Obama, race, reality and reconciliation

President Obama is beset with critics punching below the belt
President Obama is beset with critics punching below the belt

Two months into the administration of the first African-American president, Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press takes a look today at some of the “old racial stereotypes and Internet-fueled falsehoods” about President Barack Obama that have “flourished.”

There was that New York Post cartoon portraying the president as a monkey, that California mayor resigning after circulating a picture of watermelons on the White House lawn, the “magic mulatto” email making the rounds of the Net. And there are those relentless questions about Obama’s own citizenship and religion.

“Disproved and disputed claims about his religion and citizenship, namely untruths that Obama is a Muslim and isn’t U.S.-born, zip across chat rooms and dominate the blogosphere,” Sidoti writes. “Fringe critics largely are responsible for perpetuating the lies, but even elected officials have raised them.”

The achievement of one man in breaking the nation’s racial barriers has not “entirely changed the dynamic of a country founded by slave owners,” she suggests.

“”There’s certainly no lessening of racially charged barbs aimed at the president,” says Anita L. Allen, a University of Pennsylvania law school professor who has studied race relations for years. “In fact there may be more, some vicious and cruel by his enemies and some distasteful and playful by his friends.”

Obama, for his part, maintains that all the celebration of the history that he made with his election “lasted about a day,”’ with his inauguration, and that crisis-consumed Americans will judge him by an entirely different standard.

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