Fear of a black president: Obama, white supremacy and terror in America
With the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president, discussion has focused on the legacy of civil rights and the possibility of a post-racial America. Yet on the margins lie two other realities, that of continued institutional racism and socio-economic inequality for African-Americans and that of renewed organised racism and racist violence. On 7 April 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued the report Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. At the same time, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported on an increase in hate groups and hate crimes. Because civil rights was seen by white supremacists as representing the loss of white power and road to black political rule (leading to the paramilitarization of the Klan and white separatism), the resurgence of such groups in response to Obama should come as little surprise. Yet it has been to those who had consigned racist extremism to the past (e.g. Klan bombings in the 1960s or the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995) and/or defined it as Islamic following 9/11. While one should not overestimate its significance, this resurgence raises important questions about the legacy of civil rights, racism and extremism in American history. This paper will examine the resurgence of the extreme-right and their response to Obama and his policies in relation to their predecessors’ response to civil rights. In addition to this, it will look at how this resurgence relates to the declining fortunes in the Republicans and the America economy.