Barack Obama has violated the social order among those who believe that people fit into categories of rank and damned well better know their place.
It is okay for a black person to occupy the White House as a valet or food service person, but to fill the role of master is an outrageous affront. It is one thing for a black man to run for president, as it gives the nation a chance to show its devotion to equality and giving everybody a chance. But to actually win the damned job—twice—is when uppity just goes too far.
No one has done more to restore the social order than Speaker of the House John Boehner. He knows all the ploys for showing disrespect and trying to humiliate someone. These ploys are not limited to racial discriminations. They can be used in any work or social situation to let someone know they are regarded as shit.
One way is to exclude someone from plans for some social or business event for which their attendance would be mandatory. This tactic is used often on college campuses. One college president loved to do this when someone pissed him off.
Our university had hired a vice president for public relations and development who had worked in that capacity for a prestigious military academy. He hit the campus, which had beautiful lawns and flower beds, running. He inadvertently ran into the university president, who thought he knew more about creating public images of the university than his new vice president did. The two disagreed about the best way to promote a good image of the institution. The president did not like to be disagreed with. So when he called a big meeting of the campus administrators to launch a fundraising and promotional campaign, which would ordinarily be the development vice president’s job, he did not invite his vice president to the meeting. At that point the new vice president launched a search for a better job, which was successful, and he was gone in a matter of weeks. As for the big image-building and financial campaign, it went with him. The story of the president’s snub got around the community and the state, and established in the public mind the image of a big asshole into which no one would throw any money.
John Boehner used this tactic when he invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress without notifying the President. This tactic cannot be taken as anything other than a contrived and deliberate slight, an effort to humiliate the President. Boehner taught him who his boss and superiors are.
Another tactic I have encountered on campuses prone to cliquishness and affected snobbery is not to invite someone a clique is down on to a party and then regale each other with the fun and hilarity of the party in front of the person who wasn’t invited. Members of Congress did this as they wildly applauded Netanyahu and gave him chortling praise as a message of their contempt for the President. That should put that black interloper in his place.
Another tactic Boehner has used to show his contempt is not to answer or return telephone calls. That was a favorite ploy of that university president I mentioned earlier. He did not get on well with his academic dean, largely because that dean had twice been acting president of the college and knew too much about how to run the place. When the dean was out-of-town at a meeting at which some issues were being decided that would affect the university, he tried to call the president and brief him and consult with him on some decisions. The president refused to take his calls. The dean, of course, realized he was being cut out of the loop, as they say, and soon resigned.
Boehner did this early in Obama’s presidency when they were trying to negotiate a deal about the national debt ceiling. Boehner got miffed at the president, would not take telephone calls or return them when the president tried to keep the negotiations going, and Boehner tanked any potential deal. That is how you teach a houseboy his place.
Of course, there is no element of racism in Boehner’s attitude toward the President. Or in Mitch McConnell’s. Or in the emails from the Ferguson police department.
However, the President,knows what is driving this behavior. And so do many of us who are old enough to remember the civil rights era.
This episode should be remembered as an example of American exceptionalism.
*to inflict denigration, contempt, insult, abuse, and humiliation on someone in ways commensurate with what the N-word historically means.