Keeping It Right

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The New Republic: "Maybe We Can't"

Cinque Henderson: Maybe We Can't
The New Republic

www.tnr.com

Ninety percent of black Democrats support Barack Obama. So that might leave an observer wondering: What the hell is up with that other 10 percent? Are they stupid? Do they hate their own race? Do they not understand the historical import of the moment?

I can shed some insight on this demographic anomaly. In gatherings of black people, I'm invariably the only one for the Dragon Lady. I'll do my best to explain how those of us in the ever-shrinking minority of a minority came to our position.

But, before going any further, let me fully disclose my predispositions. I disliked Obama almost instantly. I never believed the central premises of his autobiography or his campaign. He is fueled by precisely the same brand of personal ambition as Bill Clinton. But, where Clinton is damned as "Slick Willie," Obama is hailed as a post-racial Messiah. Do I believe that Obama had this whole yes-we-can deal planned from age 16? No, I would respond. He began plotting it at age 22. This predisposition, of course, doesn't help me in making the case against Obama, especially not with black people. But, believe me, there's a strong case to be made that he isn't such a virtuous mediator of race. And it's this skepticism about Obama's racial posturing that has led us, the 10 percent, into dissent.

Let's begin with the locus classicus of Obama love, Andrew Sullivan's encomium in The Atlantic. He writes:


Earlier this fall, I attended an Obama speech in Washington on tax policy that underwhelmed on delivery; his address was wooden, stilted, even tedious. It was only after I left the hotel that it occurred to me that I'd just been bored on tax policy by a national black leader.


This is presented as a confession, and Sullivan honestly admits his reaction is based on his stereotyping of blacks. Add to that another Obama supporter, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, calling Obama the first black politician to "come to the American people not as a victim but rather as a leader." You hear this kind of talk all the time. Never mind the dignified glories of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Colin Powell, Kurt Schmoke, and others. We have arrived at the crux of the matter. So much of the educated white people's love for Barack depends on educated white people's complete ignorance of and distance from the rest of us. Barack is the black person they want the rest of us to be--half-white and loving, or "racially transcendent," as the press loves to call him. And, since picking a candidate makes you allies with his other supporters, why would I want to be allies with educated whites whose glorification of Barack depends in large part on their implicit denigration of the rest of us?

To read more: http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=331c77bb-9591-422c-aa2b-11a741c6ebb9&p=1

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