Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Disowning His Appeal

Barack Obama appears utterly to have disowned the only thing that gave him any appeal to rational voters in this country - his post-racialism. Some of his supporters embrace his socialism; some embrace the very fact that he is black; still others are swayed entirely by his rhetorical ability. Though his socialism is a deal-breaker as far as I am concerned, I think there were some voters who liked Obama because he represented an ideal vehicle for moving beyond race. Obama no longer wants their votes, as his speech made clear.

Obama equates blacks' anti-white resentment, expressed most despicably in Rev. Wright's sermons, with white resentment to affirmative action set-asides and other preferential treatment of minorities. This is a strange moral equivalence - on the one hand, Wright and Company resent whites based on false, sometimes absurd, premises - like the bizarre belief that HIV was invented by whites as a means of racial biological warfare. This resentment is hard to credit. On the other hand, whites whose race is the impetus for actual discriminatory treatment resent those discriminatory effects. Well, when racism hurts you, you tend to resent racism. When actual racially discriminatory policies are in place that cause you injury, you start to get sort of annoyed at that - especially when the country is supposed to be well beyond state-imposed racial hierarchies. To deal with two very different types of resentment in the same breath is either to give unwarranted credence to the former or to demote the latter.

Obama was supposed to be the sort of candidate who would get beyond the paranoid Wrightesque racial politics and work toward ending the affirmative action system that causes justified white* resentment. Instead, it's still whites' fault.

That's the asymmetry of Obama's call for change and unity - we all need to unite around the idea that whites are responsible for the socioeconomic circumstances of blacks apparently in perpetuity, and racial harmony will be achieved only when whites acknowledge they're bad people.

Perhaps the obstacle to racial unity has always been the race-baiters...but that's too simple, too obvious.

This is an ugly candidate.

*And Asian, of course. It's to the point that being Asian can be a positive liability in college admissions. That the Chinese have a history of discrimination and, you know, still constitute a minority is a pretty strong indication that affirmative action is a cynical racial spoils system where shabby political deals and selective white liberal guilt matter more than any possible philosophical or moral merit. Can you see why this would induce resentment?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home