For the last five hundred years, white America has feared black America. When physical chains were broken, the fear only increased. Rumors of black on white atrocities frequently circulate in white communities that live on the edge of black communities. As my home town integrated, rumors of white women being raped weren’t uncommon. One particularly tenacious rumor had it that a white boy had been castrated by a group of black men at a local mall.
All of these rumors were, of course, untrue, and served as both a barometer of fear, and a tool of control. If fear could be maintained, otherwise “neutral” white people could be pulled to the side of continued segregation and racism.
Rumors of black on white physical crimes (and of mixed relationships) are still used as a tool to control racial discourse in the US, and they are a measure of desperation as well. As the Right continues to find itself on the wrong side of public debates such as health care reform, they struggle to re-frame the debate. Instead of being about health care, it’s about “freedom”. Instead of increasing coverage, it’s “death panels”. It’s a tribute to the intelligence of the American people that these arguments have so far failed to gain mainstream traction.
But now the Right is even more desperate, and the racism simmering under the surface of the debate is boiling over.
RUSH: By the way, leave our penises alone, too! This is getting out of hand. There is a story that some officials in the Obama administration are pushing for circumcision for all boys born in the USA to fight HIV/AIDS. Not that I’m against circumcision, but it’s a family’s decision. Leave our penises alone, too, Obama! …So here’s Obama out there saying we have to have circumcision of every young boy born in the country…
There are two basic problems here. One is the question of male circumcision and health. The other is the use of lies to scare people.
First, the facts.
Male circumcision can reduce female to male transmission of HIV. This has been shown fairly clearly in Africa. This does not mean that circumcision will decrease HIV transmission in the U.S. We have a significantly different HIV epidemic here. But it might. We already have a high rate of circumcision in the U.S. and in general, our society is very accepting of the practice. What’s lacking is data on the effect of circumcision on male-to-female and male-to-male transmission of HIV. It’s a risk-benefit analysis. Do the minimal but real risks of circumcision warrant recommending it for prevention of HIV?
The answer isn’t clear, and the CDC recognizes this. Still, the data from Africa are so strong, the CDC is considering whether to officially recommend male circumcision for this purpose.
You see, that’s their job: to look at medical evidence and see if the public health can be improved by certain recommendations. The CDC has a very thoughtful discussion of this issue at their website.
I suspect that the Right has two factions who object to this: those that object to any recommendations from a government body, and those who wish to exploit that fear for other purposes.
The connection being made is so tenuous to be laughable, if it weren’t serious. It’s the same reasoning we saw in the death panels lie. It goes like this: if health care reform passes, the government will penalize doctors who don’t follow government recommendations, making the recommendations effectively mandatory.
This is, of course, total and unmitigated bullshit.
But that’s only part of the message now. The simmering racism that we’ve seen expressed in this debate is being made explicit: allow health care reform to pass, and a black man will make you mutilate your kid’s genitals. It’s an old story, an ugly story, and one that needs to be dragged into the harsh light of sanity, and exposed for what it is—blatant racism being used for political purposes. It’s sickening, and shameful.
But of course, they have no shame.