Friday, October 9, 2009

claim that obama only won the nobel peace prize because of his race

I snagged the above image awhile ago from some right-wing forum (sorry, can't remember which one). I'm including it here because it illustrates a white-wing -- I mean right-wing -- meme these days, one that's sure to get more play in response to Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.

The common conservative complaint encapsulated by that image is that people who criticize Obama for any reason are automatically labeled racists. I think that complaint is demonstrably groundless. It seems obvious that while racism surely helps to motivate many of Obama's critics, there's plenty to criticize Obama for that has nothing to do with his race. It's also obvious that those who criticize his policies rarely get labeled racists simply for doing so.

I suspect that this claim -- that you just can't criticize a black president in these politically correct times without getting slapped with a "Hi, I'm a racist!" name-tag -- is more of a backstage complaint among Obama's conservative critics. As in, something they tell each other, more than something they say a lot in public, and during debates with whatever constitutes "the left."

Another conservative claim that I think will arise in the next week or so -- a criticism that I think is racist -- is that Obama only won because of his race. That the Nobel Peace Prize has become the Affirmative Action Prize. I've certainly heard that specious claim often enough (actually, far more than often enough) as a supposed explanation for Toni Morrison's receipt of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature.

As with the common conservative complaint about being labeled a racist simply for criticizing Obama, I think this Affirmative Action Card will probably be played more frequently behind closed doors than out in public. After all, whenever you say such things about Obama out in public, people automatically jump up and call you a racist, right?

But wait, waddya know, some conservatives are already saying that in public. Here's a writer named Eric Erickson, writing this morning at a blog called Redstate: "I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news."

Wow, that was fast. It also demonstrates the incredibly limited range of Erickson's thought process (that's the "only thing" he could think of in response to this news?).

At Baudrillard's Bastard, Ortho Stice also predicts more of this psychopathological response -- that white people will "say Obama does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and he only won because of his race." And over at Racism Review, Sociologist Jessie Daniels is predicting that "this amazing news will prompt a torrent of racist backlash."

Yes, more of all that does seem likely. Of course, those spewing that torrent will swear all up and down that their denunciations are anything but racist.

Are you hearing or seeing any other examples yet of a racist backlash to today's big news for Barack Obama?

By the way, here's his five-minute acknowledgment speech. What happens to the arguments of Obama's critics when he agrees with them that he doesn't deserve the Prize?


  1. You got the biggest one I saw, which was that bullshit Affirmative Action quote.

    I have seen some valid arguments for why he shouldn't have won, and some valid arguments for why he should. I think the idea that someone would only win because of his race is outrageous, especially when two other nominees were men of color, and especially if you consider how that devalues the wins of people like Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    I feel like there are a lot of white people out there right now in America who are trying to start a race war and whose comments about race just get more and more aggressively racist. It's upsetting in a way I can't express proficiently.

  2. lmao, they're stuck in hypredrive

    malkin said it's the ultimate "act of global affirmative action"

    also note that they want him to turn it down and if he doesn't it's because he's an arrogant man.

  3. Here is the email Obama's people sent out to his mailing list:

    This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

    To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

    But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

    That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

    These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

    This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little

    So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

    Thank you,

    President Barack Obama

  4. Elon James White has the flip side of this, especially beginning around 2:20.

  5. The ironic thing about "accusing" the Nobel of affirmative action (if we define af-ac inaccurately as giving goodies to unqualified non-whites while ignoring white privilege) is that the Right Livelihood Award was created in part because the Nobel overwhelmingly goes to whites.

    That said, the committee admits it gave the prize based in part on Obama's potential rather than his accomplishments -- which I disagree with -- but Obama had no control over that and it's unfair to ask him to decline the prize. Did anybody ask Al Gore to step down when he won the Nobel over Irina Sendler?

  6. Ugh where to start. The whole Obama question is so frustrating and he hasn't even been President a year yet. As to the post the reaction is just more of the same. If you spend any time on AOL you will find folks ranting about Obama whether the article is about him or not. How he is ruining the country and it's socialism and at the end "but I know my comment will be removed" or "I am sure now I will be labeled a racist".

    As a POC it's hard not to see racism in the hypersensitive reaction to Obama because most of us see the same reaction on a smaller scale in our daily lives. It's pretty easy to spot. 1) You are only working here because you are black; 2) "I don't have black friends because I don't want to have to walk on eggshells all the time." 3)"Ugh, you are so sensitive, does everything have to be about race with you people?" 4) "Funny when I make a mistake I have to take responsibility for it I can't just blame my color" 5) "Your name is what? Can I call you Sam instead?"... and so on. If you see and hear this sort of thing all your life it's really hard not to be annoyed with all the blustering.

    But for me personally I find it all annoying for another reason. We really aren't talking about race anymore now than we were before it's just more fodder for the polarization we've had for 30 years. Glenn Beck accuses Obama of hating white people. Which is a laugh for me since I was there at UNC Charlotte when he gave that tearful speech about losing his grandmother. The whitest person I have ever seen. Has it escaped the public's attention that for the most part Obama was raised by white people? That he barely knew his african dad? That he traveled the world and had a childhood I would argue a large percentage of black Americans can't identify with? That one of the few elections he did lose in Chicago he lost mostly because he was not considered black enough? So the real joke of the racism charge and the complaints from conservatives is really none of it has anything to do with real public conversations about race. It's just a bunch of nonsense being hurled back and forth.

  7. I haven't seen any other claims that it's an affirmative action Nobel--and I'm disturbed that people are saying that--but I have seen some good arguments for the Nobel committee in general focusing on the actions of wealthy westerners, when the prize's prestige and attendant money could be much more valuable to people working for peace in poorer countries.

    I'm not surprised Obama found a graceful way to accept the prize--he's very smart and gracious and diplomatic and that's one of the things I like about him--but I wish he hadn't. He could have declined the prize and used that to make a different, less America-centric call to action.

  8. Cat, I just wanted to say that I found your comment eloquent and moving. I am white and I still feel like there is an intense current of racism directed against the President.

    I hope you don't mind me asking this, but I am curious, because I feel like I see race much more at the forefront of issues now than I did before Obama started running. I guess this is for everyone reading, if you don't mind answering-- for me, I have seen far many MORE discussions of race since Obama declared his candidacy. Is that untrue? Is it more a question of polarity, like Cat says? Do you feel like racism is being discussed more or less, or simply a different type of racism?

    I for one am disheartened and mortified by the kind of racism that has come out of the woodwork since his election campaign.

  9. Surely people have to admit that the Nobel nomination is a bit daft? He was nominated, what, two weeks after being elected? And he appears to be in the middle of doing an LBJ and escalating a probably unwinnable war.

    In any case, the Nobel Peace prize has a pretty bad track record - does Obama really deserve to be in the company of the likes of Kissenger and De Klerk? One surefire way to win it appears to be an utter warmongering or dictatorial bastard for decades and then suddenly become very slightly less of a bastard just in time for retirement.

    I don't think the prize has anything at all to do with him being black. I can only imagine it's really little more than being the rest of the world's way of saying 'Oh thank God! That grinning idiot Dubya has finally gone'. Or, possibly, 'thank God you won, that cantakorous McCain guy would probably have started a war with Iran within a month'.

    But I'm not sure that giving him the prize really helps him more than it hurts him at this point. Though, if it winds up the Republican right, that's quite fun in itself I guess.

  10. Pistolina I was just lurking with every intention of deleting my rant. So you read and commented on it just in time. I think race is being used as a tactic I am not sure it's really being discussed and I find that very disheartening. I feel like a great opportunity is being missed and at the same time nothing is really being gained from all the tip toeing. The complaints I see that no opposition to Obama can be made without being accused of racism doesn't hold water. It's not like people are biting their tongue or shying away from opposing Obama. It's not like even showing outright disrespect for Obama is causing any harm. I don't think teabaggers left Washington worried they would be labeled as racists. And more importantly even if they were that any real negatives would follow them because of it. And that's a luxury POCs don't have. Obama is expected to take the Jackie Robinson approach, it's the approach any POC understands they have to take in order to be successful. It's why Obama laughed off David Letterman's question and to me that's a shame. It would have been nice to have him admit how things are done. Admit that yes racism is playing a part in "some" of the opposition as it plays a part in anything he does and will do. But if he spent his time pointing to every act of racism he has faced or will face he never would have made it to president of the Harvard Law review less say President of the United States. Racism can't be called out by POCs in America in the public conversation. We are supposed to prove ourselves to be above pointing it out, stop whining and all of that. But I don't see how any real gains can be made if not even the President is willing to talk openly about it.

  11. To Cat,

    Now that I understand what you mean, I agree with you-- it IS being used as a tactic-- and I think mostly by Obama's detractors. I see what you mean about the difference between tactic and discussion.

    I generally support his policies, but the things he's done that I haven't been happy about, I have publicly criticized and NO ONE has called me a racist for questioning his policies in Afghanistan, for example. So I definitely don't agree that Democrats and other Obama supporters are just using the "racist" accusation willy-nilly. I feel like it is something Obama detractors are using as an excuse to get away with saying horrifically and overtly racist things-- not even the unintentionally ingrained racist things that white people like myself often do or say (and need to work consciously to overcome), but deliberately ugly things. I feel like white people who harbor deep hatred for black people and other PoC in this country are using the Obama Presidency as an excuse to piss their racism all over everything overtly and then just claim that those of us, black and white, who are willing to call racism out when we see it, are calling them racists as an avoidance tactic. When in fact we are calling them racists BECAUSE THEY ARE.

    I have heard many good, cogent arguments as to why Obama should not have won the Nobel. But that doesn't make the racist arguments cogent or good. Or less racist. I think, sadly, that the reason these people aren't worried about being labeled racists is because they have turned being called a racist into a state of victimhood.

    I feel badly when someone tells me I've done or said something racist, but I know that I am not the victim-- I know that is a place for me to learn and improve so I don't unintentionally victimize other people. But I feel like these people revel in being called racists, as if being called a racist gives them the right to point fingers.

    And don't ever feel badly about ranting! Even if you feel like you might be too vitriolic, sometimes you just need to get feelings out there! We all do that sometimes. Maybe not about the same issues, but when you feel strongly about something, sometimes it can be both cathartic for you and illuminating to other people. <3

  12. A lot of the analysis I'm reading of Obama's NPP has a whiff of "He's an affirmative action baby, what do you expect." There's also the "he hasn't done anything."

    As a black woman, I have my own reasons for questioning the Nobel committee's decision to award the Peace Prize to Obama (to start with the two wars he's currently waging and escalating). But given that this same committee has awarded the Peace Prize to leader apartheid FW DeKlerk and war criminal Henry Kissinger, I'm having a hard time mustering up any outrage at Obama winning the award.

  13. This "he won because of his race" accusation is completely stupid. So is "he hasn't done anything yet to justify this prize". The original meaning of the Nobel Prize was not to reward lifetime achievements, but to encourage the ones in the making, so it's totally appropriate that Obama receive it, given that he is the man with the biggest power to make peace a reality.

  14. This is exactly what our former minister for foreign affairs, Alexander Downer, claims. He wrote a full page article on in today's paper explaining why.

  15. I don't understand how people have failed to realize Obama was not the only person of color on the list of nominees. To ignore that fact is telling, it proves to me they have no thoughts of people accomplishing things without "help" from white people.

  16. What White People Do: continue to split hairs about the ways in which his winning this prize was undeserved...5 days after the fact.

    What White People Do: act like they cared who won the Nobel Peace Prize BEFORE Obama ever received one.

  17. If he agrees that he doesn't deserve it why is he accepting it? I don't think that he only got it b/c of his race(like the presidency itself), he also got it for not being George Bush.

  18. If he agrees that he doesn't deserve it why is he accepting it?

    In part because, as he said himself, he sees it not as an award for his accomplishments, but instead as a "call to action." The committee doesn't always give that prize only for accomplishments; it also gives it at times as encouragement for apparent future directions and courses of action.

    I don't think that he only got it b/c of his race(like the presidency itself), he also got it for not being George Bush.

    He didn't the the presidency itself because of his race, he got in in spite of his race. While his being different from Bush in terms of foreign policy is clearly one reason he got the Prize, so is the list of reasons particular to him that the committee provided in explaining their decision.


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