Category Archives: Race

President Obama is the problem alright. It’s just that race has little or nothing to do with it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My apologies to President Carter, but he’s apparently so sensitive to racial issues, he’s missing the point. He, and others who are, once again, “playing the race card” as the media likes to say, need to ask themselves what would cause such unusually aggressive reaction from some of the President’s critics if he were white?

Is race, in other words, the only or even the most likely explanation? I don’t think so. I think this is what we get when we elect a phenomenon President, instead of a seasoned government leader. Isn’t it just possible that people are reacting to President Obama’s inexperience, to his lack of demonstrated fiscal and administrative management of our government?

He proposes massive healthcare legislation, but hasn’t yet offered a specific, written program for Congress to consider.

On the unfounded threat of imminent economic collapse, he spends tens of billions to prop up key players in the financial sector – To what end? – while getting Congress to commit hundreds of billions more in emergency funding for various private sector programs, most of which has yet to be allocated and spent. And did I mention we now own General Motors?

He’s moved the war in Iraq, which is still ongoing by the way, to Afghanistan where our military leadership is telling us it needs more troops, and that it’s going to take a while to win this – as if we didn’t know that going in.

Budget deficits, current and predicted, are huge and going nowhere but up.

And unemployment continues to increase as we, hopefully, approach the bottoming out of our worst recession since the Great Depression. He can claim his efforts have helped minimize the extent of this downturn, but most of us know better.

All this in his first 8 months in office – while demonstrating an exceptional, naïve faith in the ability and appropriateness of unprecedented peacetime federal government intervention in private sector affairs.

Whew! Absolutely breathtaking.

Could it be that the American people are just a little rattled, just a little nervous, and that it’s the colorblind anxiety so many of us are feeling that’s bubbling to the surface?

Making matters worse, the President is clearly still in a campaign mode. Speech after speech, he’s everywhere campaigning for healthcare and his other objectives – when he should be, so some would say, actually managing the budget, preparing detailed programs, fixing this, fixing that, one small, and some not so small problem at a time. Talk, talk, talk. It’s not visibility we want, it’s results. He’s already been elected, so why does it seem like he’s still running for office?

It seems like he’s still running for office, because he is. It’s all he and the campaign leadership he brought to the White House with him know. Think about how he got elected. Highly charged caucuses at which his young and other supporters did little to constrain their enthusiasm, followed by rock star campaign rally performances in front of thousands, often tens of thousands of exuberant fans. Yes, he riled us up when it suited his purposes, but now when the excited utterances of a tiny minority of concerned citizens comes back at him, the best his core supporters can do is conclude that it must be about race?

A word of political advice to the President: You dared us to vote for you despite the fact that you were black, and we did – some of us for that reason, most of us because we thought you to be a better choice than John McCain to get the stench of the Bush administration out of Washington. Get it out of your head that you were elected as the second coming of Kennedy, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Jefferson. You’re a new President with three years of nondescript Senate experience behind you, who so far hasn’t proven you’re worthy of the confidence of the American people who elected you.

Race is a ploy you can use too often. Focus on the business of running the government. You’re scaring the American people, making us uneasy, and that’s never a good idea, particularly in the midst of a serious recession. Stop running for office, and get to work micro managing your administration, even if it means a little less face-time with your teleprompters.

-wf


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Race, Ego and the Victory of Barack Obama: Now what?

Tuesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama has won and deserves our heartfelt congratulations for many reasons, not the least of which is a masterfully executed campaign. Nothing about his victory allays my concerns about an Obama Presidency, but I wish him, and us, well. No matter what, it’s hard to believe that he won’t be a substantial improvement over the current occupant of The White House.

The black community, in particular, has every right to be proud. It is a victory which has been a long time coming. Too long by any standard. Senator Obama’s election is a milestone of extraordinary personal and historic proportions. Unfortunately, other than feeling good – the impact of which is not to be underestimated – having an African American man behind the desk in The Oval Office will not likely have any short-term impact on the welfare of his ethnic group. It is, for now, more of a symbolic than substantive accomplishment.

If anything, Senator Obama’s victory poses a problem unique to minorities. All minorities, to an extent, tend to define themselves by the disadvantages of their history and current situations. As President Elect, Barack Obama has now become proof positive that Americans clearly no longer consider our black citizens to have less potential or capability than those of us who may be white or of some other minority. Now what? Now that the ultimate job has been awarded by a majority of their countrymen, is discrimination based on color now off the table as an excuse for the relative lack of economic progress their community has made?

The fact is, while there are no doubt some out there who thought it “cool” to elect a black man President, that’s not why he won. Not even close, nor will his victory have much to do with the disadvantages many black Americans still find in the market place – except to question the extent to which it is a result of other societal factors and not the color of their skin. Where many black Americans go from here has got to have a lot to do with introspection and how they rethink their relationship to the economy.

Self-evaluation is also going to be essential to President Elect Obama himself. Did he win because he’s God’s gift to politics? …because of his extensive experience or proven track record? …because his exceptionally liberal points of view are representative of the majority of Americans who voted for him? Hardly, but the temptation to succumb to that conclusion may be irresistible – and that’s a problem for all of us. No, he won because the sitting President is… is politically repulsive. George Bush has given Republicans and even conservatives in general a bad name, the stink of which may take the next 4 to 8 years to wear off. The Bush Administration has been a disaster for our country domestically, and an embarrassment to us internationally. As if the Bush Presidency weren’t bad enough, the climatic economic events of the past few months would have put almost any Democrat candidate over the top. And the best the Republicans had to offer was an aged politician, a good man whose time has passed and whose campaign clearly wasn’t up to the task.

Senator, now President Elect Obama is special all right, highly intelligent and an obviously very effective speaker – but not that special. More than anything, notwithstanding the huge crowds at his rallies and last night in Chicago, he was a negative choice. If I could give him one piece of advice, it is that he needs to keep that reality in mind. Rhetoric, no matter how eloquent and stirring, cannot solve our problems. There’s real work to be done. Making elective history doesn’t pay the bills, personal or national, or keep us safe. I enjoy a good party as much as the next guy, but idolatry gets old quickly in the cold light of the problems we’ve hired him to fix.


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Obama/Palin: The Politics of Race Versus Gender

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In her speech in Dayton on Friday, when she was introduced by Senator McCain as his running mate, Governor Palin went out of her way to call upon women voters to help her, on their behalf, be elected Vice President. Now only 44, even if McCain were to serve a full 8 years, she’d only be 52 years old when she runs for President at the head of her own ticket.

“It was rightly noted in Denver this week,” she said, “that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”

Her objective is perfectly clear. Women need to vote for me to quash the notion that there are limits to what women can do, to the authority and power they can command. Running the country isn’t something women can and will do eventually. It’s something they are ready to do now.

It’s a point which begs the question of whether or not she, Sarah Palin personally, would be an effective President. It could be a case of “right time, wrong candidate” which I’ve made in previous postings about Barack Obama’s campaign. It’s not that we’re not ready for a black President. It’s that Barack Obama, personally, is the wrong black candidate for the job.

Here we have Governor Palin encouraging women to vote for her because she is a woman. There may be other reasons, of course, but gender has got to be high on the short list. Hilary Clinton wasn’t quite so direct, but did frequently remind prospective women voters that her nomination and election would be historic. I’m sure they got the point.

Senator Obama’s nomination and election would also be historic, but for different reasons and, I think, to a lesser extent. From slave to President is a long road, the journey down which is a matter of pride for all Americans as an affirmation of our democracy, and of the self-correcting tendencies of a free society. African Americans are, however, a significant, but relatively small minority of our country.

Women, on the other hand, are half. Their having been discriminated against for so long, in the private and public sectors of our economy, is not only also unforgivable, it has been monumentally inefficient. The unfairness of it all notwithstanding, we have deprived the economy (and government) of the full capabilities of half the population. (It’s something pure capitalism would never have done. It had to be personal.) Fortunately, while discrimination against black and female Americans still exists, it is waning fast and quickly becoming a non-issue right before our eyes. Do we owe Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton anything for proving the point? No. They are just the current beneficiaries of changes in our society which were encouraged by activists, well known and obscure, throughout our history, who forced our country to pay attention.

Unfortunately for the Obama campaign, race doesn’t have equal status in politics. He can’t, as easily, stand up and encourage black people to vote for him precisely because he is black. There’s no point, and it could be counterproductive. Black Americans are going to vote for him anyway, as they have already demonstrated in the primaries. No, what he needs to do is dare white people not to vote for him on the grounds of his race. It’s a pitch which may have worked for many of his Rally People, not to mention an adoring media in the early stages of his campaign, but it’s a more subtle, negative argument which is a much harder sell to the electorate at large than the call to arms Governor Palin is making.


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“Senator Obama, you’re black. So get over it already.”

Give me a break.
Sunday, August 10, 2008

When the McCain campaign ran the ad that featured Senator Obama with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, the Obama campaign and many of his supporters immediately declared it racist. It was because the Senator was portrayed next to two young white women – as if it would have been okay if they’d been black.

So let me get this straight. Is it racist of the Republican Party to be running a white candidate because, during the inevitable debates and town meetings when the two standard bearers are standing next to each other, the juxtaposition of the two will emphasize that Barack Obama is African American – while no one would have noticed if they were both black?

Will Senator Obama refuse to pick a white person – heaven forbid, a youngish white female person – to be his running mate for fear, whenever they appear together, that voters will be reminded that he’s black, or not white, whichever is the worse point of view for his prospects?

No doubt about it, Senator Obama – perhaps as a service to those of us whose only contact with his campaign is via radio – has been reminding us, again and again, that he’s black, daring us not to vote for him. He’s the one who has been instigating the issue of race. The not so subtle strategy is to make those of us who don’t care what color he is, which describes by far and away the vast majority of the electorate, feel bad about not voting for him. Guilt and embarrassment, even on behalf of generations past, die hard. It’s a replay, but on a much grander scale, of what John Kennedy did when he was the first Catholic to run for President. Rather than let his Catholicism be an unspoken, even subconscious issue, he was the one who raised the subject to associate a vote for his opponent as a vote against his (Kennedy’s) religious affiliation.

Will it work for Senator Obama? Not if he overdoes it, a milestone he may have already passed. Beyond that point, he risks a negative reaction, not because he’s black, but because it’s fast becoming a nuisance issue, distracting from whatever positive advantages an Obama Presidency might have to offer. Racism is a negative message which underestimates the intelligence of the American voter.

Why keep pressing the issue of race? Because he thinks he needs it to distract the public from the real issue: his lack of experience. (Just between you and me, I’m not sure I like what this strategy implies about how Senator Obama would run our government, and our foreign policy in particular. It’s not behavior that encourages my confidence or trust.) No one cares what color he is, certainly not enough voters to cost him the election. The question is, does he know what he’s doing? Will he make a good President of the United States? It’s a question that deserves 100% of his and our attention.


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Hillary Clinton: Does anyone really care about electing a woman President?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

“Why aren’t more women supporting the Clinton candidacy with something approaching the levels of black support for Senator Obama?”

In the midst of the most recent news about Pastor Jeremiah Wright, his preaching, publications and relationship to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton managed somehow to divert the attention of the media, and the electorate with it, by her confusion over conditions when she visited Bosnia as First Lady.  This had to be a moment of legitimate confusion.  To consider it purposeful misrepresentation, in light of how easily the facts could be checked, is ludicrous.  Not surprisingly, fraudulent campaigning is how the Obama campaign would have us see it, and the way the media tended to report it.

I get the feeling sometimes that many ordinary voters, professional politicians, and pundits are looking for any excuse to find fault with Senator Clinton’s campaign.  Barack Obama has the temerity to defend his 20 year affiliation with the likes of Pastor Wright and walks away, figuratively speaking, unscathed.  If Hillary Clinton so much as burps in public, it’s breaking news.  She’s down two points in the polls.  Her campaign, so she’s told, is a losing cause.  Why not give it up for the good of the Party, and to make Howard Dean happy?  Democratic process is apparently only a good thing if it nominates Senator Obama without the mess of an open convention.

Whether or not he’s in the lead, Senator Obama’s affiliation, by close proximity if nothing else, to the opinions of Pastor Wright, his spiritual advisor until he became too much of a political liability, should have crushed him in the polls.  That he would claim to have been generally unaware of these offensive beliefs during 20 years of attendance is a ridiculous notion that laughs at the gullibility of his supporters, and mocks the lectures he continues to give us on the new politics of Obamism.  And yet the effect of all this on his standing in the polls was minimal, and only temporary.

What’s going on?  Is it Hillary or, heaven forbid, that she’s a woman?

It’s one thing to wonder whether there are men out there who, consciously or subconsciously, might feel uncomfortable having a woman President.  It’s another to ask the same question about American women in general.  My mother, sadly no longer with us, was a big Bill Clinton fan but would have never bought into the notion that his wife – however accomplished in her own right – or any woman should ever be President.  It was an idea that was, at best, on the periphery of her vision, limited as it was by the times of her upbringing.  I’ve got to wonder if there aren’t still remnants of the same mentality in women of my generation and younger.

Barack Obama has gone out of his way to remind us, at every opportunity, that he’s black.  He’s using his race in a way similar to how JFK used his Catholicism in 1960, to shame some voters, and galvanize others into voting for him.  (See my own “Channeling JFK” posted March 14.)  He wants people to vote for him because he’s black – black people because he is of the same color and shared experience, and white people because, to do otherwise, would be evidence of prejudice.

Don’t believe he’s using the issue of race?  Consider Senator Obama’s recent speech about race.  If I may borrow an observation from Professor Walter Williams’ recent column in The Examiner, the question to which the speech was supposed to be responding had nothing to do with race, per se, but with his long term affiliation with Reverend Wright.  (See “Quote of the Day:  “Is Obama ready for America?” posted March 27.)  Instead, what Senator Obama chose to talk about race, race, and more race.  Okay, I get it.  He’s an American of mixed ethnicity who identifies with the black experience while, at the same time understands all things white.  (I’m exhausted by his omniscience.)

So why isn’t Senator Clinton opting for the same strategy based on gender?  She’s also an American of mixed parentage – one man, one woman – who identifies with the female experience.  It’s perfect.  And haven’t women suffered their own struggle for equality?  Women are half the population.  Black Americans, only 13%.  Even considering that black Americans are almost universally Democrats, there are still more white women Democrats.  You’d think there would be no way she could lose.

Why aren’t more women supporting the Clinton candidacy with something approaching the levels of black support for Senator Obama?  Possible explanations include:  They’d love to support a woman, but not Hillary.  They believe it’s more important to nominate the right candidate than a one of their own gender.  The latter would be nice, but they perceive the differences between the two candidates to be too great in Senator Obama’s favor to vote their gender.  They’ve arrived, so to speak, and don’t feel like they have anything, in particular, to gain or prove by electing a woman President.  Or, yikes, a significant number of them are not all that keen on having a woman – any woman, not just Hillary Clinton – in The White House.

Maybe electing a woman President just isn’t that big of a deal after all.


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Quote of the Day: “Is Obama ready for America?”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The following is a commentary by Dr. Walter E. Williams, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.  It appeared today on page 19 of The Examiner (www.examiner.com), a  Baltimore newspaper.

Commentary – Walter E. Williams: Is Obama ready for America?

Mar 27, 2008 by Walter E. Williams, The Examiner

BALTIMORESome pundits ask whether America is ready for Obama. The much more important question is whether Obama is ready for America, and even more important is whether black people can afford Obama. Let’s look at it in the context of a historical tidbit.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson, signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He encountered open racist taunts and slurs from fans, opposing team players and even some players on his own team. Despite that, his first-year batting average was .297. He led the National League in stolen bases and won the first-ever Rookie of the Year Award. Without question, Jackie Robinson was an exceptional player. There’s no sense of justice that should require that a player be as good as Jackie Robinson in order to be a rookie in the major leagues, but the hard fact of the matter was, as the first black player, he had to be.

In 1947, black people could not afford a bum baseball player. By contrast, today black people can afford bum black baseball players. The simple reason is that as a result of the excellence of Jackie Robinson, as well as those who immediately followed him such as Satchel Paige, Don Newcombe, Larry Doby and Roy Campanella, there’s no one in his right mind who might watch the incompetence of a particular black player and say, “Those blacks can’t play baseball.” Whether we like it or not, whether for good reason or bad reason, people make stereotypes, and stereotypes can have effects.

For the nation and for black people, the first black president should be the caliber of a Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama is not. Barack Obama has charisma and charm, but in terms of character, values and understanding, he is no Jackie Robinson. By now, many Americans have heard the racist and anti-American tirades of Obama’s minister and spiritual counselor. There’s no way that Obama could have been a 20-year member of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church and not been aware of his statements.

Wright’s racist and anti-American ideas are by no means unique. They are the ideas of many leftist professors and taught to our young people. The basic difference among Sen. Obama, Wright and leftist professors is simply a matter of style and language. His Philadelphia speech demonstrated his clever style where he merely changed the subject. The controversy was not about race. It was about his longtime association with such a hatemonger and whether he shared the reverend’s vision.

Obama’s success is truly a remarkable commentary on the goodness of Americans and how far we’ve come in resolving matters of race.  I’m 72 years old. For almost all of my life, a black having a real chance at becoming the president of the United States was at best a pipe dream. Obama has convincingly won primaries in states with insignificant black populations. As such, it further confirms what I’ve often said: The civil rights struggle in America is over, and it’s won.

At one time black Americans did not have the constitutional guarantees enjoyed by white Americans; now we do. The fact that the civil rights struggle is over and won does not mean that there are not major problems confronting many members of the black community, but they are not civil rights problems and have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination.

While not every single vestige of racial discrimination has disappeared, Obama and the Rev. Wright are absolutely wrong in suggesting that racial discrimination is anywhere near the major problem confronting a large segment of the black community. The major problems are: family breakdown, illegitimacy, fraudulent education and a high rate of criminality. To confront these problems requires political courage, and that’s an attribute that Obama and most other politicians lack.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.


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Barack Obama: The Presumption of Prejudice

Thursday, March 27, 2008

“Prejudice and discrimination have a certain ghostly momentum that continues for years after their demise.”

Barack Obama, more than anyone this election, has raised the issue of race and kept it in the headlines.  At first, it was a reasonable strategy akin to the way John Kennedy handled the potential of his becoming the first Catholic President in 1960.  The candidate tells everyone that it shouldn’t be an issue, the implication being that it is.  Many non-Catholics then, or white voters now will feel compelled to deny the implicit charge of prejudice and will support your candidacy to prove their point.  At the same time, Catholic and Black voters will be galvanized into voting for one of their own.  It worked for Kennedy, and has worked for Senator Obama – up to a point.  The  Pastor Wright controversy and Senator Obama’s speech on the subject of race are on the verge of casting the Senator as a Black candidate, rather than simply a candidate who happens to be Black.  The latter works for his candidacy, the former might not.  We’ll see.  (See “Channeling JFK,” posted March 14th here on WordFeeder.)

The explicit message of the Senator’s comments on the subject has been to describe Black and white Americans as racially sensitive.  The typical white person, he tells us, is still apprehensive, if not outright fearful in his or her contacts with Black Americans who still feel resentment for inequities against which they have long struggled.  Senator Obama pretends to be enlightening the American voter by bringing all this to our attention.  Others no doubt think he’s stirring the pot.  My feeling is that he’s a throwback to another era, not all that many years ago, but another time nonetheless, and that bothers me.

He can’t be forward looking, and backward thinking at the same time.  He can’t bring us together, if he doesn’t appreciate how much progress we have made on our own toward precisely that objective.  I don’t particularly like the way he claims to speak for all Black people, and to understand the race-related anxieties of whites.  He may be bi-racial personally, experienced and well read, but that doesn’t make his interpretations of Black and white behavior universally or even generally correct.

Some time ago I worked with a gentleman, a quality individual in all respects, but somewhat odd in appearance and behavior, who is a member of a small, but prominent ethnic group.  He had one of those last names that could easily be mispronounced by people who didn’t know him.  To make matters worse, the common mispronunciation was a real word with unattractive implications.  I won’t give you his actual name which would be unkind, but will defer, by way of example, to a commercial which ran some months ago.

The ad featured a young man toward the end of an important interview which appeared to be going very well, when he rises to his feet, extends his hand to the interviewer and says, “Thank you, Mr. Dum-ass,” to which the interviewer, his displeasure obvious, responds by saying, “It’s ‘Doo-mahsss.’”  Needless to say, the real individual I’m talking about was the subject of considerable kidding, and suffered a daily struggle to feel good about himself.  As I remember, he often complained about how he was treated under various circumstances, attributing his lack of personal and professional success to his ethnicity.  In fact, as one colleague eventually told him, ethnicity had nothing to do with it.

Prejudice and discrimination have a certain ghostly momentum that continues for years after their demise.

For those who have been on the receiving end, they, like the rest of us, are prone to make assumptions which attribute the adverse aspects of their experience to factors other than their own behavior and capabilities.  Unfortunately, excuses, race-related or other, tend to distract from root causes, and delay the progress a clearer vision might accomplish.

For all of those who have reacted in a way conditioned by the habits of prejudice and discrimination against others, there are doubtlessly remnant feelings that persist without reason.  They can be hurtful, and die a slow death I’m not sure any politician can hasten.

Is all this worth talking about on the evening news?  I don’t know, except that exposure in the media tends to exaggerate the prevalence of any problem.  Blowing things out of proportion is an unavoidable byproduct and favorite pastime in the world of “Breaking News” and 24 hour coverage.

I wonder how much of what Senator Obama and his spiritual advisor, Pastor Wright, cite of the Black experience is still valid, or the vestigial mindset of another generation’s reality?  It’s a reasonable, although difficult question for someone to ask another of a different color, but Senator Obama raised the issue in public, and that gives all of us the right.  Senator Obama, how much of the reaction of typical whites to Black Americans which you describe is real, how much of it imagined, and how much of it the confused, outdated and inherently prejudicial teachings of 20 years of Sundays in the wrong place?

How much of the problems which still plague Black America are attributable to race, or to color-independent economic and other factors to which your attention and our country’s resources might be better directed?


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