Thursday, March 20, 2008

Damned if He Does and Damned if He Doesn’t: Obama, Race and the Media Regime
By Sikivu Hutchinson

The recent flap over Chicago liberation theologian and Obama supporter Jeremiah Wright has finally given the right wing enough ammo to begin its blitzkrieg against Barack Obama’s presidential bid. Wright’s fiery oratories on racism and American imperialism have whipped the jackboots of Fox News into an orgiastic heat in their mission to out Obama as a radical black nationalist. Caving to the media-drumbeat on Tuesday, Obama delivered a reflective speech on race, acknowledging America’s racist history while drawing dubious parallels between the economic struggles of middle and working class whites and African Americans impacted by racial segregation. Prior to Obama’s plea for racial healing he’d denounced Wright’s comments and removed him as one of his campaign advisors. Obama’s swift censure of Wright, and his willingness to act as white America’s native informant interpreting the gaffes of bad Negroes, is yet another example of how his ambivalence about fully confronting racism is driven by political expediency. Portraying Wright as a throwback to the “divisive” past of the 1960s in one interview, Obama resorted to Kumbaya rhetoric to let black folk know that they aren’t the only ones hurting—in essence, been there done that, let’s move on.

Much of the outrage over Wright has centered on comments he made about 9/11 in 2001 and a recent sermon he gave on Obama’s experience as a black man in racist America. Wright charged that Clinton, due to her wealth and white privilege, has never had to suffer the indignities of being passed up by a cab or racially profiled by the police. The footage of Wright declaiming against Clinton’s privilege was replayed on Fox and other news outlets ad nauseum, casting Wright as a foaming at the mouth zealot making a reckless charge. Yet Clinton’s entitlements as a white elite female whose husband was once one of the most powerful men in the world have been conveniently omitted from the mainstream media’s hand wringing about whether race trumps gender in the presidential contest. Deftly relying on patriarchy, while decrying her status as a beleaguered female in a male dominated arena, Clinton owes her once presumed march to coronation to a form of political capital that has never been available to American women of color.

In their zeal to skewer Wright, the Fox jackboots played their own race card, trotting out a duo of black conservatives to trash his credibility. Wright was caricatured as a David Duke-meets-Farrakhan buffoon, a demagogue spewing anti-white anti-American bile with no historical basis. In the parallel universe of the right wing media regime, it is black “bigotry,” not white racism, which poses the biggest threat to the multiculti allure of Obama. Never mind that the reality of institutional racism, signified by deep disparities in black unemployment, household income, homeownership and health care, belie claims by the likes of Geraldine Ferraro and the Fox crew that Obama’s success is primarily due to his blackness. Set against this backdrop of black disenfranchisement Obama’s meteoric rise is a paradox, defying the traditional white supremacist terms of presidential politics while placating Middle America. Though his high-minded musings on racial unity may help him dodge Fox’s attempt to “Sharptonize” him, they won’t satisfy the black electorate’s need for concrete policies addressing the divide in income, homeownership and education that make the wages of whiteness a bitter reality for people of color in the U.S.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of and author of Imagining Transit: Race, Gender and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (2003).


Anonymous said...

Wow - your commentary is racist by its focus on color, unsupported remarks that problems in areas such as education are due to institutional racism, and your seeming utter utter deliberate ignoring of the fact that we are in the the middle of an absolutely historical (meaning its importance will loom for centuries) presidential race that -as it should be -- concerns grave matters of global security, achieving perhaps a re-newed kind of statesmanship this country has not seen for more than a century, natural crisis regarding oil, space, global warming etc. . . .

How dare you speak about what another woman has suffered or not. Whether Clinton is white or powerful has nothing to do with whether she too has undergone agony and pain. Of course she may not know racial hatred. SO WHAT??
Every human knows an sgony that another human does not.

You are witty. You are keen in mind. But these observations are so trite, so reductive, so full of racial self-pity that they make me cry for I, as a privileged white Yale educated woman, so so much wish all Americans to HEAR Obama and see past their special interests or desired "policies" so that they can see how profound it is for him to steadfastly call for higher ground no matter whose interests are or are not served!

Are you listening to him????

Anonymous said...

Practically every debate that Obama has participated in he has made some sort of slight against Black people.

And now once again Obama "renounces" and "rejects" a Black leader (his own pastor for God's sake), a man that most Black people in his church and around the country agree with to a certain degree. Most of Rev. Wright's comments are true, although you could debate the pastors comments about the origin of AIDS.

Obama's "Great" racism speech contained some of the most traitorous comments I personally have ever heard a Black public figure make against a Black leader in particular, and Black men in general.

When are Black people going to at least consider it is possible that Obama is a traitorous House-Negro that could throw them to the lions after they help him secure the nomination...He has given some interesting signs in past anti-Black statements that he might do just that, and this racism speech should be a wake up call as to how low Obama will go to ease White voter's fears of those "Crazy"-Ass Black uncles" of ours.

Also, If Obama is running for President of "ALL" of America and that includes Black folks then why can't Obama focus attention on issues peculiar to Black Americans without being labeled the Black Candidate which is just another way of saying he would be assaulting the sensibilities of some White voters and their denial of racial reality.

The Obama presidential campaign is bogus.

Mustang Sallie said...

Anonymous II, Obama is running for president! Yes, most of Rev. Wright's comments are true, and I will even say the AIDS comments are true, yet Obama can't put "the entire plate" in front of white people at one time! He's got to "spoon feed them" or they will choke! You should even know that! His pastor understands . . .why do you think he hasn't made any direct comments about the issue, yet?! Black folks "know the darn game!" You act like you don't . . . like you were just born - give me a break!


Anonymous said...

Ms. Hutchinson,

I strongly disagree with your racism thesis in this post, but that is a matter of opinion that will not be settled here.

I must take issue with your statement regarding "the reality of institutional racism, signified by deep disparities in black unemployment, household income, homeownership and health care"

It is at best misguided to blame racism for the "disparities". Regardless of race, lack of education and having children out of wedlock are the biggest predictor of poverty (e.g. unemployment, income, homeownership and health care). It's not a "black" thing. It's a responsibility thing. Whether you are white, black, brown, yellow, or purple, if you drop out and get (someone) pregnant, you are going to be poor. Go to school and use birth control(or keep it in your pants) and chances are you won't be poor.

There are plenty of non-blacks in this situation, but unfortunately, this scenario affects the black population at a disparate rate due to a greater lack of 2-parent homes and high school diplomas.

Anonymous said...

I read that Rev. Wright talks a better game then he lives. I read he moved to a upscale suburban neighborhood recently. A nice expensive house. A country club area. Good for him. So "god damn" KKKAmerica hasn't been too bad to him. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I think it is time to quit looking for a racist around every corner and move on with the business of living life to the fullest. The subject is very boring.