coverage of “the fist bump” is, not to mention have a little fun in the name of white anti-racism!

The Racist Rhetoric of “Terrorism”

“I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare … If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.” (John McCain April 2008)

News Analysis From Organizer KD

In April John McCain spoke these words in response to Ahmed Yousef, a political advisor for Palestinian political party Hamas, who stated in an interview with WABC radio in New York that, “We like Mr. Obama” and “we hope that he will win the election.”  What is McCain suggesting in this statement?  Is he suggesting that it is better to be their mortal enemy than to consider any dialogue that could have potential to reach a resolution?  Given that the US State Department lists Hamas as a terrorist organization is it possible that McCain is playing the “terrorist card”?  That is, if someone or some organization is deemed terrorist then they are by nature incapable of engaging in rationale discourse.  They are wild animals that must be tamed, not human beings to engage with.

Following this logic, we don’t even need to know who or what Hamas is to judge them accordingly.  If they’re terrorists, they must necessarily be cold blooded and evil.  Therefore if they support Obama then Obama is certainly guilty by association; association with terrorists that is.  But let’s be frank, terrorists are definitely not white; they’re most likely Arabs and perhaps they’re even black or Latino, but they certainly aren’t white.  Look at the Oklahoma City bombing- political pundits were so quick to speculate that it was the work of Arabs- yet it was a homegrown white man named Timothy McVeigh.

Our association of the word terrorist with Arabs is something that has been burned into our brains for decades.  From Hollywood to the nightly news we see images of angry Arabs holding guns, hijacking planes, on their knees praising Allah, wearing Muslim headdress.  But we don’t have any meaningful context for these images; so many Americans can’t make sense of them.  We’re left with statements from George W. Bush like “They hate us because we are free.” or “They hate our freedoms.”  And when we see the world through the lens of such statements is it any wonder there is a mistrust and fear of Arabs in our society?

But whose interest does this fear and mistrust serve?  Who is setting the boundaries of this conversation?  When we accept the slander of terrorist as legitimate discourse we lose any chance of building bridges with people.  We move out of racism and hatred rather than openness.  This, my friend, is the web we must unweave.