Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Jack Cafferty of CNN asks his readers, will Barack Obama’s race cost him the White House? The posted answers offer up the response Cafferty is looking for: Yes, people don't like him because he's black. Cafferty gives us the statement that the only attacks that 'hurt' Obama were the ones that associated him with Jeremiah Wright, the now infamous racist preacher Obama listened to every Sunday for over 20 years. Cafferty dissects the info for us, letting us know that the 'angry black man' image that popped up during the Wright scandal didn't sit well with whites.

There are two things about Cafferty's assumptions that I think are deeply flawed. First, there is nothing specifically racist about not liking the 'angry black man' image that Wright personifies so emphatically. Wright preaches a twisted version of the Gospel that allows no room for repentance, reconciliation and the salvation of humanity, all on the assumption that race trumps all. I don't think most people, of any race or creed, Christian or otherwise, wouldn't find it healthy to ingest Wright's gospel on a weekly basis. Obama was hurt by Wright because Wright is an asshole, not because Wright is black.

Second, there's no question that some white, Hispanic, and Asian voters will avoid Obama's name come November because of racial prejudices. The burden of racism has been with us all of time, in varying forms, and it's not going to magically disappear or get worse because of this election. But it's a stretch to say that these racist voters represent a large enough margin to gift the presidency to McCain. These voters, who I assume are automatically generalized as Republicans, have supported a presidency with two major black members: Condi Rice and Colin Powell. These folks have also supported a Hispanic attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, and elected Bobby Jindal, of Indian ancestry, in Louisiana, and Mike Steele, the black vice-governor of Maryland. The proof is in the pudding, no?

Lastly, Cafferty speaks of racism as the elephant in the room. That's true, but not in the way Cafferty thinks it is. If anything, this election could be decided by black folks voting for Obama over McCain because of race. It's not as difficult to digest of course, blacks choosing a candidate because of his blackness, because of the checkered history of race relations in the US, we can have some empathy. But it's still racism.

PS - Another poster from the site, Pliny, makes a good point: "If race were still a factor with the ability to swing elections Obama would never have been able to become the Democrat nominee. If Obama loses it will be because of his liberal ideology and bad policy positions."

No comments: