Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What Black Conservatives are saying about Obama

While the story about Obama's church has been in the blogs for many months now, its eruption into the mainstream and Obama's handling of the issue (almost as if he never expected to have to address it, that he, or his church's racism, would be given a pass) is proving to be revelatory. Revelations, the stuff of history, always stem from the unfolding of events, and not directly from the prior facts that help constitute events.

But it is not to Obama's supporters that we can yet look for much lucid comprehension of what has happened the last few days in America. They are yet far too involved in their desires for that. I have found the following among the more interesting comments I have read today.

Thomas Sowell:
You can't be with someone for 20 years, call him your mentor, and not know about his racist and anti-American views.

Neither Barack Obama nor his media spinmeisters can put this story behind him with some facile election year rhetoric. If Senator Obama wants to run with the rabbits and hunt with the hounds, then at least let the rabbits and the hounds know that.

The fact that Obama talks differently than Jeremiah Wright does not mean that his track record is different. Barack Obama's voting record in the Senate is perfectly consistent with the far left ideology and the grievance culture, just as his wife's statement that she was never proud of her country before is consistent with that ideology.

Senator Barack Obama's political success thus far has been a blow for equality. But equality has its down side.

Equality means that a black demagogue who has been exposed as a phony deserves exactly the same treatment as a white demagogue who has been exposed as a phony.

We don't need a President of the United States who got to the White House by talking one way, voting a very different way in the Senate, and who for 20 years followed a man whose words and deeds contradict Obama's carefully crafted election year image.
Shelby Steele:
Mr. Obama's broad appeal to whites makes him the first plausible black presidential candidate in American history. And it was Mr. Obama's genius to understand this. Though he likes to claim that his race was a liability to be overcome, he also surely knew that his race could give him just the edge he needed -- an edge that would never be available to a white, not even a white woman.

How to turn one's blackness to advantage?

The answer is that one "bargains." Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer's race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.

This is how Mr. Obama has turned his blackness into his great political advantage, and also into a kind of personal charisma. Bargainers are conduits of white innocence, and they are as popular as the need for white innocence is strong. Mr. Obama's extraordinary dash to the forefront of American politics is less a measure of the man than of the hunger in white America for racial innocence.

His actual policy positions are little more than Democratic Party boilerplate and hardly a tick different from Hillary's positions. He espouses no galvanizing political idea. He is unable to say what he means by "change" or "hope" or "the future." And he has failed to say how he would actually be a "unifier." By the evidence of his slight political record (130 "present" votes in the Illinois state legislature, little achievement in the U.S. Senate) Barack Obama stacks up as something of a mediocrity. None of this matters much.
Because he is black, there is a sense that profound questions stand to be resolved in the unfolding of his political destiny. And, as the Clintons have discovered, it is hard in the real world to run against a candidate of destiny. For many Americans -- black and white -- Barack Obama is simply too good (and too rare) an opportunity to pass up. For whites, here is the opportunity to document their deliverance from the shames of their forbearers. And for blacks, here is the chance to document the end of inferiority. So the Clintons have found themselves running more against America's very highest possibilities than against a man. And the press, normally happy to dispel every political pretension, has all but quivered before Mr. Obama. They, too, have feared being on the wrong side of destiny.

And yet, in the end, Barack Obama's candidacy is not qualitatively different from Al Sharpton's or Jesse Jackson's. Like these more irascible of his forbearers, Mr. Obama's run at the presidency is based more on the manipulation of white guilt than on substance. Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson were "challengers," not bargainers. They intimidated whites and demanded, in the name of historical justice, that they be brought forward. Mr. Obama flatters whites, grants them racial innocence, and hopes to ascend on the back of their gratitude. Two sides of the same coin.

But bargainers have an Achilles heel. They succeed as conduits of white innocence only as long as they are largely invisible as complex human beings. They hope to become icons that can be identified with rather than seen, and their individual complexity gets in the way of this. So bargainers are always laboring to stay invisible. (We don't know the real politics or convictions of Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey, bargainers all.) Mr. Obama has said of himself, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views . . ." And so, human visibility is Mr. Obama's Achilles heel. If we see the real man, his contradictions and bents of character, he will be ruined as an icon, as a "blank screen."

Thus, nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama's political aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday -- for 20 years -- in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage ("God damn America").

How does one "transcend" race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn't thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to "be black" despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn't this hatred more rhetorical than real?

But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America's television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.

No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself.

They're still offering Al Gore at 50-1.


Charles Henry said...

There was an ironic call from a reverend Wright supporter on Dennis Prager's radio show yesterday.

The caller argued that there are double standards being used to judge obama, that white politicians get a pass about their racist religious mentoring.

The host asked the caller to name a white politician who had this kind of long, close relationship with a religious mentor who was as racist as Wright. The caller shot back: "President James Polk!"

...who was president during the Mexican War in the 1840s...

Dennis asked for someone who hadn't been dead for 150 years.

The caller, indignant at having his favorite example so quickly dismissed, quickly offered a second example: George Wallace.

"he was leading in the polls when he was shot during the '72 campaign, were you aware of that??", the caller added.

Once again Dennis requested a more current example, and the caller answered by going on a rant about something else (schools I think), becoming so abusive that he got cut off.

The irony is that both the examples that the caller dredged up, the worst cases that he could think of to prove his point...

...were both Democrats.

truepeers said...

Well, this is an example of the fact that the real religion of today's left is one seeking endless moral equivalences.

And Obama revealed the dark side of this yet further when he compared his own, living, grandmother, the woman who raised him in good part, compared her private fear of black criminals, to a man with a career of holding hate rallies under the guise of Christianity.

And today the Globe and Mail has a front page photo spread comparing Obama to the Dalai Lama. Disgusting.

Charles Henry said...

...when he compared his own, living, grandmother... to a man with a career of holding hate rallies under the guise of Christianity.

As small a remark as it was, this slur against his own grandmother remains in my mind the most striking part of the whole speech. Does he have so little ability to feel gratitude, that he can so cavalierly besmirch such an important person in his life, one to whom he owes so much?

It's too bad that the reverend Wright chooses to recite conspiracy theories from his pulpit instead of, say, the Ten Commandments; then, mr and mrs Obama (and their two children) could have been learning about the duty to Honor Your Parents. It might then have occured to mr. Obama to transcend that to include his grandparents, since they seem to have taken such a direct role in raising him for a significant period of his life.

If he's willing to screw his own grandmother's reputation in order to bolster his, what will be willing to say, or do, about his allies, like for instance... Canada?

truepeers said...

Well, as a mere Canadian, I don't expect him to be on our side unless the alliance also works for America. But a grandmother deserves more.

As for the black conservative commentariat: also thoughtful and less interested in piling on Obama, see Cobb.

Anonymous said...

I’ll plead non-concern of the Wright issue. Alright, Obama’s pastor could be a bit of a bigot and he has some warped political views. We’ll see how it plays out, but it doesn’t bother me. It’s clear that Obama and Wright aren’t on the same page on these issues. And I suspect that many whom attend(ed) church will be sceptical about drawing a direct political line from pastor to church member, especially in a mega-church like the one Wright led.

Since discussing grandparents in less than glowing terms seems to be a mortal sin that demands denunciation, I might as well bring up my own. My grandfather was a pastor who used to hand out anti-papist leaflets. Privately those that loved him would just roll their eyes. Comments were made occasionally. Most folks accept that a tinge of bigotry and some warped views don’t define a whole person though. A deep prejudice tends to change at a glacial pace so patience is often a virtue with these issues (especially when dealing with those from earlier generations). Besides, we all have our own sins to account for.

It’s expected that we’re supposed to treat political discourse like a constant Inquisition (Denounce! Reject!). Fair enough, politics is a rough sport. And if what you want in a leader is someone who has had no past meaningful relationships with those we can label as kooks or bigots then the Wright story is important stuff. I don’t care if a candidate has ever been friendly with a black nationalist, a segregationist, a prostitute, a gay dude, a fundamentalist, a criminal, a communist, or whatever. People can be judged on their own record and, for Presidential candidates, their chosen advisors. If I were in the US I would want a candidate that could be counted on to draw down the presence in Iraq and ensure the death of the perverted tax-cut that was passed early in Bush’s first term. In other words, someone who can deliver on the issues. A squeaky-clean past that fulfills all the requirements of political correctness might be a bonus, but is hardly essential. I’ll stop here before I break anymore Commandments and expose myself any further as a tolerater of bigots.

truepeers said...

Well, you can't choose your grandfathers but you can choose your church, and Obama hasn't really explained why he spent 20 years in his.

You're right, na, that we can get too puritanical about peoples' associations. Still, when you want to be President, people rightly take you to task for your religious ideas. It's a pretty fundamental sign of what we are. If Obama had more of a record to show who he was, this all wouldn't be such a scandal. But he is where he is in good part because he is the open book who is offering to stand for everyone's hopes and dreams.

Anyway, many an anti-Papist has been elected US Pres., but so far no one who follows an anti-American religion. Is Obama anti-American? I'm not so sure...

Anonymous said...

If you want to know where Obama stands just read his speeches, his policy proposals, and the bills he’s been involved in (ethics in the US Congress; police interrogations in Illinois, etc). He’s a straight-forward liberal. Wright’s views are embarrassing but inconsequential (at least in my view). Obama went to his church but didn’t buy his take on some political stuff. Damning!

Barring a massive turnaround, Obama will take the Dem nomination. And then it becomes a choice between him and McCain. I’ve already stated my preference for Obama on policy grounds. McCain has a wealth of foreign policy experience that tells me that he’s hot-headed and recklessly aggressive. I’d suck up Obama’s vacillation on Syria and Iran to prevent McCain’s ‘bomb-first, think later’ approach to international relations. McCain, however, has more American flag bumper stickers, and he once ate the intestines of a Black Panther, which displays a level of pro-Americanism that makes me lean his direction.