In recent weeks I've heard lots of good reasons not to support President Barack Obama. Some dissenters take issue with the fact that his health care plan likely will go forward without a public option. Others object to the fact that Obama has yet to bring the military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to an end. And those against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan oppose Obama for sending 30,000 more troops to the battlefield.
I've been impressed that the people I've run into who take issue with Obama have been respectful and articulate when voicing their criticism of him. Then, I came across an Associated Press article about a Colorado state employee facing disciplinary action for emailing a picture Dec. 22 of former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin having her shoes shined by a weary, hunchbacked Obama in tattered clothing. The insinuation made by the photo is that Obama's place is on his knees serving whites, a role African Americans of yesteryear were forced to fill during Jim Crow and slavery. The argument here is that Obama's skin color is the only objectionable aspect of his presidency. A black man grossly oversteps his bounds by being the leader of the free world, the photo suggests. The black man's rightful place is working as a domestic for whites.
In fact, the person who first sent the email to the Colorado D.O.T. employee commented, "It appears he (Obama) has found his niche," the Associated Press reported.
Apparently, the state worker agreed with the message, as she proceeded to pass it on to four colleagues and other acquaintances using her state email account, according to the Associated Press. Good arguments can be made as to why being president of the United States isn't the best niche for Obama, but no one involved in the shoe shining email made any such arguments. They simply circulated a racist email. If they indeed have legitimate concerns about the Obama administration, they undermined themselves by spreading hate rather than discussing the issues and alerting others of their concerns, potentially dissuading those unaware of the issues from supporting Obama in the future.
But let's say the Colorado state employee just wasn't interested in debating the issues meaningfully. Perhaps she found the racist image amusing and wanted to share the email with others she figured would respond in kind. (In fact, one recipient of the email didn't find it funny and complained to the state about the worker.) Using work email to spread offensive messages is a classic example of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Most workplaces, particularly government-run ones, have anti-discrimination agendas. A work email account is no place to spread bigotry, as it may misrepresent the values of the company you work for and expose colleagues to hate-filled messages they likely never wanted to see. So, if you have racist beliefs and are keen on sharing them, do so using your own resources and in your own home.
Lastly, it's worth noting that the disgraced employee is 73 years old. Is her age relevant? Certainly, individuals of all ages practice racism. But a woman in her seventies is old enough to remember when blacks were relegated to work as domestics. Does this make it that much harder to accept a black in the greatest leadership role this country offers? On a similar note, should we be more sympathetic to older folks who exhibit racism than their younger counterparts? After all, the 73-year-old worker grew up during a time when racism was not only widespread but enforced by law.