Thursday, March 13, 2008

Save Us From Well-Meaning Racists.

Geraldine Ferraro strikes me as one of those people who says things that sound better in her head than they do out loud. She is being condemned, correctly, for racism, but this flap is a perfect example of how racism can impair ones judgment.

Here is what she said:

If [Sen. Barack] Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.

I have no trouble accepting her subsequent statements that she is not anti-black. That is one kind of racism, this is a different kind, the kind that causes one to process just about everything in terms of race. That kind is a little more complicated but no less racist.

As a consequence of Ms. Ferraro's excessive awareness of race, she fails to realize that her statement is incorrect and illogical. Obama isn't where he is because the media and the rest of society is "caught up in the concept" of an African-American president. Just the opposite is true. To the extent anyone is "caught up in the concept," it is because Barack Obama is an extremely attractive candidate who happens to have dark skin. For Ferraro's statement to be true, she would have to argue that the culture was ardently looking for a black man to install as president and found Barack Obama as a result of that search. Where is the evidence of that?

The important story here is the game the Clintons are playing. What they are doing, in a very clever way, is offering racists a kind of permission to let their racism influence their decision. They want to make sure that people whose racism is weak and in danger of being overwhelmed by other considerations, such as disdain for the type of politics the Clintons practice, get the kind of reinforcement that will bring their racism back to the surface. They're appealing to the person who will think, "well, although I'm not racist, there are a lot of racists out there and that will hurt the Democratic ticket in the fall, therefore I must vote for Senator Clinton."

That they got Geraldine Ferraro to carry this particular water for them is also offensive. Everyone in politics talks about their base. Senator Clinton's base appears to be elderly, alienated, disaffected white women.

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