The New “N” Word

I learn a lot from my friends on Facebook.

Yesterday, a couple of people linked to a Slate Magazine report of a poll of Republican electorates in Mississippi and Alabama. The results were eye-opening, in more respects than one: by considerable margins, GOP voters in both states rejected evolution (66% in Mississippi, 60% in Alabama), and believed that President Obama is a Muslim (in Mississippi, only 12% said he was Christian, while 52% said Muslim and 36% were unsure; in Alabama, 14% said Christian, 45% Muslim and 41% unsure).

My first reactions were predictable. 1) A country that rejects science is a country in decline; 2) People who insist that Obama is a Muslim are probably are many of the same people who criticize him for attending a church where Rev. Wright was pastor–i.e., intentionally ignorant people; and 3) So what if he were Muslim? Being Muslim shouldn’t be any more out of the American mainstream than being Mormon or Jewish or Unitarian.

But of course, this isn’t about the comparative merits of different theologies. This is about pathology. It’s about the hate that dare not speak its name.

Another friend’s post hit that proverbial nail on its head. “Muslim” he wrote “is the new “N” word.”

We’ve come far enough in America to make the use of the original “N” word unacceptable, even among people who harbor very racist beliefs. We come far enough to actually elect a black President, and by a pretty substantial margin. That’s progress, and I don’t mean to diminish its significance.

But to dismiss the immediate and irrational response to that election and this President–to insist that every criticism of Obama is grounded in policy differences–is to ignore the elephant in the room.

The “birthers” and their ilk–the folks who insist that the President was born in Kenya, or that he is an adherent of a religion they have also demonized–are intent on labeling Obama as alien, as Other. But they don’t want to admit to themselves–or betray to others–the true source of that Otherness, or the real reason for their animus: the color of his skin.

At least they are true to their own beliefs: they haven’t evolved.


  1. All the Obama Hatred is pure and simple racism. He has done an outstanding job of at a very difficult point in history. Following the dim wit boob that caused these problems, it is amazing that the haters can criticize our Pres this way. There really is no other explanation.

  2. From the same poll, “Do you think that interracial marriage should be legal or illegal?”:

    * Legal 67%
    * Illegal 21%
    * Not sure 12%

    * Legal 54%
    * Illegal 29%
    * Not sure 17%

  3. Sheila,

    That was a great blog because it put on display the level of ignorance in those southern states. Wow. It shows just how ignorant and unevolved parts of the American electorate are. “Stupid is a stupid does” said Forest Gump. Can we make them secede from the Union? They are just too ignorant to be Americans and they are dragging down the IQ of the nation.

  4. This also shows how little factual information is reaching these people. Be concerned, be very concerned.

  5. My state touches theirs and some of this hatred and ignorance has bled over into my state…a most unfortunate circumstance.

    Yes, “Muslim” is the new “n” word. Folks in those states (and other states as well) feel as though “Muslim” is somehow now a safer word. It all boils down to the fact that President Obama is still bi-racial and he’s still President of these United States. They’ve had their tighty-whities knotted up now for four years. Folks in the aforementioned states will really pour it on this time around.

  6. Agreed – “Muslim” is the new ‘N” word.

    I have one more word for those people — “Anti-American”.

    This President was elected by the majority of the American voters. This is what our form of government is all about, yet they feel the need to deny the legitimacy of his presidency. I may have a very low opinion of George W. Bush, but I never questioned that he was duly elected to his first term as President by a perfectly legal (although highly immoral) 5 to 4 vote. The subsequent incorrect vote count in Florida led to a perfectly legal election in the Electoral College.

  7. Fact check time, Sheila. Would you not consider a child born to a Jewish mother who gives birth to a child Jewish regardless of whether the child practices the religion? I have many Jewish friends who insist that is the case. In Islam, the child takes the religion of his or father. Nobody disputes that Obama’s father was Muslim. You never cite poll statistics taken of Muslims showing that they overwhelmingly consider Obama Muslim. Why is that? Barry Goldwater spent most of his life running away from his Jewish roots, but later in life he grew comfortable describing himself as Jewish, even though he was a practicing Christian.

  8. Ignoring religious and ethnic squabbles, the “elephant in the room” is President Obama got dealt a very bad fiscal hand, which he’s then proceeded to only make worse.

    After a report from his self-initiated, bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission on Fiscal Responsiblity and Reform, he proposed a budget so detached from reality that it couldn’t muster a single vote from his own party controlling the Senate (97-0).

    I never voted for Bush. Up to that point, I thought he was the the worst President in my lifetime. But, President Obama either doesn’t get it or fundamentally doesn’t care that we’re in a deeper hole than tax the rich and dismantle the defense department.

    I must be a racist hater to disagree with his particular abandonment of fiscal leadership- versus that of his predecessor?

  9. Gary- I was raised by devout Catholics and in no way consider myself either Catholic or Christian.

    Why does a child inherit the religious tendencies of their ancestors? The parents may fervently wish that their child practiced the religion of their youth, but that may or may not end up happening. I would say that might have been more applicable to youth several decades ago, but contemporary youth are increasingly distancing themselves from the religious doctrine of their parents and church attendance is on the decline according to many religious leaders.

    Obama spent significantly less time with his father after they divorced when he was two which leads me to wonder where one draws the line when suggesting that youth inherit the religion of their parents. Does the parent have to be a full time parent? Do they have to be a *practicing* Muslim, Christian, Jew or is it OK for them to be a biannual celebrant during the major holidays? What about step-parents? Do you also adopt the religion of your step-parents? What if the step-parent in question adopts you?

    My point is that it is ridiculous to label a grown man as something that he obviously chooses not to label himself as. Yes, his father was Muslim. That actually makes him better suited to evaluate that religion as he matures to determine if those are the tenants he wishes to live by or if he rejects them for alternative doctrine/dogma.

    Children do not inherently attain criminality or academic successes or failures or dietary habits of their parents- those things may significantly influence the choices that they make in life- but it doesn’t mean that they will grow up to assume those same descriptors. Yes, Goldwater may have chosen that descriptor even though he was a practitioner of another religion, but I think we all know that anecdotal ≠ data.

  10. Melissa, You omit the fact that Obama’s adopted father, Lolo Soetoro, was also Muslim. Obama often accompanied his father to the mosque and received religious training in Islam as part of the required curriculum at a school where Christian and Muslim children were separated for their separate religious teachings. The school records document the fact that he was enrolled as a Muslim with the given name, Barry Soetoro.

  11. Gary, so what? So what if he was exposed to both the Muslim and the Christian religions growing up? I was raised by a Catholic mother and a Baptist father. I was fully indoctrinated in both belief systems. As a result, I no longer consider myself a Christian of any sort.

    He self identifies as a Christian, and in a nation where there is separation of church and state, his personal beliefs shouldn’t be an issue anyway.

  12. Why does Gary Welsh want to use Sharia Law here in the USA about our elected President Barack Obama? We function under the US Constitution, not the strictures of some religious sect that Welsh seems to favor over American law!

  13. Judaism is different from most other religions, in that “Jewish” is an ethnicity as well as a religious identity, and it is fairly common to be “culturally Jewish” without being religiously Jewish.

  14. Sheila, in my mind I keep coming back to the question “Why don’t we ever talk about the fact that Obama is also half caucasian (I have quit using the “W” word whenever I can)? I think that, someday in the future, he will be hailed as the leader who brought us together, symbolic in his own blackness/whiteness blend. Why can’t we just start thinking about him in this manner today? With a great deal of “static noise” from the totally political side of things, he has managed to do a good job in foreign affairs, probably saved our economy (Who knows? The problem is so vast and computers have allowed us to do great deeds and misdeeds 1000% times faster than ten years ago.), and maintained his personal dignity. That’s wonderful no matter what his skin color, religion, or gender is . . . or even his PARTY.

Comments are closed.