Bugger sounding black, Obama needs to sound red.
I can’t believe that more of the blogosphere has been adopting tones of outraged condemnation regarding the Nader/Pilger-style rubbish. Neil has linked to a blog I’d not come across before, but which confirms for me utterly just how much of a non-issue this thing is. Not only is it a non-issue, it’s been hijacked by people who want to settle some scores with Nader.
The original post isn’t too objectionable, though it flatly fails to realise that this isn’t just about Obama being black, it’s Obama being a black Democrat and still leaving room for him to be accused of trying to “talk white”. What is this talking white? Could it be an attempt to pretend that racial issues don’t exist, or that where they do they don’t have anything to do with structuralised poverty?
I’d call that talking white, because it’s the language of the hegemonic class – by and large white and male. That this hegemonic class exists is the reason we had feminist and racial equality movements in the first place. Fifty years ago, people like CLR James were trying to get black people written back into history and politics, now it’s racist to accuse black individuals of trying to write them out again?
If people don’t think that’s what Obama is doing, they should say so – but it’s not racism, race-baiting or racialism to say that a black man might potentially attempt to pander to white, middle-class America. If people think it’s bad short-hand to reduce such a concept to “talking white” they should say that too. However it’s simply not racism or its variants.
The original post also ignores that Obama has higher expectations placed on him not just by white people because he’s black, but by black people too. The media has had a race to see who can identify with Obama the most, and that’s before we even get to the exploded black vote, which went Democratic. Are black people racist too for having higher expectations of a black President?
That’s not the worst bit, though it’s the extent of the original post. Much worse is dragged up in the comments by people attacking Nader for the following:
1. Nader’s comments on “talking white” encourage black kids not to read because it seems white too.
2. “What [Nader] said places burdens on Barack’s future administration to do things all of the previous presidents should have done and that all presidents should do.”
3. Nader is racist because he’s telling all black people how to think and extrapolating what a black President must do on the basis of his race.
4. Nader thinks all black people are the same.
5. Nader is saying that black people should only concentrate on black issues.
6. Nader is risking Obama’s coalition of the middle class by sounding radical.
7. Nader is actually saying “that uppity Negro should stay in his place”.
8. Nader is just annoyed that’s never risen above being an electoral spoiler candidate.
What I find interesting about the accusations Nader thinks that all black people are the same can equally be made against the original post – which spouts off about “me and mine” and presumably means all black Americans. No one thinks all black Americans are the same – some black Americans are ludicrous figures. See my comments on Shelby Steele. Some aren’t.
All black Americans share, to a greater or lesser degree, a burden of discrimination. This is what Nader is honing in on when he accuses Obama of talking white – a potential blindspot which will do nothing for that level of discrimination. As someone who has experienced that discrimination, surely it’s reasonable to expect that Obama will make moves to challenge it?
If Obama doesn’t make moves to challenge it, it makes him either a hypocrit or a coward. As the only black US Senator, who else was going to take the lead on this? As the only black US President, who else is going to take the lead on this? The wealthy white men put into office by the money of the corporations which make their profit from the exploitation of the working class?
Yes that working class is white, black, Latino, Chinese and so on – but the ethnic minorities make up a disproportionate section of it, and are often the most heavily exploited. There still are colour differences in the USA, and the UK come to that. If Obama can’t return the empathy such a large section of these peoples extended towards him, then he didn’t deserve to win.
The views expressed above, that by so saying all this Nader is placing too high expectations on Obama and that it risks Obama’s middle class vote, aren’t worthy of any activist. Any candidate that goes out of his or her way to appeal to “the middle class” probably isn’t worthy of a vote anyway, as they are buying into a variety of myths propagated by the American chit-chateratti on idiot talkshows.
It also goes some way towards proving that maybe Nader had a point – if members of Obama’s movement are worried he’s going to sound like Jesse Jackson, by which I mean radical, is it a far-fetched extrapolation to think that such a thing might concern Obama as well? I don’t think so. Sounding radical has always worried the Democrats, it’s just now there’s an added race complication.
I admit, Nader, Ferraro, Piler and so forth haven’t phrased their criticisms in the most lucid possible manner – but that doesn’t make them racist. They may be wrong, but that doesn’t make them racist either. Democrats were supposed to be the party of the working class, of whatever colour – so it’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask if a fear of middle-class white racism might scare them away from the goal of raising the living standards of American workers.
Such a fear doesn’t even have to be justified; judging by a lot of the posters on that Angry Black Bitch website, it’s a fear not restricted to white people.