Thursday, January 03, 2008

A President Obama No Proof that America has Finally Kicked Its Racial Syndrome
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A win or a big showing by Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama in Iowa will do two things. It will prove that a significant number of white voters will vote for a black presidential candidate. It won’t prove that America has finally kicked its racial syndrome. From the moment that Obama stood on the steps of the Illinois state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois last February and announced the launch of his dream presidential campaign to change America, the political deck seemed hopelessly stacked against him turning himself into a serious contender for the White House. The initial knock against him was that he was too new, inexperienced, and had a wafer thin legislative record in the Senate, and was saddled with a name that when twisted, mangled, or deliberately distorted sounded suspiciously like Osama.

But by far, the biggest hole card against him in the political deck was race. Put bluntly Obama is an African-American, and the conventional thinking and reality is that white Americans might publicly swear that color doesn’t matter to them when it comes to voting for a candidate, but then suddenly develop an acute case of voting booth conversion on Election Day. That meant that once inside the cozy and very private confines of the voting booth they punch the ticket for a white candidate in a head to head contest with a black candidate. The campaign trail is strewn with the wreckage of the campaigns of black candidates that held leads, in some instances substantial leads, over white opponents, and then went down to flaming defeat on Election Day.

The two tips that Obama could escape their fate was the victory of Deval Patrick who won the Massachusett’s governor’s seat in 2006. He had even less political experience than Obama, had less money, and was up against a seasoned office holder. He won anyway, and he won with white votes.

The even bigger tip that things might be different with Obama is Obama himself. He plays hard on his multi-racial upbringing and heritage, can raise bushels of campaign cash, is a centrist politician that gets high marks as a consensus builder during his stint in the Illinois state legislature, and is not typed as a race card player ala Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

In other words, he is an American exception, a black man who is, savvy, telegenic, moderate, and poses no racial threat. This quirky, even schizoid, American exceptionalism that plays well for Obama has been time tested in sports, entertainment, and in the business and the professional worlds for decades. That is the willingness of many whites to view some blacks through color neutral lens, and elevate them to a perch beyond race. In the crudest way, it’s expressed with the always offensive crack to some highly regarded black professionals, businesspersons, sports and entertainers that they are different, and not like the others. But generally, it’s simply to cheer the few exceptions for their talent and ability (as even if that’s the exception) and keep praising them as long as they make no personal and legal missteps.

The beyond color pass isn’t granted to some blacks solely out of enlightenment or altruism. There’s a dividend. It permits many whites feel goodism, and to back pat themselves for being color blind and that shows how far America has come in dumping the ugly burden of racial bigotry. That notion drove much of the decade long contentious debate over affirmative action. Affirmative action opponents railed that minorities had broke down the racial barriers, and individual talent and ability were the only thing that counted in society. Race simply violated the precepts of a color blind society. The Obamas of America seemed to more than bear that out.

Even if the now thinkable happens and Obama does wrest the Democratic presidential nomination, and even beyond that the White House, there are other sobering historic examples from the long rule of England’s Queen Victoria to the time in office of Pakistan’s tragically martyred former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that proves that an Obama can get high marks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that racial hostility and victimization has vanished. Victoria’s rule did not change gender relations in Victorian England. It was still a rigidly, class, and male dominated, patriarchal society. Bhutto in power didn’t change gender relations in Pakistan either. It is still a rigidly Islamic fundamentalist, caste, and male dominated, patriarchal society.

An Obama presidency would be a racial step forward in the sense that it shows that enough whites can and will look past race to make a black, especially an exceptional black, their leader. It would not show that they are willing to do the same for the millions of blacks that cram America’s jails and prisons, suffer housing and job discrimination, are trapped in failing public schools in America’s poor, crime ridden inner cities.

Their plight and how they are viewed and treated will remain the same after Obama takes office as it did before. A President Obama won’t change that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February, 2007).


Obama '08 said...

Classic Hutchinson. On a historic night for African Americans and for all of America, he writes a negative attack on Obama. For pundits like Hutchinson, Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't when it comes to racial authenticity... Sad. Why not enjoy this historic moment for just a day or two. Then you can go back to being so negative.

vjeffrey said...

The point of Mr. Hutchinson's commentary was not negativity, but reality. Ultimately, what is the advantage of a Black president, especially for Black people? As the commentator has stated, there have always been successful Black people that were seen as exceptions, individuals who were perceived as better than the rest. In 1881, for example, Booker T Washington, who later went on to council presidents, managed to create Tuskegee University in Alabama, but Alabama continued to be heavily segregated and dangerous. Mr. Hutchinson rightly pointed out the tendency to make some Black people brilliant exceptions, while still harboring sadly traditional beliefs about others. He did not say his potential victory would not be an important step, far from it. If his election will continue the march toward equality, then I am all for it. But don't knock someone for pointing out the limitations of this historic event, especially when the Democrats have been so ineffective in promoting any agenda.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the reasons why our country is in the state it is now. We are focusing on the sideshow issues and not the real issues. I would rather have a president that wears his convictions on his sleeve and upholds the constitution of the United States of America than to have a liar SOB in office that would not know our constitutional rights if it slapped him/her in the face!! Smarten up America, or we will really regret our decisions next year!

Mr. Joshua said...

Dr. Hutchinson,
Why do you continue with your Fascist propaganda? We do not have a free voting system in this country!!! These elections are nothing but a big TV production by the rich White Right Scull & Bones Society! Obama is not exceptional! He is just a ten cent pro illegal alien house Nigga! He is a bitch! All of these candidates are fakes!! How come none of them are saying that they are going to put Bush on death row after they get in office for using the Federal government to harbor illegal aliens? How come none of these candidates are saying they are going to put Bush on death row for what he has done to his Negroes for the past 8 years? Black Americans have the right to vote but we do not have access to a corruption free voting system!!!
I can say for sure that if the Bush family Regime wants a house Nigga for president they will get one. I am also sure that who ever they put in office will pardon Bush of all of his crimes if we can get him convicted! Decimation and ethnic cleansing of Black Americans will continue in this county until citizens change the voting system to a transparent voting model, have public supported campaigns, stop paying taxes to these corrupt government agencies and put their taxes into our law enforcement agency, citizen’s government programs and judicial system. This government is supposed to be working for us!!

What do you think about this political analysis?

Anonymous said...

What Hutchison is basically admitting is, regardless of your race, if you make good moral decisions, focus on your education, and don't commit crimes, you will be viewed as being a "good person." Basically what do people like Hutchinson want? They want all Whites to like them regardless of what they do. Sorry Hutchinson, as a Black man, I don't like the Blacks, or any other people in a ethnic group, who make excuses for failing out of school, having babies before they are finacially, or emotionally prepared, or are criminals. Does that make me racist, I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Joshua what has Pres. Bush done to Black people? As long as you have the freedom to pick up a book and make choices it really does not matter who the president is. Too much attention is being focused on what the next politician can do for you, and what the next politician won't do for you. Here is the solution, work hard, make good moral decisions, wait to have babies, don't commit crimes, study hard, and I bet anything a politician does for you will be extra. I'm just surprised that so-called Black power people, have very little faith in their own race that they always talk about what the goverment should, or could be doing, increasing taxes, rather than asking goverment to decrease taxes so that they take their money and do for self.


Mr. Joshua said...


I do not know what race you are. What race that you think you are or what race you would like to be. To begin to understand the tip of the Ice Burg of what Bush and his family have done or not done for Black Americans, please go to our Website! There is much more to come! You will also want to watch out for The Justice Channel on Time Warner Cable TV!

The Buck & Shuffle stops at The Forgotten Americans Network!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Joshua, you should be able to explain one thing Bush has done to Blacks since you claim he has done somehing to us for the past 8 years. Rather than support your claim you quetion my race. It shouldn't matter what race I am or what race I think I am. The truth is the truth, so start there first.