Politics

Obama Digs Hole Deeper

When I heard Barack H. Obama compare his white grandmother — unfavorably, I might add — to his racist hatemonger of a pastor, I realized this guy would step on anyone to get to the top.

In a speech being hailed by his supporters as historic, Obama explained: "I can no more disown (the Rev. Jeremiah Wright) than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who, on more than one occasion, has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

That was bad. But it got worse when he tried to explain why he was telling tales out of school about what he perceived as white racism in the woman who helped raise him. He told a radio interviewer: "She is extremely proud, and the point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person. … If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know … there is a reaction that has been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way. And that’s just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. And what makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling a little bit less like that."

I have emphasized the four words that struck me in this explanation: "a typical white person." What does that mean? What is a typical white person? If I said, "He’s a typical black person," would such a statement not be considered racist?

It seems to me, once again, a perfect illustration of the race problem we have in this country. The politicians who spend the most time talking about racial divides are the very politicians most obsessed about race, most race-conscious, most likely to generalize and stereotype, most willing to lump people into racial and ethnic groups.

What is the definition of racism? There are several, of course, but one definition is: "prejudice based on race." Another is: "discriminatory or abusive behavior toward members of another race."

I would argue that Obama’s characterization of his grandmother fits both of those definitions. It reveals his belief that the "typical white person" harbors unfounded fears of black men. It also reveals his willingness to caricature even his own grandmother — abuse her, if you will — as a racist in the biggest speech of his life, one that was crafted carefully for maximum political advantage.

Do I exaggerate? I don’t think so. If you don’t support preferential treatment of blacks or other minorities based on their skin color and ancestry, just try referring to someone as a "typical black person" and see what happens.

If, however, you do support these paternalistic, plantation-mentality kinds of race preferences, it’s perfectly all right to stereotype — as Barack H. Obama’s supporters did in trying to explain that Jeremiah Wright’s hate speech was "typical" of what can be heard in black churches across the country.

I don’t believe that. I think that kind of racist anti-Americanism is exceptional in black churches in the U.S. But it was Barack H. Obama who, until about a week ago, found "nothing particularly controversial" about his church.

So, who are the racists? Are they the people who believe all individuals should be treated fairly and equitably? Or are they the people who believe some individuals, because of their race, are in need of special help?

Until I heard him trash his grandma, I thought of Barack H. Obama as a seriously misguided political demagogue. Now I think of him as someone so ambitious for political power he would step on his own kin if it made him look better to one potential voter.

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