Racism, in the old days, was about Jim Crow, lynching, vote deprivation, and the underlying belief that people of another race, specifically African-Americans (though lots of others were also victimized by race or ethically based prejudice), were inherently inferior to whites. Now, if we are to judge by certain contributors to the “On Faith” column in the Washington Post, racism is defined as opposition to President Obama.

The question(s) of the week: “Why are people so angry and belligerent, and so willing to express their anger publicly? Why has our civil discourse become some uncivil? What does this public anger say about our private faith? What should we do about it?” First up, the ever-dependable Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite:

“Lack of civility” is too tame a description for what is happening in the country right now. Even “uninhibited belligerence” is too general a description. Here’s what’s really happening: the screamers on the far right are furious because their most deeply held beliefs about white supremacy are threatened by the Presidency of Barack Obama.

What we are seeing in our public life right now in this writhing, screaming and resisting President Obama’s leadership is, in fact, the next step on the journey toward one America. The vitriol is coming from the still deeply held race-prejudices in some that are being are pulled out into the open and exposed.

Keep in mind that for Thistlethwaite, the “far right” includes pretty much everyone who is opposed to the president’s major proposals, including such notable racists as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Michael Steele, etc. Read her column and note the complete lack of specifics. She refers to Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who didn’t yell out a racial epithet but rather questioned the president’s veracity on a legislative point that was latter conceded by the White House to have been open to question. She also refers to Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but she does that in her sleep. One suspects that she also lumps those who have expressed their hostility to health care reform at congressional town halls, attenders of “tea parties,” and perhaps the half million/million/2 million–however many it was–that attended the march in Washington last weekend. All of these are no doubt minions of the Far Right Haters and Bigots Club simply because they oppose the president on matters of public policy.

Next up, Thistlethwaite’s fellow UCCer the Rev. Susan Smith:

The underlying element in all that we are seeing and hearing is racism. People saying that they “want their country back,” the accusations of President Obama trying to make the United States a socialist country, and the comparisons of the President to Hitler and other hated figures is racism at its finest.

The comparisons of Obama to Hitler are way over the top, to be sure (though no more so than the repeated equations of George Bush to Hitler, about which Susan Smith uttered nary a word). The accusations of socialism may be off the mark, but have nothing obviously to do with race. But to hear racism in people who “want their country back” is really funny. The tea partiers,the marchers on Washington, the town hall participants have included not just whites, but African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Native Americans. Remember this guy, and what he got for his opposition to Obamacare? See, the point is that they want their country back from liberals. But since no one in their right mind could possibly oppose liberal public policy prescriptions, the opponents must be motivated by race, according to Susan Smith. She even says so:

What I do not understand, racism aside, is why the Conservative Right is so against good things, fairness, being done for “the least of these.” I do not understand how anyone can call him or herself a “believer,” (which people on “the right” do with some amount of bragging) and NOT be concerned for the poor, un-served and under-served, but instead choose to blame them for their conditions.

It’s no longer enough to be for the goal of helping the poor. You must be for the liberal means of doing so, no questions asked, or you can only be operating out of racism, or be evil in some other way. Smith is not the only Susan who thinks this way; so does atheist Susan Jacoby:

Incivility is much too mild a word for what has been going on in our country for the past few months. What we are seeing is the rage of a minority–we don’t know exactly how large, but we do know that it is almost entirely white and concentrated in the South and Southwest–at an African-American president who is considered not only wrong in his policies but illegitimate as the leader of our nation. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times told it like it is in her op-ed column Sunday, when she said that the real meaning of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s health care speech was not “you lie” but “you lie–boy.” No one wants to admit this–the white male talking heads on cable TV are searching for almost any explanation other than racism–because what it says about the state of our union at the moment is too disturbing. Or should I say, the state of our disunion.

She makes it sound like the “white male talking heads on cable TV”–you know, guys like Keith Olbermann and David Shuster, well-known enablers of far right bigotry–are just tossing out any explanation they can think of, no matter how ridiculous, for Wilson’s outburst, but refusing to acknowledge the one that anyone right (or left) thinking person would see instantly–it’s race. Wilson doesn’t disagree with Obama’s policies, doesn’t dispute him on a matter of fact, doesn’t simply have an uncivil tongue. No, he’s a frustrated Theodore Bilbo who is just itching to put those people back in their place.

I think I’ll wrap up this post with a quote from the Rev. Gardner Taylor, pastor emeritus ofConcord Baptist Church of Christ in Washington:

Some of the anger expressed on the floor of the joint session of the United States Congress indicates an unwillingness to accept the verdict at Appomattox Court House that ended the Confederacy.

Yep, that explains it. There are congressmen (are you listening, Joe Wilson?) who want to re-establish the Confederacy, and presumably slavery. Thanks for clearing that up, pastor.

This was all perfectly predictable, of course. With the first African-American in the White House, it was only a matter of time before supporters of his accused those who opposed his proposals of racism. In fact, politicians such as nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, Charles Rangel and others have been playing that card for months now. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone that their camp followers in the religious left would eventually begin to throw that kind of mud as well.