Sunday, February 11, 2007

Black by Popular Demand?

The Editors boldly suggest that, before Democrats nominate Barack Obama for President, they consider the fact that many, many Americans are still totally racist.

There has never been a black President, ever. No major political party has ever nominated a black person to be President. Or Vice-President. Over the past 130 or so years since Reconstruction, there have been a grand total of three (3) black Senators, and that includes Mr. Obama, the only black person currently serving in that august body. So if the American electorate is so obsessed with putting black people in important positions, they have a real funny way of showing it.

He/She/They has/have a point. Americans love to pretend that they're not racist. Movies like Crash come out and flatter audiences. "Yes, there's racist racism, but you and I know better because we've now shared this mind-expanding experience. Oh, if only every white person could have his or her life saved by a minority, we'd all be healed!" It's a rule that we can all try to follow if we're interested in feeling like a good person. "Don't treat people differently because of their race or say racial slurs." Boom. Done.

But of course, this doesn't really have anything to do with someone making a private, secret decision in a voting booth. Maybe an individual knows better than to ever say something inappropriate to a minority or behave in an offensive manner, but would rather not have someone like that running the country. I'd suspect there are more Americans like this than there are overt, angry racists. A lot more.

My point is not that I am actually absolutely sure that Barack Obama can’t be President - only Mike Allen knows what the future holds. My point is that being black makes you absolutely unacceptable to an unmeasureable but substantial part of the electorate, and that the fact that we’ve all agreed to pretend that the opposite is true does not make this fact go away.

The Editors are correct, as well, in explaining why people don't want to have this particular discussion. It's unpleasant for us to face up to the fact that, when we vote for President, we are voting in solidarity with racists. That in fact, it seems almost like a man or woman could not become President unless a significant number of racists backed them. Ugh.

My own thoughts on the subject have changed recently. I had always thought that, should a black person run for President, it would energize minority and youth voters in ways that we have not previously seen. I assumed a large number of people who had never voted before, because they had never felt adequately represented, would suddenly see a chance to vote for change. Even a superficial change is better than the endless stream of old white assholes we've had running the show for as long as anyone can remember.

Ditto Hillary. She doesn't resonate as much with the young people, but I sort of figured that the number of women who haven't voted but would show up for her would offset the haters. Any more, I'm not so sure, and I personally would rather she didn't win just because she's been so wrong on the war.

Unfortunately, there's no way to know. I'd still like to believe that Americans would surprise everyone and do the right thing and elect a black person to the Presidency, but I know that's optimistic. The only way to find out is to take the plunge and hope for the best. Hey, at least he's clean, right?

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