Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Barack Obama, John McCain and the Language of Race

Some of the themes here seemed to have been similar to what has been discussed in the Illinois Channel Links I showed you last week with regards to the 1908 Springfield race riots. Of course let's stay in the modern day here. We are talking about a NY Times editorial about the current presidential race.

It was not that long ago that black people in the Deep South could be beaten or killed for seeking the right to vote, talking back to the wrong white man or failing to give way on the sidewalk. People of color who violated these and other proscriptions could be designated “uppity niggers” and subjected to acts of violence and intimidation that were meant to dissuade others from following their examples.

The term “uppity” was applied to affluent black people, who sometimes paid a horrific price for owning nicer homes, cars or more successful businesses than whites. Race-based wealth envy was a common trigger for burnings, lynchings and cataclysmic episodes of violence like the Tulsa race riot of 1921, in which a white mob nearly eradicated the prosperous black community of Greenwood.

Forms of eloquence and assertiveness that were viewed as laudable among whites were seen as positively mutinous when practiced by people of color. As such, black men and women who looked white people squarely in the eye — and argued with them about things that mattered — were declared a threat to the racial order and persecuted whenever possible.

This obsession with black subservience was based in nostalgia for slavery. No sane person would openly express such a sentiment today. But the discomfort with certain forms of black assertiveness is too deeply rooted in the national psyche — and the national language — to just disappear. It has been a persistent theme in the public discourse since Barack Obama became a plausible candidate for the presidency.

Consider me strange but sometimes I wonder if we see race in everything now that the Senator is the first black man to represent a major party running for President. Reminds me of this video I found a week or so ago. IF you choose not to vote for Barack Obama for President or you choose not to vote for Sarah Palin for Vice President, you're either a sexist or a racist.

Anyway perhaps as we go forward in this election we might want to consider leaving the racial angle behind. Perhaps every white politician isn't denegrating Obama for his race. And Obama's race shouldn't be a reason we vote for him. I just thought this was an interesting editorial.

Via MyUrbanReport!


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