Paul R. Lehman, Some NASCAR’s fans boo Michelle out of ignorance and bigotryNovember 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, equality, equality, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, Civil Rights, European Americans, Miclelle Obama, NASCAR, President Obama, slavery, Slaves, U.S. Veterans
When the First Lady, Michelle Obama, was recently booed by some of the NASCAR fans, knowledgeable people understood the reasons for such disrespect. The boos were not meant for Mrs. Obama personally; they were meant to protest what she represents to many of the fans. The reasons for the protest go back to before the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Regardless of many comments to the contrary, slavery was one of , if not the most, important factor of the Civil War. Many southern people blamed the slaves for their having to go to war in the first place. Next, they blamed the slaves for forcing the South to recognize the rights of the freedmen, a penalty that cut to the quick. The fact that the southerners as well as Northerners would have to acknowledge and accept the humanity of the freedmen was asking a little too much. The power and privileges of the European Americans were called into question when the African Americans were granted liberties and freedoms equal to theirs. These southern European Americans believed that every liberty and freedom granted to the former slaves involved a liberty and freedom taken from them. So, for many European Americans, just the sight of an African American reminds them of what they have lost and are still loosing.
When the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed into law, many European Americans believed that all the power and privilege of being European American (white) was being taken away. For many of them, their identity of being European American (white) was the only thing of value they had left. Many avenues of approach were set in motion to try and retain some of those privileges, especially with respect to housing, jobs, and education. For example, when the Supreme Court declared that the schools were separate and unequal, and must be desegregated, many European Americans, who could afford it, moved to the suburbs, where they could re-segregate themselves. What many of these European Americans did not understand is that African Americans did not want to go to school with them or live with them because they were European Americans, African Americans simply wanted to enjoy the same rights and privileges they enjoyed. Unfortunately, segregation meant separate and unequal treatment for African Americans, but desegregation was viewed by some European Americans as a loss of their rights.
After the Civil Rights Acts of the ‘60s, and especially, the introduction of affirmative actions programs, many European Americans felt that the government had taken away all the power and prestige that goes with being European American. So, anger and fear set in and became the two powerful emotions that directed the actions of those who felt a defeat. The efforts of many European Americans who felt a loss went into creating places and activities that catered to them only. Some of these places and activities were both secular and religious. The attitudes of these European Americans were not as extreme as some of the hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nation, but they were nonetheless pro segregation.
So, what does all this have to do with Mrs. Obama being booed at the Ford 400? She represented the symbol of the cause of European American power and privileges being taken away. One of the primary features of having a European American (white) identity is the superiority over any and all non European Americans. With President Obama as the leader of the country, the element of superiority over all non European Americans is called into question. If they were to accept Obama as President, then they would have to acknowledge that he was above them. If they accept that he is above them, they lose their superiority. So, they must protest and fight to retain what they see as their rightful place that is being taken from them by non European ethnic Americans, especially, African Americans.
Michelle’s appearance at the NASCAR event was to many European Americans an invasion of their privacy in that they view NASCAR activities as belonging to them only. These events represent their places of comfort where they can be themselves, i.e.…tell ethnic jokes and voice their displeasure about what they feel is happening to them without the fear of negative repercussions. They feel comfortable, safe, and protected in the company of their own kind. If they could, some of them would hang a “whites only” sign of the entry gates to their activities. Too many of these people forget who they are and where they are. They are Americans, living in America. If they do not understand what that means, then they have no sense of place or value.
Had the people who booed Michelle realized what she was doing at this NASCAR activity, common decency would have compelled them to applaud her and the country’s efforts regarding the U.S. veterans. But, when people are consumed with fear and anger, their brains have no room for common sense. Their primary concern is to hold on to the misguided concepts of what America is supposed to be in their eyes. What these unfortunate people do not realize is that their actions underscore their ignorance and bigotry much more than it serves as a protest for their imagined losses. The fact of the matter is that they have not lost anything essential to democracy; they simply regret the fact that they must now share with other Americans the rights and privileges they have enjoyed all along.