Yesterday a friend of mine sent me a link to a CNN story titled "Could an Obama presidency hurt black Americans? - CNN.com".
In it the CNN reporter quotes a hard-right pundit for American Conservative:
Steve Sailer, a columnist for The American Conservative magazine, wrote last year that some whites who support Obama aren't driven primarily by a desire for change.
They want something else Obama offers them: "White Guilt Repellent," he wrote.
"So many whites want to be able to say, 'I'm not one of them, those bad whites. ... Hey, I voted for a black guy for president,' " Sailer wrote.
Among others of apparently varying political backgrounds.
But that CNN chose the hard right racist Sailer to quote is telling. Today, ThinkProgress.org produced this blog post which details Sailer's racist creds. Some of the things he has written includes the following, according to ThinkProgress.org:
– African-Americans “tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society” [Link]
– “The brutal truth: Obama is a ‘wigger’. He’s a remarkably exotic variety of the faux African-American, but a wigger nonetheless.” [Link]
– Michelle Obama “sounds like she’s got a log-sized chip on her shoulder from lucking into Princeton due to affirmative action.” [Link]
– “Nor is it surprising that the black refugees at the Superdome and the convention center failed to get themselves organized to make conditions more livable. Poor black people seldom cooperate well with each other because they don’t trust other blacks much, for the perfectly rational reason that they commit large numbers of crimes against each other.” [Link]
The CNN article is aimed not at revealing something about racism in America, but at dividing white and Black voters and promoting animosity and divisiveness. One expects that from Republicans like Sailer et al, but CNN? Well, perhaps decency is too much to ask from them too.
But the CNN article isn't the only one of similar type out there. The Wall Street Journal July 22 published this gem by extreme right-wing Hoover Institution Fellow Shelby Steele, titled "Why Jesse Jackson Hates Obama."
As if using the same talking points as Sailer, Steele essentially argues that Obama offers whites relief from racial guilt, which Jesse Jackson (and Dr. King) used to win an end segregation and for civil rights legislation. And because Obama represents an end to that "moral leverage" against white guilt, Steel insists, Jackson is jealous of and angry at Obama.
What is the aim of this kind of rhetoric? I think on one hand, Sailer's sneering and dishonest rhetoric, is aimed at promoting in white voters a sense that Obama and African Americans are playing a racial card in this election and that whites should fear the agenda behind that movement.
On the other hand, it is designed to split African Americans along generational lines, between those of civil rights generation and of a progressive orientation against what Steele imagines to be the bulk of the African American community: apparently naturally conservative people.
While both Sailer and Steele (and CNN for that matter) are working hard to re-define what Obama's candidacy means, it is clear that both fundamentally misunderstand him. His candidacy represents a courageous and rare address of the political landmine field of race in America. He has addressed the complicated subject in a unifying manner that attempts to address legitimate grievances of working people of all races. Sailer and Steele promote divisiveness.
Further, Obama's candidacy has prompted distinctly unique and remarkable movement among his supporters against racism. Look at this video of excerpts of a speech by the AFL-CIO's Ricahrd Trumka for example:
This isn't about assuaging "white guilt." It is about a social movement for change. Trumka's discussion of the issues like health care, ending the war, pay equity for women, and so on suggests that what Obama inspires is the unity of working people for fundamental change that would benefit people of all races and seek an address of continuing inequity.
People like Steele or Sailer who hate the idea of universal health care or for whom pay equity means nothing or who may love the war in Iraq just don't get that.