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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beldar's one-paragraph, one-picture reaction to Obama's speech on Rev. Wright and racism

In his speech yesterday on racial matters in Philadelphia, the supposedly "post-racial" candidate of the 21st Century revealed himself to be as fully immersed in — and therefore constrained by and a prisoner of — identity-based politics as any traditional Democratic candidate who's ever lived, breathed, and pandered. The "solutions" offered by this speech and his candidacy could equally well have been proposed by, for example, Lyndon Johnson in 1964 or Walter Mondale in 1984 or Al Gore in 2000. Throughout his candidacy, there has indeed been a youthful spring in Barack Obama's step, a hypnotic cadence in his voice, and a vigor in his shaken fist as he has continued to lead his adherents — boldly, onward and upward, to turn a new corner! The problem is, each corner Obama is leading them around is only part of an Escher Staircase, no more than an elegant illusion. The only way off of that staircase is to recognize, and conform one's beliefs and conduct and words to, the transcendent truth about race and racism in modern America: To end racial discrimination, we have to stop discriminating on the basis of race. Obama does not get that.

M.S. Escher's 'Ascending & Descending,' modified

(Original image © M.S. Escher 1960, "Ascending & Descending"; this altered version is intended only for purposes of fair-use political commentary and satire, not for commercial purposes.)

Posted by Beldar at 10:03 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) capitano made the following comment | Mar 19, 2008 11:09:04 PM | Permalink

Agreed. The "conversation that needs to take place" is...

1. this B.S. stops right here, right now; no more double standard, no more walking on eggshells, everybody plays by the same rules.

2. O.K. by me.

3. Sounds good.

4. I'm in.

See how easy it is to have an intelligent conversation?

(2) Steven W. made the following comment | Mar 19, 2008 11:18:36 PM | Permalink

All that's missing is the outlying echo chamber ;)

(3) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Mar 19, 2008 11:57:08 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: I reiterate: give up this attorney business, and go into the creative arts. But not just yet: I know a couple of people I'm going to show your rendering to, and I have a notion I may need an attorney after doing so. Probably a doctor, too...

A little more seriously, here's a question for you: I agree with you and Chief Justice Roberts: To end racial discrimination, we have to stop discriminating on the basis of race. But then what? Suppose we declare the millennium tomorrow and abolish all officially approved forms of discrimination. Then what will happen? How do we monitor any incidents that are a result of racial discrimination? You do not have to have the paranoiac attitude that all whiteys are guilty by blood and will never be free of racism, to acknowledge that acts of discrimination happen every day. That's the paradox: the draconian and not always effective laws have driven racism at least partly underground. But repeal all of them, and the cynics will chortle and try to lay bets that no one will take up that many folks will let their inner demons loose in making hiring/renting/ordering/etc decisions. The cynics will likely be right.

I am still in the minority that isn't much swayed by Obama's oratory and rhetoric on an emotional level. My cortex is impressed with his great skill, but the limbic system snores away (which is just as well.) I conclude from this that the nation is hungering for some sort of talk among itself about race. Obama has said part of it, but not all. If you go to SLATE video:

http://slatev.com/player.html?id=1460719646

you can watch the responses 799 voters had to the Rev. Wright, flaming at top speed. From the moment he opens his mouth, the result is hugely negative among Republicans, Democrat, and independents, never veering into positive territory. Blacks? It begins positively, and never veers into negative territory. The graphs of the approval ratings at the end of the video stare back at you as dismayingly as any Nietzschean abyss. The present system is not working. But abolishing it will require a replacement with something. What that something is is what Obama and McCain should be discussing, along with the rest of us.

Commenter capitano writes:

" this B.S. stops right here, right now; no more double standard, no more walking on eggshells, everybody plays by the same rules."

He does not specify what he considers "B.S." So let's try this out: in a 100 member body, the Senate has only one black member, Obama. Is that proof that we've come far enough? In the 435 member House, I could not find one black GOP member. If there was, he would not be permitted to join the House Black Caucus. Is that proof that we've come far enough? Or are all of these examples "B.S."?


We've come along way, but have a long way to go. Midpoint is seldom a good place to stop a journey.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(4) capitano made the following comment | Mar 20, 2008 9:43:08 AM | Permalink

Mr. Koster,

Please read Shelby Steele's analysis in this WSJ article; he points the way to the future. That demogogues like Jeremiah Wright could attract 8000 congregants, including a credible Presidential candidate is proof that the old ways have failed. The grievance industry is B.S. and people of good faith should say so.

(5) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Mar 20, 2008 11:51:51 AM | Permalink

Dear Capitano: I have read the Steele article, which does well in diagnosing Obama's deficiencies. But it "points the way to the future" in the same way Isabella did when she pointed west and told Christopher Columbus "The New World is that way." True, but not helpful. This is the same deficiency in much of Steele's writing, from THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER onward.

Let's return to the questions of mine that you did not respond to: Is one black Senator in the US Senate good enough? Are no black GOP Representatives a sign that the system is working? Why doesn't the GOP have any blacks as Representatives? That's a serious deficiency in my view. Should the GOP actively recruit black candidates, or is that too close to the old, failed ways? On the Hippocratan principle, "First, do no harm," your implied notion that we should rid ourselves of the grievance industry is good. But what then? Do you think most blacks would agree with you that the grievance industry should go? (Please correct me if I am misunderstanding you?) The congregants at Rev. Wright's church would not agree. Are they rabble, to be denounced as un-American? What's the answer?

I don't have one. All I can do is keep asking the question and hope someone has an answer, or at least a course of action that will serve to replace the old failed ways AND can be accepted by those covered by the old failed ways. If those who are covered by the old failed ways do not acceptthe new course of action, there will be trouble. It would gag John C. Calhoun to admit this, but the Rev. Wright is merely making use of Calhoun's theory of the concurrent majority.

My questions can be ignored, but they aren't going to go away. The GOP will have to grapple with them, as they did with the Rove strategy for courting Latino voters, or face serious electoral consequences.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(6) capitano made the following comment | Mar 20, 2008 1:35:38 PM | Permalink

Mr. Koster,

Personally I'd rather see more Black Americans entering business and industry than squandering their potential in Congress, which probably explains why so few qualified candidates of any race are interested in campaigning. Need proof? Look at the lightweights in leadership positions in both parties compared to the giants of generations past.

But you posed a question:

The congregants at Rev. Wright's church would not agree (...that the grievance industry should go). Are they rabble, to be denounced as un-American? What's the answer?

The answer for a leader (as Obama aspires) and a Christian (as Obama claims) is obvious: Rather than excuse the idiocy of Jeremiah Wright's lies and paranoia by drawing moral equivalence comparisons to his white grandmother's comments, he should do the following:

1. Acknowledge the lies of the grievance industry.

2. Appeal to the most basic Christian message -- forgiveness.

3. Give the congregants permission to reject the hate and take the moral high-ground by forgiving White America.

4. The payoff is escape from the trap they are in now and hope for the future (maybe even a black President). Otherwise they can wallow in self-pity and hatred and wrap themselves in a cultural deathtrap like we see in the Middle East where centuries-old grievances still spark violence today.

Will he have the courage to do it? Probably not or he would have already done it.

Ultimately we will have a dark-skinned President although I predict it will be a Republican, probably in the mold of Bobby Jindahl -- a leader with a record of accomplishment and widespread support -- not some charlatan who is able to hide his anti-American beliefs from the voters or who panders to the voters' worst instincts for political advantage.

(7) Antimedia made the following comment | Mar 20, 2008 3:27:27 PM | Permalink

Gregory asks "How do we monitor any incidents that are a result of racial discrimination?"

The same way we monitor other crimes. It's against the law to kill someone. Does it really matter if the motive was racial bias or something "more mundane" like adultery or roberry?

OTOH, speech, no matter how offensive, should not be a crime. Nor should supposed thoughts (which we cannot truly know anyway.)

Racial discrimination laws that purport to "correct the mistakes of the past" do nothing but demean the very people they are supposed to help. How does giving one preference based on skin color do anything more than announce, "Were it not for your skin color, you would not have this (job/scholarship/position,etc.) for you a clearly not qualified"?

Then Gregory asks, "in a 100 member body, the Senate has only one black member, Obama. Is that proof that we've come far enough?"

It isn't if you use race and color for your measuring stick. And that is precisely what the problem is. The reason you have a man like Obama actually contending for the Presidential nomination is because qualifications don't matter, identity does. If you think that's the system we should measure progress by, then you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Counting people by the color of the skin, their gender, their sexual preference or any other physical criteria simply leads to more divisiveness, dissension and disillusion. Americans will never be truly integrated into one society until the only thing that matters is, can you do the job?

(8) capitano made the following comment | Mar 20, 2008 4:12:52 PM | Permalink

I agree with the leadership demonstrated in this message by Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP.

In my considered judgment as a race and civil rights specialist, I would say that Barack Obama's "momentous" speech on race settled on merely "explaining" so-called racial differences between blacks and whites -- and in so doing amplified deep-seated racial tensions and divisions. Instead of giving us a polarizing treatise on the "black experience," Obama should have reiterated the theme that has brought so many to his campaign: That race ain't what it used to be in America.

He should have presented us a pathway out of our racial boxes and a road map for new thinking about race. He should have depicted his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as a symbol of the dysfunctional angry men who are stuck in the past and who must yield to a new generation of color-blind, hopeful Americans and to a new global economy in which we will look on our neighbors' skin color no differently than how we look on their eye color.

Read the entire article.

(9) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Mar 21, 2008 2:18:28 AM | Permalink

Dear Capitano: Your point 4 in your 1:35 post is quite telling and powerful. I'm just not persuaded that it is enough. Let me pick out a point of Antimedia's to try to illustrate why. I asked how many black Senators there needed to be to show us we were on track. Antimedia responded that even asking the question was a formula for regressing, because it made identities the touchstone. He's likely right. One advantage to my question, though, is that the answer is easily measurable. If five Senators is the rightanswer, it's easy for us to stay on track. Of course, such an answer is absurd, but it illustrates the point: in a nation of 300 million people, 40 million of whom are black,(round numbers here) how many should rise to the top of politics (which I pick because it is easily measured.) At present there is one black Senator out of forty million. Does this mean race relations are at an optimum? If that's the wrong measure to use (and it likely is) what is the right measure?

OK, Capitano, I think I have it now: Your 1:35 post speaks powerfully to me. It does seem to have what it takes to make the difference in race relations. It does have a disadvantage vis-a-vis grievance demagogues. Yet there's one organization where it should flourish, an organization that nominally believes in the precepts you mention and in practice does at least try to follow them. I'm referring to the GOP.

Where are all the black Republicans, nationally?

The GOP should be a home to the portion of blacks who believe in your 1:35. You can see some writers in this category---I'm thinking of LaShawn Barber, the blogger, or Thomas Sowell. But how many national politicos are there? Andrew Sullivan, characteristically, says we should elect Obama so the Muslim kid in Indonesia is impressed with the state of race relations at home. There's something to that, though Sullivan would never had said it if Geo. Bush had said gay marriage is OK. But Antimedia is right about Obama: for all his great talents, he's not showing well so far. I would be more impressed if Utah's senators, Wyoming's representatives, and the governors of the Dakotas wree black. If those white by far states felt comfortable enough to elect such a slate, I'd feel this nation's race relations were in good shape. (Antimedia, I'm not suggesting this is the test the nation should use. I'm using it as an example, deliberately exaggerated, to make a point, which I hope it did.) I reiterate, we've made substantial progress, but there's room for improvement.

Finally, Cap, I'm obliged to you for the Meyers article, which is even more impressive than your 1:35.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(10) capitano made the following comment | Mar 21, 2008 7:13:37 AM | Permalink

Mr. Koster, you said --

I would be more impressed if Utah's senators, Wyoming's representatives, and the governors of the Dakotas wree black. If those white by far states felt comfortable enough to elect such a slate, I'd feel this nation's race relations were in good shape.

I point again to Bobby Jindal, who is the first non-white governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction and was elected by white voters to a previously Democrat-controlled Governorship.


The problem is twofold. First, Black Republicans like Ken Blackwell and Michael Steele (and non-political Condi Rice) are vilified rather than celebrated in the black community. Second, qualified black candidates can have more rewarding careers outside politics.

I'm hard-pressed to think of anything Andrew Sullivan says these days that should matter to voters and especially symbolic B.S. like how something appears to some faceless Muslim half a world away. Talk about irrelevant twaddle, and I say that as someone who actually donated money to him when he was first starting his blog.

(11) Autoversicherung made the following comment | Mar 24, 2008 10:38:39 AM | Permalink

The answer for a leader (as Obama aspires) and a Christian (as Obama claims) is obvious: Rather than excuse the idiocy of Jeremiah Wright's lies and paranoia by drawing moral equivalence comparisons to his white grandmother's comments, he should do the following:

1. Acknowledge the lies of the grievance industry.

2. Appeal to the most basic Christian message -- forgiveness.

3. Give the congregants permission to reject the hate and take the moral high-ground by forgiving White America.

4. The payoff is escape from the trap they are in now and hope for the future (maybe even a black President). Otherwise they can wallow in self-pity and hatred and wrap themselves in a cultural deathtrap like we see in the Middle East where centuries-old grievances still spark violence today.

Will he have the courage to do it? Probably not or he would have already done it.

Ultimately we will have a dark-skinned President although I predict it will be a Republican, probably in the mold of Bobby Jindahl -- a leader with a record of accomplishment and widespread support -- not some charlatan who is able to hide his anti-American beliefs from the voters or who panders to the voters' worst instincts for political advantage.

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