If Race is involved, Does that make it Racism?

I did not expect to be writing about Congressman Joe Wilson and his disruption of President Barack Obama’s address to Congress with the infamous “You Lie!” line again this week.  I mean, why should I?  Wilson apologized for his lack of decorum in front of the media then he called the White House and apologized again.  President Obama graciously accepted the apology and said it was time to move on to other things.  Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi adopted the same approach.  Concerns about a lowered quality of political discourse seemed unfounded, as there was bipartisan condemnation of the behavior.

Ah, what a difference a few days make.

The Speaker changed her mind, and the House voted virtually along party lines in favor of reprimanding Wilson.  Some Democrats said that Wilson owed his colleagues in the House of Representatives an apology for besmirching their honor with his outburst.  Wilson declined, saying that he had apologized enough and it was time to move on to other things.  Conservatives noted that the House has done nothing to reprimand two House Democrats involved in financial improprieties recently.  Should we surmise that their fellow congresspersons aren’t offended by such activities?

Part of the push behind reprimanding Wilson was because of the race issue.  This argument goes that the breech of etiquette towards the President was committed by a white person who couldn’t accept the reality of a black President.

I find the injection of race in this matter to be very troubling.  If there was something in the words that was racist (there wasn’t) then I’d be open to the race argument.  If Wilson has a history of racism (which no one has found evidence of) then I’d be open to invoking race as a factor.  Otherwise, playing the race card is totally unfair.  When Barack Obama criticized the Bush Administration was Obama being racist? No.  When many Democratic voters supported Hillary Clinton over Obama in the primaries, were the Clinton supporters all a bunch of racists?  No.

Former President Jimmy Carter has weighed in on this issue as part of the chorus crying “racism.”  Does Carter know Joe Wilson personally?  Has he heard Wilson make racist statements?

Racism is a horrible thing, and it has tarnished significant parts of American history.  But when we cry “racism” every time we don’t like what someone says then we take the sting out of the word.  It should be a serious allegation, not a way to try to score a cheap political point.  Wilson’s outburst was inappropriate and an attack on the President’s honor.  When Jimmy Carter and others started calling Wilson a racist, they are guilty of a worse offense than he was.