Column for 16 March, 2008

“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
–Romans 10:12-13

The long, grinding battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic Nomination is not about race or gender. Really. Oh, sure, that’s not what you see or hear in the mainstream media, but that’s mostly because white America talking about race is like adolescent boys talking about sex; a lot of giggling and pointing but not much substance. And yes, lots of people would dearly love for this to be about black versus white or man versus woman. Take Geraldine Ferraro. Please. Her inane statement that Obama only got where he is today because he’s a black man is just about as stupid as they come. If being a black man is the key to political success, why is he the only one in the United States Senate? Why is there exactly one black man serving as a governor today (and only then because an extremely stupid white man couldn’t keep his hands off high-priced hookers)? If not for a multi-million dollar television ad campaign, how easy do you think it would be for Barack Obama to hail a taxi after dark in any major American city? How long could he jog through any gated suburban community before the police stopped him to inquire as to his business? Barack Obama got where he is by being smart, talented and tenacious, not through any sort of political quota system. By the same token, Hillary Clinton certainly gains no benefit from being a woman in a political system that is still overwhelmingly dominated by men. If Hillary Clinton were Harold Clinton, would major cable news channels and national magazines run breathless articles on what he was wearing and whether or not it showed too much skin? Would pundits be discussing whether or not he was sincere when he showed emotion? Would the fact that he was strong and outspoken naturally lead to a whisper campaign that he was gay? While it is true that Senator Clinton has benefited from her power marriage to President Clinton, it is condescending tripe to suggest that she would be nothing without him. Had she never dated a law student from Arkansas and instead remained in Illinois, she could very likely have ended up in Obama’s senate seat. The very fact that Geraldine Ferraro could make such a moronic statement, or that it would touch off such a storm of insipid press “coverage” is yet more indication of the basic fundamental problem with discussing race in America: to the extent white America will discuss race at all, it insists on defining all the terms of the debate. Listening to talk radio today, I heard one caller insist that the fact that 91% of black voters in the Mississippi Primary voted for Obama was proof that “blacks are racist, too.” Excuse me? If that’s true, does the fact that 76% of white Mississippians preferred Clinton mean they are racist? Of course not. And if Barack Obama the black man was Barry O’Bama the white Irishman, would the fact that he got 91% of the Catholic vote mean that all Catholics hate Protestants? Of course not. How do we square that with the fact that Bill Clinton had such strong support among blacks that he was famously referred to as the first African-American president? Surely it couldn’t be that black voters liked Bill but don’t like Hillary? Yet the same white Americans who insist that any organization of non-whites that they feel excluded from (La Raza Unida, the American Indian Movement, black student unions in colleges) are proof of anti-white “reverse racism,” see nothing wrong with Polish-American, Italian-American, Jewish or similarly-formed associations. Why? Because those groupings are almost exclusively white. In the immortal words of Groucho Marx, I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member. Likewise, two-hundred years of white male affirmative action in the form of laws that systematically excluded women and people of color are one thing, but thirty years of lukewarm efforts on behalf of non-white males evidently spells the end of civilization as we know it. White pathology about race has gotten so toxic that a privileged young white woman, Margaret Seltzer, felt compelled to pretend that she was a Native American (no doubt her great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess) raised by a black family in South Central Los Angeles in a completely fictionalized account of gang life. Were there any oppressed groups she forgot to claim membership in? Perhaps she was also a quadriplegic lesbian? Having helped themselves to land, culture, religion, language and even appearance, must white America now also claim “victimization” itself as some kind of prize? How twisted do you have to be to want to even pretend to be a victim? Is there some visceral thrill in believing you are “oppressed”? Evidently so, since the least oppressed segments in our modern society (white men, rich people, and evangelical Christians) are the ones who most loudly bellow that they are “under attack” on a regular basis. So, to all you white liberals, and those non-white Obama supporters who act as though Hillary Clinton is George Wallace, please do not project your racial fetishes onto this campaign. Either you think Barack Obama would be a good president or you don’t. If you don’t like him, don’t vote for him. It doesn’t make you a racist. Either you think Hillary Clinton would be a good president or you don’t. If you don’t like her, don’t vote for her. It doesn’t make you a sexist. However, if you vote for John McCain, it does make you a masochist.

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Published in: on March 16, 2008 at 11:29 pm  Comments (15)  

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  1. If Hillary had been Harold, the main reason she’d be nobody is that we’ve had nothing but male presidents so far, and there is no chance that he (Harold) could have married their way into a political career like she (Hillary) did. I do not think it is condescending tripe.

    “I heard one caller insist that the fact that 91% of black voters in the Mississippi Primary voted for Obama was proof that “blacks are racist, too.” Excuse me? “

    That is hilarious. I think 90% of black voters voted for Bill Clinton twice. That also helps shoot that caller’s idea to hell.

    “Likewise, two-hundred years of white male affirmative action in the form of laws that systematically excluded women and people of color are one thing, but thirty years of lukewarm efforts on behalf of non-white males evidently spells the end of civilization as we know it”

    Sorry, it is no different when a black person was denied a job due to Jim Crow-related racism back in the 1960s and when a white person is denied a job because a racist quota as part of an affirmative action program demands it. The comparitive numbers for the groups differ, as do the reasons for the racist treatment, of course. (the people creating modern racist quotas certainly have much better intentions than those who made Jim Crow!). But in the end, in each case, you have a person shut out because of their race. Real progress is ending all racism, not creating new racism against guiltless individuals.

  2. It’s a shame this election can’t be about who any of the remaining three candidates really are, as opposed to what they (or we) really want them to be for a variety of shallow reasons. Largely it’s unavoidable, since few of us know any of the candidates personally, and because either the media or the candidates themselves project all kinds of things around them that often bare little semblance to reality.

    John McCain is a good example. Here’s a guy who spent most of his career as an independent maverick that most Democrats admired and even wistfully wished would switch parties. Now that he’s the GOP nominee, he has to recast himself as something that he’s not so he can retain the support of his party, while loyal Democrats like yourself will spend the next 7-8 months dutifully portraying him as a deranged monster beholden to [fill in the blank with the name of any controversial far-right nut or organization].

    And of course the reverse is equally true of how faithful Republicans will villify O’Bama or Clinton for the next 7-8 months. I for one am simply happy that for the first time in my life either a woman, a black man, or a real combat veteran (the real endangered minority in politics) and POW are going to become president next January. That’s a good news story no matter how you spin it, and I hope the partisans of both parties can take some time out from their villifying this election season to occasionally give their thanks for this remarkable point we’ve reached in our history. What other country in the world can claim as diverse a field of candidates for president as we enjoyed this time around? America, for all her flaws, is still a great nation because we are (no matter how we sometimes deny it, when selectively focusing only on the worst exceptions) a land of real opportunity where talent and determination CAN break down any barrier of prejudice ever erected.

  3. “Sorry, it is no different when a black person was denied a job due to Jim Crow-related racism back in the 1960s and when a white person is denied a job because a racist quota as part of an affirmative action program demands it.”

    Racial quotas have been unconstitutional since 1973, because discrimination against white men requires prompt action. Discrimination against everybody else can go on for about 200 years before being dealt with. And any effort to remedy the effects of being marginalized for 200 years is evidently “reverse racism” if it inconveniences white people in any way.

  4. I, uh, just realized that I actually wrote “O’Bama” instead of “Obama.” Damn you, Local Crank! You’ve corrupted me forever!

  5. I probably shouldn’t stick my nose into this one, but what the hell. I agree that whites are overquick to allege (and act on) “reverse racism,” but I think to say that “Discrimination against everybody else can go on for about 200 years before being dealt with” severely misrepresents the problem. The average white guy born and raised in the U.S. South in, say, 1820, didn’t have even a remote chance of developing the same sensibilities the three of us have on the issue of descrimination today. We are all products of our environment to a large degree, and while that doesn’t excuse us from every bad thing we do, it should put our actions in their proper context to later generations looking back. The important thing to me is that we CAN look back and say, wow, we ARE a hell of a lot more enlightened today than our ancestors were in the 1820s. That is the hallmark of a civilization with a capacity to learn and grow, and I have no doubt in my mind that our nation will be among the first to be truly color blind some day.

  6. Sorry, I meant to add to quotas “preferences”. Systems where racism is present because skin color is written is as a factor. See the University of Michigan case. Supposedly well-meaning racists use this to get around the banning of outright quotas.

    “And any effort to remedy the effects of being marginalized for 200 years…”

    Racist policies affect individuals, and no individual has been alive for 200 years. And you are very wrong about “any effort”. Affirmative action programs include outreach to formerly-excluded communities and groups. These are worthy efforts that I support. I just don’t support anything that punishes a person for their skin color. Any person. Even if that person happens to be in a vilified racial group… and isn’t it racist to vilify a whole group?

    “….is evidently “reverse racism”

    The “reverse” word is superfluous. It’s just plain racism.

    “it inconveniences white people in any way.”

    If you discriminate against a person based on their skin color, it is racist no matter what the skin color of the victim is. The “inconvience” you are discussing involves closing the door on individuals because they have the wrong skin color.

    Why not work instead to get rid of the (of course!) still present racial discrimination againt non-whites? Attempting to “cure” things making new racist policies against whites is counterproductive, creates a backlash, and ignores the actual problem of discrimination in the first place. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  7. Eric: I think we will get a “Better quality” election than usual if it is Obama vs McCain. Sure there will be swift-boaters and Carvilles out there, but these two seem to lack the viciousness of Hillary’s campaign.

  8. Okay, let’s try this: the unemployment rate among minorities is VASTLY higher (by several factors) than it is among whites. What does this suggest? All things being equal, it suggests that employers (who are also, btw, vastly disproportionately white) have a preference for hiring whites. Racial preferences, at best, go a small way toward reducing that imbalance. Given that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that racial preferences increase unemployment among whites, I’m going to stick with “inconvenience” as the best adjective. And, brother, Hillary’s attacks are a Swedish hot-oil massage compared to what the Republicans will unleash on Obama if he becomes the nominee. To believe otherwise is to pretend the last 20 years never happened.

  9. ” Racial preferences, at best, go a small way toward reducing that imbalance.”

    But they do so in a racist fashion, by adding more instances of racial discrimination against individuals.

    “Given that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that racial preferences increase unemployment among whites,”

    So, racism against individuals is OK as long as overall percentages are not affected??? Using that logic, we could let the KKK lynch a few black folks as long as it does not affect population numbers of African Americans.

    I’ve seen this argument many times before, that it is OK to deny people’s rights as long as big numbers are not changed. It is also contradictory to any ideals of civil liberties., as it accepts the idea taking away people’s rights is OK if it can be lost in a shuffle of statistics.

    And, of course the real problem of “employers (who are also, btw, vastly disproportionately white) have a preference for hiring whites” ends up not actually addressed at all. Innocent new hires are instead being punished.

    The “inconvenience” you mention in nothing other than individuals suffering from implimentation of racist policies. It is no where near as bad as Trail of Tears of Jim Crow, but I am opposed to racism in all its forms and there is no justification for punishing a person for having the wrong skin color..

  10. “Hillary Clinton is George Wallace”

    Yes, that is preposterious. She’s much more of a Nixonian figure.

  11. “Yes, that is preposterious. She’s much more of a Nixonian figure.”

    LOL. Pat or Tricia?

  12. “Eric: I think we will get a “Better quality” election than usual if it is Obama vs McCain. Sure there will be swift-boaters and Carvilles out there, but these two seem to lack the viciousness of Hillary’s campaign.”

    I tend to agree, though possibly for different reasons. Specifically two: 1) I’m literally nauseated by the thought of just two political dynasties/families occupying the White House for what could very well be a quarter of a century. I think it’s sends exactly the opposite message that we always preach to the rest of the world about democracy and opportunity for all. 2) I think having a talented black man at the top of the ticket who got there on his own merits as opposed to a former First Lady who got there largely on the coattails of her husband sends a much more powerful and positive message both to our own domestic audience and to the rest of the world.

    Having said that, I do agree with Patrick that 1) Hillary is a talented woman who probably would have gone far even without Bill in her life, and 2) she would probably make a far more formidable opponent for McCain than her critics like to suggest. I’m not fully convinced that Obama is the stronger candidate of the two, but I do prefer him for the reasons I’ve already listed.

    Plus, as you might have already guessed, my sympathies tend to lie more with McCain. I feel closer to him on several (though by no means all) key issues, and I prefer his resume and background as a potential commander-in-chief. In spite of his conservative makeover this year, I think he truly is a moderate and independent spirit at heart who would probably work well with a Democratic Congress.

    On the other hand, he needs to tone down the warmongering rhetoric a few notches before I can truly feel comfortable voting for him. Supporting the surge and wanting to see the mission through in Iraq is one thing; getting us mired in more disastrous military interventions is another thing entirely.

  13. “I’m literally nauseated by the thought of just two political dynasties/families occupying the White House for what could very well be a quarter of a century”

    There is a point to be made about the long legacy of the “Bush-Clinton-Bush” adminstration, in different ways.

    For example, all three presidents thought it was OK to keep on a course of soaring national debt.

  14. “For example, all three presidents thought it was OK to keep on a course of soaring national debt.”

    Think again. Bill Clinton eliminated the debt and left office with the government in surplus for the first time in decades. 100% of the current debt must be laid at the feet of George W. Bush (with help from a Republican Congress for six of his seven years in office).

  15. Well, Bill Clinton certainly deserves more credit than the Bushes for his balanced budgets. I would like to believe that any of the three remaining candidates will do the same, but who the hell knows.


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