Friday, August 06, 2010

Will Obama Have A "Beer Summit" With Spain?

The Obama administration lifted a warning that "'racist prejudices could lead to the arrest of Afro-Americans who travel to Spain," just as first lady Michelle Obama landed there for vacation, according to the UK's DailyMail. (link) The article continues, "Mrs Obama's trip now risks being overshadowed by a row about institutionalised racism." No, I don't think it will, in the US media. This isn't a story that Obama wants to see, and the obsequious media will accomodate him. However, this story deserves to be heard, because it gives an insight into the politics, as well as the nature and universality of racism.

It's worth looking back at the Administration's intervention in the arrest of Pres. Obama's friend, Professor Gates, which culminated in the famous "beer summit." It seemed as if the administration was forced to deal with that story, because the "victim" was a friend of the president. Still, his handling of the situation was "ham-handed," at best. This is what the current flap with Spain smacks of, as well.

Because of what is now called an "isolated incident," a warning was posted on the US State Department's website, warning African Americans that travelling to Spain could result in being arrested "for no apparent reason." This was posted "alongside information about ETA and Islamist terrorist attacks in the country." That might be worse than saying the Cambridge Police Department "acted stupidly," but really, what's the difference? The two African American government employees arrested in Spain last year had enough clout to get a warning posted on the State Dept. website, and now it's been taken down, for political considerations. Why the warning wasn't lifted on the day the trip was planned just puts a cherry tomato on top of the "ham-handed" sandwich this has turned out to be.

Racism is universal, and practiced by people of every race. It becomes "intitutional" when people of good will look the other way. Here in NYC, a Mexican kid got beaten to death in what's being charged as a hate crime, and the first kid that was arrested was an African immigrant. Spanish racists don't like Mexicans any more than American (or transplanted African) racists do, either, for that matter. It all gets very complicated, but it comes down to "racists of any race hate people of other races." I also know people of many "races" that just don't like people of another nationality, or religion, or sexual orientation. This is a common human condition, and not a result of American politics or capitalism, as many learned people profess. Americans just talk about it more openly than people is many nations do, and it's hugely politicized.

It's important to distinguish "prejudice" from "racism." It is similar to the difference between "don't like" and "hate." A police officer may "prejudge" a person of another race as "guilty of something," but that doesn't rise to the level of racism. A professional cop adheres to the laws, and doesn't arrest someone without evidence of a crime. Police are trained to treat everyone as a suspect, when investigating a situation. That, in itself, creates the impression of "racism" that is often complained about by many racial groups. Trust me, as a White male, I've had my share of bad experiences with the police, as noted in a previous column (link).

A racist cop, who hates people of other races, will create false evidence aginst someone, and abuse their power over them, every time they encounter someone of another race. Police departments become aware of this behavior, and the good ones act to stop it. I don't know how widespread this behavior is in Spanish police departments, but it's a sure bet that these "isolated incidents" won't stop after the First Lady's trip. They won't stop here in the US, or anywhere in the world, for that matter.

This brings us back to the way the Administration handled this situation. Should the warning have been on the State Dept. website, in the first place? Regardless of that, why did the First Lady have to vacation abroad? And why Spain? Here's an interesting thought or two about that. It's no secret that the President doesn't like Britain very much. Britain and Spain don't like each other much either, and Spain hasn't been liking the US much, in recent years. It fits into the President's pattern of "treating your enemies better than your friends" foreign policy, as well.

Perhaps it was an unintentional snub, and Michelle chose Spain because it's more beautiful, this time of year. Also, Spain's "green economy" (you know, the one Obama wants us to emulate) is in the crapper, and he might want to boost the tourism business there. I bet alot of people in the Gulf region wish his wife vacationed at one or more of their beautiful cities.

It's not a "big" story, so the lib media will feel justified burying it. Still, I think it serves as a perfect picture of how the Administration keeps shooting itself in the foot politically. I can't believe that somebody in his camp doesn't "get it," and see that the American people are watching all of this, and are not happy. This story is one of many "bricks in the wall" of growing opposition to our President. I feel bad for him, because he's got disillusionment from his left-wing base, and is losing independents to the fiscal conservatives. He's a lonely guy, on his 49th birthday, though the "moderates" are still with him. Of course, trying to be a "moderate" president is what got him in this situation, in the first place. You can't please everybody, as president, but you can pick and choose your battles wisely. That's a skill Pres. Obama hasn't shown so far, and will need, if the GOP makes signifigant gains in this year's elections.

1 comment:

CHRIS LEAV said...

I was wrong, in one respect. This story "took off" over the "bigger picture" thoughts I mentioned in the last three paragraphs.

The "Marie Antoinette" aspect of the story became the focus in the US media. That's less controversial, but no less critical.

It's interesting that the legitimate subject of race relations was "overshadowed" by stories about "class envy" and "nationalism," in the guise of "she should've spent that money in the US!" There should be nothing wrong with having a debate about ALL of these issues.