Saturday, March 15, 2008

Shhhh! This Post is About.....RACE!

Nobody can read the human heart, and until we develop this skill, people will be accused of being racist for saying things they don't intend to be malicious, and people will get away with things that clearly are. And millions of comments will be uttered somewhere in between, many misconstrued or misread for political advantage.

Truthfully, we are so afraid to talk about race in this country that we can't even get a national consensus on what comments or behavioirs ARE racist.

This brings me to Geraldine Ferraro.

Ferraro "resigned" her post as a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton after she made the following comment:

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Commentators, pundits, operatives, and lay folk, both white and black, went nuts on this. I'm not sure why (UNLESS their goal was to misconstrue or oversimplify the complexity that is human language).

People who wanted to run Ferraro out on a rail read the comment as if Ferraro is saying that the ONLY thing that got Obama where he is, is his race. That's a WHOLE lot different than saying he's received a tactical advantage being a black man, which is arguably true, just as it was true that Ferraro would not have been Mondale's running mate had she been a man (a fact that Ferraro has publicly acknowledged).

So, the only way we can conclude Ferraro is making a "racist" comment is if she meant to completely denounce the political genius of Obama's campaign, his savvy, his oratorical skill, his educational background, his laudable career choices, and his courageous stand against an ill-fated war. She could have meant that, and if one looks at her entire history, maybe she is a racist. I don't know. But I wonder if she meant, more simply, that Obama has gained an advantage in particular caucuses and primaries by virtue of being black. If she meant the latter, is her comment still "racist?"

Think outside of politics for a second. If you ask a black man who watches golf if he watched the sport before Tiger Woods, and he says, "No, I specifically watch to root for Tiger, and if he's not playing, I'm not watching," is he a racist? If the PGA can count a seven-fold increase in attendance among African-Americans at PGA events since Tiger's tour entry, are these fans racist? Now add to this a ton of white people like me who root for Tiger because they think it's hillarious that a black man consistently dominates in a sport that historically wouldn't even let black men caddy at elite clubs, and you've got a LOT of Tiger Woods fans because (a) he's black; and (b) because he's dominant. There's definitely synergy between these two things. Would he have as many fans if he weren't so damn talented? Probably not. Some of the interest would fall off, but even if he won a single major per season, he'd probably keep the crowd interested because they would always hold out hope that something novel can happen, and Americans LOVE to make history. (Why do you think we all turned a blind eye from the obvious steroid/HGH use when McGuire and Sosa broke Maris's record?)

But I digress. If Geraldine Ferraro said "If Tiger Woods were a white man, he wouldn't have the following he does," is she being racist or simply telling the truth? If she said, "If Hillary Clinton were a man (other than Bill), SHE wouldn't be where SHE is," is she being sexist or telling the truth? How much of Hillary's early strength was from women?

How many of us are dying to see Danica Patrick win her first IRL race JUST because she's a woman? Does that "fandom" detract from her driving skill? Isn't "fandom," when translated into tickets purchased for the Masters or 500 to see the black man or woman win, nothing more than an election with your dollars? Then how is this "rooting for" factor suddenly shut off with politics?

When the race started out, Hillary Clinton did astonishingly well with black voters. But as the race progressed and Obama's grassroots campaign started to eat up primaries, black voters started to defect strongly. Some pundits will say that is because President Clinton insulted Obama and put black folks off. There's truth to that. But isn't it also true that a lot of black folks had to reassess their Clinton support when Obama's odds went from long-shot to preemptive favorite? Didn't black folks leave Clinton in droves (90% of the Mississippi vote to Obama) when it looked like he could ACTUALLY become the first black president? Is there any black parent in America who wouldn't want their child to have a black president to admire?" Aren't there thousands of white folks in every state who will feel a sense of pride when they cast the vote for Obama and help breathe life into the American Dream of "anyone can be President?" (These votes will come with irony, of course, because the day you know identity politics is dead is when there is NO satisfaction in voting for a black man for president because it won't be anything different). But doesn't every white person reading this know at least SOME white people who WANT a black man as president for either symbolic or "international esteem" value? (More of this below). Isn't that why, right now, John Edwards has the free time to seek funding for a documentary on poverty? (I'm making this up, but it worked for Al Gore!)

And isn't it also true that having a black man as our president is a prudent play in international relations? Isn't it accurate that those who seek to do us ill will be hard-pressed to say our country operates with a malevolent design against "dark peoples of the world" when our president is African-American?

Aren't there white people who see THAT as much as they see that Hillary might benefit in international relations from being able to trade on the relationships built up by President Clinton? If so, then that means Barak Obama DOES benefit from being black. That's not the ONLY reason he's where he is, but it is A reason.

By the way, I'm squarely in Obama's camp. You couldn't pry me out with a wedge. But it doesn't mean I agree with everything he says. That's the great thing about America. We've evolved to the point where we're about to have our first black president, and you can still disagree with someone you respect without having to compromise that respect.



Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...

Poor confuzzled Gary Welsh posted a story about how the election was stolen. He then relates an urban myth about how a black candidate tried to steal an election from a white council incumbent as proof of Carl Drummer's chicanery. The problem is that Drummer backed the white candidate, not the black challenger as Gary racistly assumed.

I tried to post a comment correcting him on his topsy-turvy story but he chose not to permit it to be posted.

Gary does not take criticism well at all!