When Sarah Palin told Tea Party activists last week that President Obama was "a professor of law standing at the lectern," she wasn't just tapping into populist anti-intellectualism—she was also making a not-so-subtle attack on the president's race. So says Harvard professor and longtime Obama pal Charles Ogletree, who tells Inside Higher Ed that calling Obama "the professor" is close to labeling him 'uppity.'"
Other slurs against Obama—left wing, socialist, palling around with terrorists—"were buzzwords. But the reality was they were looking at this president as an African American who was out of place,” Ogletree says. History professor Thomas Haskell agrees with Ogletree that Americans inclined to feel "frightened" of intellectuals may feel especially uncomfortable "because this particular intellectual is black."