Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Consider the first two instances that I mentioned above. Obama vaguely hints that some right-wing propaganda about him is a little bit racist, and McCain's campaign is rapidly on the phones, blitzing the media with the news that Obama is playing the 'race card'. Normally the 'race card' is something played by racists not by the victims of racism - but here, we are supposed to conclude that Obama is one of those over-sensitive, prickly whiners who 'reads things into things' and uses his, er, 'background' to victimise well-meaning white people. You know the type I mean - Mr Angry in work, who always thinks you're being racist just for telling harmless jokes. Yeah, that guy. Vote against that bastard. Affronted by Obama's popular edge over McCain, even when the latter is being wildly misrepresented as a normal human being, Limbaugh's show dubs him 'The Magical Negro'. A pathetic Paul Shanklin 'imitates' Al Sharpton singing a bitter little ditty about how "Barack the Magic Negro" is taking away his popularity and not being a real black man like Farrakhan and Snoop Dogg. If you want to familiarise yourself with the traditions of racial denigration involved here, here are some examples from the archives:
While the racist tirade from Limbaugh's program makes light of the gap between those depicted as illiterate demagogues and crooks and the 'eloquent' Obama, it is also designed to remind viewers that he is indeed one of them, and that they are all essentially the same, and that guilty white liberals are going to sell out the country to them. You might argue that all of this is the last refulgence of an ideology of white supremacy that is about to perish, even if the material conditions which such doctrines defend are in rude health. You'd be a sap, but you might argue that.
Yet, Obama has not been particularly admirable in his responses to this kind of thing, except for one occasion when he was cornered by the reactionaries. As Gary Younge pointed out, 'race' is the one thing Obama is never going to be any good on. So, he has duly told reporters that if he loses, it will not be anything to do with 'race'. Rather, it will be because of mistakes he has made. He has backed the killers of Sean Bell, repudiated demands for reparation, cooperated with the prevailing racist ideology by helping blame black people for the problems they experience in a racist society, and has generally done as much as he can possibly do to separate himself from those 'angry' types that you see on the news. As Paul Street argues, he is also doing everything he can to bore, frustrate and alienate the base, because his campaign is a centrist one hitched to the interests of Wall Street. Distilled to its essence, and denuded of its sonorous slogans, Obama's message is that real change is both impossible and unnecessary. No, we can't. And the result may be that racial block voting kills the Obama campaign, puts a crazy old cracker in the White House and leaves Obama's supporters miserable and dejected, wondering how race can still matter so much to so many people.