Lee Daniels, the director of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” believes America has become more racist since President Barack Obama – the nation’s first black commander-in-chief – took office in 2009.
“I think that people are angry that he’s president,” Daniels told Piers Morgan on CNN this week. “And I think that they are showing their true colors.”
Morgan asked Daniels if the country has become more racist since Obama was elected.
“Sadly, I think so,” Daniels said.
Daniels’ film inspired by the real-life account of Eugene Allen, a longtime White House butler, opened No. 1 at the box office last weekend, grossing nearly $25 million. Forest Whitaker stars as the title character leading the ensemble cast including Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard, James Marsden, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz.
The film not only tells the story about Allen’s life in the White House, but it also spans several decades that includes the Civil Rights Movement, riots in urban cities, the emergence of The Black Panther Party, and Allen’s interaction with Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan, and President Barack Obama.
In fact, Daniels told The Grio that the only person he was unable to cast in was was President Obama.
“I was too afraid to ask him,” Daniels said. “I think that he was in the middle of something called the election. It would have been weird if I had somebody playing Obama. I couldn’t have anybody playing Obama but Obama.”
Daniels’ observation about Obama, race, and present-day America comes one week after many African Americans were angered last week by a rodeo clown in Missouri who wore an Obama mask and mocked the president. An announcer taunted the clown, saying: “We’re gonna smoke Obama … Obama, they’re coming for you this time.” He also called the masked Obama a “big goober.”
The incident, which has been condemned by Democrats and Republicans, resulted in a lifetime ban from the fair for rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling.
But Daniels’ broader observation about America’s increased racism since Obama was elected is cause for concern. People who didn’t like Obama to begin with have become more outspoken and filled with hate, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in America.
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, there are currently 1,007 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 67 percent.
“This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African American president,” the Center explains.
“These factors also are feeding a powerful resurgence of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, which in the 1990s led to a string of domestic terrorist plots, including the Oklahoma City bombing. The number of patriot groups, including armed militias, has grown 813 percent since Obama was elected – from 149 in 2008 to 1,360 in 2012,” according to the website. “This growth in extremism has been aided by mainstream media figures and politicians who have used their platforms to legitimize false propaganda about immigrants and other minorities and spread the kind of paranoid conspiracy theories on which militia groups thrive.”
These hate groups – which are on the rise – are also fueled by right-wing fanatics and so-called leaders like Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) who shouted, “You Lie!” inside the U.S Capitol during the president’s speech about health care reform last year. Wilson was one crazed voice, but he spoke for many.
And since Obama took office, he has been called a “jack-ass,” a “dick,” a “monkey,” a “tar baby,” – Rush Limbaugh called Obama “Barack, the Magic Negro,” and conservative loudmouth Ann Coulter called the president “retarded.” In Arizona this year white protesters shouted “Bye Bye Black Sheep” when Obama arrived for a speech.
And who can forget the Florida public school teacher who was suspended for 10 days for writing this so-called joke on the chalkboard for his students: “What does ‘CHANGE’ stand for?” The acronym spelled out reads: “Can You Help a N***** Get Elected?”
When is the last time these kinds of ugly racist insults have been directed toward a U.S. president?
Never – at least not until now.
Lee Daniels is right: Some Americans are deeply resentful that Obama is president and they’re showing their true colors – in black and white.