08 August 2008

The Race Card

J and I have been following the presidential race fairly closely. J's all worked up and excited, but I'm more wary. I never thought that Bush could win a second time, and I'm not sure that I believe enough in the American people to be all that hopeful about this November. But for someone who was only a few credits away from a PoliSci degree, elections and politics are always interesting.

The recent development about the whole "race card" issue, though, is just plain frustrating.

Recently, McCain's team claimed that Obama played the "race card" when he made a speech claiming that his opponents were trying to frighten voters by saying that he had a funny name or didn't look like past presidents.

But here's the problem--that's exactly what's happening. That's why Obama supporters feel the need to organize a facebook group called "My middle name is Hussein,too." That's why the New Yorker decided to run that ill-advised "satire" on it's cover-- you know the one with a turbaned Obama giving a black panther looking Michele a fist bump.

It's also the reason that the New Yorker cover got such negative press. Because the truth is, conservatives and Republicans--if not McCain himself are playing on Obama's difference to remind voters that he is not one of "us." That cover was too close to what too many Americans actually believe about the Obamas to do any real satirical work to undercut those beliefs.

The fact is, bout 12% of Americans still believe Obama is a Muslim, just because of his middle name. That percentage rises to almost 20% among evangelical voters--the same voters who have been the Republican party's mainstay these past few elections.

The number of times that the mainstream news as confused his name with Osama is just absurd-- don't believe me? Check out this link.

Hilarious and sad all at once.

But here's the problem I have with the whole race card debate. Is it really the "race card" if it's the truth? White America has a real problem with the race card issue--especially ever since the OJ team pulled it out and apparently got their man off on all murder charges. Black man killing a white woman and getting away with it? Historically, that doesn't go over well.

But what if what Obama says is true? What if McCain's camp are using subtle--and some times not so subtle--reminders that Obama isn't white. (Forget that he's 1/2 white, apparently the 1 drop rule is still in effect.) Why is it that Obama can't call attention to it, if only to say that it shouldn't matter. Why is calling attention to racism a bad thing?

Maybe it's because no one is racist anymore. Right? The "n-word" is not something most people say out loud (or at least in mixed company) because we all know it's bad and demeaning and blah, blah, blah. Everyone has a black friend (or a daughter from Bangledesh), so no one is racist any more, right?

So to imply that someone is racist--or at least is playing on the racism of others for political gain--somehow becomes worse than actually being racist. It doesn't matter that John McCain voted against making Martin Luther King day a national holiday in 1983 and against the Civil Rights Act in 1990. Nope-- the bigger issue is that Obama played the race card. That is the bigger problem here. That is the real red herring. Right?

It makes me tired and it makes me irritated. Do I think that Obama should use race to get into the White House- no. It's not a job qualification. But do I think he should be allowed to call a spade a spade? Absolutely.

The term the "race card" carries with it tremendous emotional power. It is aligned most closely with the fiasco that was the OJ trial, and that trial with the long history of white Americans' fear of black men. (You know, lynching, Emmet Till and all of that? Remember?)

Obama has come out and said that ""In no way do I think that John McCain's campaign was being racist...I think they're cynical," he said. "And I think they want to distract people from talking about the real issues."

But, honestly, I'm tired of the whole issue. Why should it even matter? Only because there is still a significant portion of Americans who might have black friends and might never use the N-word that are afraid (even subconsciously) of darker skin, and there's a significant portion of Americans who are more than willing to use the N-word because they still believe that people are different from one another--that some people are less than other people--and those people are more than happy to have a reason not to vote for Obama.

It will be his own fault, after all--playing the race card and everything.

No comments: