Race card? We don’t say “Race card”, Bill

The term gets tossed around the media with no apparent thought. It’s working its way into our language and we ought to get rid of it real quick. “Playing the race card” is an ugly and racist turn of phrase. It sprung up when it became the national consensus that minorities have rights, too. It was a way of denigrating any claims of discrimination or racism. If you mean to say that you’ve been accused of racism when it wasn’t justified, then say that. And if you’re Bill Clinton, give some thought to what you might have said that ever gave that impression, as well.

“I think that they played the race card on me,” Clinton said in an interview on WHYY radio Monday, referring to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign. “And we now know from memos on the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along.”

He uses the term “race card” and then wonders why he gets accused of playing to racism or at least to racially based fears.

Clinton said that it was just a statement of fact that the Obama campaign was similar to Jesse Jackson’s in 1988, and that the Obama campaign then tried to turn the remark against him, decrying it as an attempt to marginalize Obama.

“This was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere,” Clinton said.

I don’t know about that. I’m right in the Hillary voter demographic in terms of age, race and income and I was truly shocked as well as disappointed when he said that after South Carolina. I didn’t have to hear it through any campaign’s filter to find it reprehensible. I was shocked because we were having a really historic moment. Whether Obama won the nomination or not, he was most emphatically not the Jesse Jackson in the race . He was a contender for the nomination and that had never happened with a black candidate before in this country. It was good for the country, good for the party and the fact that the Clintons couldn’t rise above their own ambitions just for long enough to acknowledge the fact is what made my final decision to cast my vote for Obama. I’d been undecided right up to that point. If he honestly didn’t know how it was going to sound, then shame on him, but we do offer condolences on the loss of his political instincts. And shame on him and everyone else who’s been using that ugly phrase without stopping to think about its origins and its real meaning.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by raford on April 24, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Zen-

    Yep.

    To me the race card has always meant for when a member of the majority population tries to marginalize people of color by subtly bringing up issues that have to do with race.

    In other words, the Willie Horton ads were race-baiting, while going after Clinton for trying to marginalize Obama as the “black candidate” is questionable.

    Reply

  2. I do sometimes wonder if things like this are said to muddy the waters and make people think twice before criticising. Maybe in Bills mind he is hoping that he or Hillary can criticise Obama any way they want, including alluding to his colour, but now he has mentioned ‘the race card’, people may reconsider their reaction in case they are accussed of ‘playing the race card’ everytime.

    Reply

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