Of Race and the Race

Bill Murchison

2/13/2007 12:01:00 AM - Bill Murchison

OK, he's in the race. Let's talk for a second or two about Barack Hussein Obama -- specifically, about his extraordinary-seeming appeal to white Americans.

Why? How come? We haven't seen this level of political enthusiasm for a non-white guy since Colin Powell set hearts aflutter following the Gulf War. Why a guy who, though demonstrably smart, has spent less time in the national spotlight than Brad Pitt.

Allow me to suggest the existence of a submerged but clearly sizable demand on the part of white folks and others for an end to racial animosities. Would Obama -- who straddles the color line neatly -- manage to reconcile Americans of varying shades and colorations and races?

One doesn't see exactly how. On the other hand, a lot of people want him to try, just as they hoped then-Gen. Powell would try.

What they want -- rightly so -- is an end to racial bickering, or just a lessening of it. They perceive -- again, rightly -- the source of the bickering to be the civil rights lobby, inside and outside politics. To the civil rights lobby, whose most conspicuous members are the racial hustlers Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, racism is everywhere -- and, man, it's white America's fault.

It wasn't enough that the United States turned itself inside out, and its cultural arrangements, over half a century's time to ensure the too-long-postponed accommodation of black Americans in all phases of American life. What would be enough? That's hard to say. The latest kick among the hustlers, not to mention their white liberal cheering squad, is apologies for slavery, not to mention economic reparations for the sufferings of people dead for centuries. Reparations? To whom? No doubt the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton would be glad to figure all this out.

That we can't get past just talking about race -- weighing ideas, policy proposals, even language in racial terms -- shows the virulence of the illness. That is the perception I think underlies Obamania: race, race, race; race 24-7; race for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Could we, puh-leeze, vary the topic?

The civil rights establishment gets a helping hand from the aforementioned white liberal cheering squad, which takes psychic pleasure in playing amid the relics of racism. Everyone who wants to understand the phenomenon should read the African-American scholar Shelby Steele's scathing take on it, "White Guilt" (HarperCollins, 2006), wherein Steele notes how race has replaced sex "as the primary focus of America's moral seriousness." At least such seriousness as our elites enforce.

Says Steele: "When America acknowledged its racism, it effectively made blacks into the nation's official and, seemingly, permanent victims -- citizen-victims, as it were, for whom demands of responsibility are verboten lest the larger nation seem to be oppressing them all over again." Yes, the Jackson philosophy; the white liberal philosophy; the nightmare millions pray may yet be lifted.

By President Obama? Hmmmm. I wouldn't bet on it. For one thing, Obama's chances of election seem -- is "minuscule" too optimistic a word? Interesting as he may be in person, the junior senator from Illinois comes our way bearing an exceedingly light duffle bag.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had governed states. Al Gore and John Kerry had served in the Senate. Ross Perot had built and run more than one major company. Powell had won a (short) war. Would-be President Obama has written two best-selling books. A persuasive resume requires, shall we say, a bit more. In addition, his politics -- up to now -- have been way, way left of the mainstream that twice chose George W. Bush.

We return to race, Obama's theoretical trump card. A card with a low number, perhaps -- a five, maybe? A seven? But strong in the eyes of many who long ago tired of racial whining, carping, finger-pointing.

We're all one people, no? No. Yet we might work better together, get along better, if ... which was where we came in. With those cheers, those high-fives for Barack Obama.