This is a follow up to the post about the deceptive and misleading characterizations of Tagg Romney’s statement that he wanted to “take a swing” at Obama.
It was perfectly clear from the full sentence that it was not a threat but simply a comment about the frustrations a family member feels in a political campaign.
Yet that did not stop Lawrence “Tough Streets of Boston” O’Donnell from challenging Tagg to a fight.
It also provided an opportunity for some to inject race into the issue based on “White Privilege.”
The first was by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, It’s Funny Because We’re White:
Mitt Romney’s son jokes about assaulting the president ….
Yes because a good whippin’ would teach that Obama boy to mind his place.
It’s worth trying to imagine any black man associated with a credible black candidate for the presidency, joking about beating down the incumbent president of the United States. Racism isn’t just in what you do and don’t say, but in the terrain you walk. It is baked in the cake — a fact which is hard to understand when you are the party of white people.
Sorry, but this was a total miss. Tagg Romney didn’t joke about assaulting the president, he joked about how frustrating it was to feel as a family member that you wanted to take a swing at someone but knew you couldn’t.
The key words, which Coates did quote but many others cut off, were “because that’s the nature of the process.” To construe this as a racially-based or racially-permitted threat was beneath Coates.
William Sirota at Salon.com went several steps further, into full blown Lawrence O’Donnell territory, Tagg Romney: Mr. White Privilege:
One of the hallmarks of White Privilege is the unquestioned and largely unchallenged assumption that white people can say heinous things about people of color without blowback or even mild criticism — things that people of color rarely dare to say about white people, for fear of serious retribution. Tagg — aka Mr. White Privilege — proves the point perfectly. He feels totally comfortable fantasizing about committing physical violence against an African-American man….
To know that’s a reflection of the new intensity of White Privilege is to witness the relatively muted reaction to the episode from a media that otherwise treats every microscopic nuance of the presidential race as a “breaking news” event. What’s more, this is a country where, whether in an election season or not, any threat of violence against any president of either party is a potential federal crime and thus covered as a major news story. That is, of course, before Obama, a black man, became president, and representatives of his white opponent started joking about physically harming him.
First of all, there was no “fantasizing about committing physical violence against” anyone.
The reason the media reaction was so muted is because the threat of violence was a fiction, no one listening to it reasonably could conclude it was so. The whole White Privilege narrative was created to place a fiction on top of a fiction.
You can’t make that “White Privilege permits white people to speak violently against Obama” argument if you ignore the fact that both white and non-white people treated the “White President” as rudely if not more rudely. Facts matter.
Romney’s reaction used less violent in its imagery than when Michelle Obama expressed similar familial frustrations in making comments about scratching Bill Clinton’s eyes out:
In Wisconsin, I asked her if she was offended by Bill Clinton’s use of the phrase ‘fairytale’ to describe her husband’s characterisation of his position on the Iraq war. At first, Obama responded with a curt ‘No’. But, after a few seconds, she affected a funny voice. ‘I want to rip his eyes out!’ she said, clawing at the air with her fingernails. One of her advisers gave her a nervous look. ‘Kidding!’ Obama said. ‘See, this is what gets me into trouble.’
I don’t think Michelle Obama threatened Clinton anymore than Tagg Romney threatened Barack Obama. They each expressed the normal human frustrations at seeing a family member called names.
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