"I don't believe in calling him the first black president," she said, "I voted for the white guy myself. I call him a monkey."The above comment left the mouth of conservative radio show host Barbara Espinosa, who somehow thinks that her Hispanic heritage excuses the above outburst. More telling was how her guest, Arizona Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey, remained silent during the above tirade and the subsequent argument between her and another caller over her remarks.
Espinosa's outburst, along with Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro's disrespectful interruption of the president and, if you want to go back even further, Joe Wilson's ignorant outburst during the 2009 presidential address, are just one of the countless symptoms of a big problem that many Americans still can't own up to. The blatant disrespect of the president stems not from his party affiliation, but from an old problem that has yet to be laid bare for all to see and discuss.
That problem is defined as a complete and total lack of respect for and outright hatred of non-white Americans, most notably black Americans and especially if they happen to occupy any position of power, hold any considerable amount of wealth or both.
It's hard to explain the irrational hatred that comes over a vast swath of white Americans when it comes to the president, from the prototypical Tea Partier to even the most enlightened of liberals, without learning a fair bit of background information regarding the relations between black and white Americans, from the time Africans were involuntarily imported into the U.S. as slave labor to today. As a way to preserve the status of those slaves as such and to blunt the possibility of poor whites and black slaves from joining in a combined effort to demand and extract economic and social equality, the idea of blacks being somehow inferior became embedded within the collective psyche of the nation and it's been nearly impossible to root out ever since. This idea of the "other" as a "naturally inferior being" also affected Italian, Scottish, Polish and Irish immigrants, at least until they were finally able to literally melt into the great WASP collective, a feat that remains a non-option for scores of black Americans for obvious reasons.
Seeing one of these "naturally inferior beings" ascend to the highest office in the land was a literal mind-fuck for many Americans, as it took the world view they were used to and challenged the living daylights out of it. Seeing an "inferior being" suddenly rise to the top should cause you to ask yourself if they were really inferior in the first place. Instead, many Americans doubled down on these beliefs, provoking the formation of oddities like the Tea Party, the racially-charged GOP presidential candidate race and, of course, the copious amounts of disrespect towards a man of color in spite of holding the highest title in the entire country.
For a while, I wondered how would racism look like when visualized in terms of tribes. It's becoming easier for me to explain this as a case of one tribe's fear and subsequent hatred of the other. No matter how you cut it, one tribe just won't stand for being led by someone from the "other" tribe.
Barack Obama is an "other." He was born from an African father and white American mother in a state unconnected to the U.S. mainland and, in many ways, very much foreign. His childhood wasn't like that of the average American child and his experiences were vastly different than others. His appearance, demeanor, speech and style don't match the expectations and assumptions of many Americans, nor do these attributes match the generally accepted expectations and assumptions made Americans have of those who happen to share his complexion and visual identity.
The fact that he is an "other" who is constantly conflated with being aligned with those who share his visual identity is enough to send the psyche of many Americans into a tailspin. Which explains why many are willing to overlook their dislike of Mormons and their suspicions against an effete moderate conservative who is only concerned with monetary/corporate matters to support Mitt Romney, someone whom the Teabaggers treat as a "second-best" choice. A fiery firebrand of a fire starter like Newt Gingrich probably would have been their first if he didn't come with a matching set of bad luggage.
It's less about President Obama's actual policies (which have so far worked towards benefiting the country as a whole) or his behavior in the White House (which has been nothing short of exemplary), but more about how his mere presence as the highest authority throughout the land constantly threatens to destroy the preconceived notions many Americans have about how those who happen to look like him should behave and are expected to behave, in their minds.
If you want a detailed take on this problem, check out Steven Thrasher's piece and then check out the comments in response.