Many believe a current example of both overt and hidden racial bias is the onslaught of attacks against President Barack Obama. They cite Rep. Joe Wilson yelling out, "You lie!" during the president's speech on health care reform, cartoons depicting the commander-in-chief as a monkey and several signs portraying him as a socialist during the recent Tea Party marches.
Former president Jimmy Carter injected himself into the fray when he said that he believed the negative tone of comments against President Obama were racially motivated. He later clarified his comments to say, "Those that had a personal attack on President Obama, that was tinged with racism. But I recognize that people who disagree with him on health care or the environment, that the vast majority of those are not tinged with racism."
[AD]Dr. Phil runs through a list of rumors and accusations about President Obama to see what's true or false. "Some are saying that he's a Muslim. You've all heard that, right?" he asks the audience. "True or false?"
"False," the audience responds.
"Of course, it's false! He's a Christian. Here's another constant accusation, that our president is not a natural-born U.S. citizen," Dr. Phil says.
The audience replies that this allegation is false.
"Of course, it's false. He was born in Hawaii. That still is one of our states isn't it?" Dr. Phil teases. "So he is a natural-born citizen."
Dr. Phil has assembled an esteemed panel of experts to help bust racial stereotypes at their core. He introduces comedians Paul Mooney, Kate Rigg and Manny Maldonado, civil and family attorney Areva Martin, USC professor of sociology Amon Emeka and conservative radio host Michael Graham.
He turns to Paul Mooney. "Are these attacks [occurring] because Obama is African-American?" Dr. Phil inquires.
"It is very racial. They make racial jokes, and the post about the monkey thing, that is calling all [African-Americans] monkeys, and I was very offended by it," Paul replies. "White people actually need a pair of glasses and a seeing-eye dog, because if you take a look at a monkey, a monkey has straight hair."
"Good point," Dr. Phil says. "Well, here's another myth: President Obama is a Black Panther party member. True or false?"[AD]
The audience replies that the accusation is false.
Michael Graham adds his thoughts. "Let me just say right now, it's all my fault " racism, sexism, slavery, I'm only 45, but it doesn't matter " I did it all. The Brady Bunch remake movies, I apologize for those. The fact that Air Supply still works concert tours, it's me," the radio host jokes. "When you live in America you're surrounded by people who don't look like you, who don't act like you do, who don't come from where you come from. We are, in real life, day to day, getting along. Are there kooks and fringe nuts out there across the spectrum? Of course there are, but day-to-day Americans are making a better America. We don't care nearly as much about race, I don't think, as the media thinks we care about race."
Comedian Kate Rigg speaks up. "I just think that, actually, race is a big deal for Asian Americans still," she says. "I think with Obama being in office, and I think with it being sort of a new day for our presidential outlook, that on both sides people are very, very sensitive. So, if a Chia Pet comes out with [the likeness of], President Obama everyone freaks out, 'Oh, my God. It's racist,' but then again if somebody criticizes his health care plan, they might call that racist too."
"I think people also agree that there's a great stride that's been taken. I mean, we have elected a president that's African American in America," Dr. Phil points out. "We are programmed to see differences. If a Caucasian sees an African American, they're going to recognize a difference. The question is, what do you do when you recognize that difference? There are studies after studies of people who don't profess to have a bias who, in fact, engage those of another race in a different way. I mean, African-American students can get a different education if a teacher reacts to that difference in a negative way."[AD]
Areva shares her views. "Michael's statement is that everyone thinks because we have a black president now the issue of race has gone away, and I think that's a big mistake for us to make, because as an African-American woman, I experience biases all the time," the attorney says. "I'm glad we have a black president " it forces us to have this kind of discussion " but it's dangerous to say that we're all getting along, and we're one big happy family, and race is no longer an issue in this country, because that's just flat-out wrong."
Dr. Phil examines another provocative headline: Thomas Strain, a white police officer, reported to work with his hair in cornrows and was put on desk duty by an African-American supervisor, even though several black police officers allegedly wear the same hairstyle.
The panelists bicker about crosscultural hairstyles.
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"They probably had it braided wrong, so they said, 'We ain't having it,'" Manny jokes.
Dr. Phil turns to USC sociology professor Amon Emeka. "What do you think about that when you see that?" he asks.
Amon replies that the hairstyle could be construed as a white man mocking African-American culture. "So I think that, for me anyway, I see this as it might be something that this guy really likes to wear, but it can also be taken as mocking."
"I think it's sexism, because he's a male, and he has cornrows," Paul jokes. "Bo Derek wore them, and she was a 10." [AD]