In an interview marking his 85th birthday, Carter spoke out about the increasingly toxic political environment in the U.S., including what he called "the racist attitude that is the basis for the negative environment that we see so vividly demonstrated in public affairs in recent days."
Here's what Carter said about white racism in this NBC interview:
I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American. I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country, that's shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans. That racism still exists and I think it's bubbled up to the surface, because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South, but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and grieves me and concerns me very deeply.
Reporter Chuck Todd says in this segment that Carter did the Obama Administration no favors by calling out racism like this, because "this is something they know they're going to have to respond to, and they're not going to be very happy about it" because of their "fear of backlash."
It'll be interesting to see how the White House responds, if at all. Maybe the people there won't bother -- I doubt they listen to Jimmy Carter much more than most other Americans do these days.
I'm suddenly hearing, reading, and seeing a lot more talk this week about this issue -- whether racism is a significant factor fueling opposition to health care reform, and to Obama more generally. Are you hearing more of it too?
One of the better points I've read about it all comes from Danielle Belton at The Black Snob:
No one thought the world was ending when Bill Clinton tried to kick start Universal Healthcare. There were complaints from the Republicans and the industry and Harry and Louise ads and mocking tones about "Hillarycare." But there wasn't crying and screaming in the streets mixed with gun toting and swastikas by a recalcitrant minority of people who seem unable to grasp that election '08 is over and Sarah Palin lost.
Could the growing concern about racism actually be a concerted, increasingly successful Republican effort to make this health care fight all about race, all the while denying that their protests have anything at all to do with that? Could this be a "Southern Strategy Redux"?
What do you think is turning up the heat? The most recent teabagger protests? Joe Wilson's "You Lie!" outburst during Obama's health-care speech?