Race and politics top of mind

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - Former President Jimmy Carter said South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's infamous, "You lie," outburst was racial politics at work.  During a television news interview, Carter also said many Americans still believe African-Americans are unqualified to lead the country.

Former President Carter called it "abominable."  He said much of the animosity toward President Obama is based upon one thing--skin color.

"There are a lot of things America has not accepted and will not accept when it comes down to the qualifications and capabilities of blacks to lead in this country," said Tyler pastor and city council member, Rev. Ralph Caraway.

A photo of the president hangs in Caraway's study.   He said race is still an issue, both in life, and politics.

He said the situation reminds him Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's fight for civil rights.  He said many people, mainly white, labeled King as a communist--a word used to describe President Obama.

"Whether [the president] is white, black, female, or Hispanic, we need to support the leadership," said Caraway.

Some local Republican leaders said race may drive some of the new criticism, but not all.

"It's not the color of your skin," said Ashton Oravetz, chair of the Smith County Republican Party.  "It's the ideas.  Are you for the constitution, or are you not?"

It was a summer of tea party protest marches and health care town hall demonstrations.

Jennifer Cobbins, a Tyler resident, said those incidents were a catalyst for Rep.  Wilson's outburst, during the President's address to a congressional joint session, last week.

She wondered if that outburst would have happened if the president were white.  "If a parent taught you to respect everybody, but you never had to respect an African-American in that kind of position, it doesn't come easy," said Cobbins.

"There is an underlying prejudice to people who are different from us in all of us," said Joanna Reagan, who once worked for Senator Ted Kennedy.  Reagan said those prejudices can keep people from moving forward.

"This president has much more on his plate very early in his presidency," said Reagan, referring to the economic recession, two wars, and health care reform issues the country now faces.

Reagan is confident the president can handle it.

As for the rest of America, the issue goes beyond simple black and white.

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