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Obama, Gates, and the Problem of Black Guilt

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The situation in Cambridge, Mass., surrounding Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s arrest has been analyzed and reanalyzed from nearly every angle. The character of police Sgt. James Crowley has been dragged through the mud, then polished, then dragged through the mud again.

But Gates has, for the most part, escaped scrutiny. At worst, he has been described as a racialist, a man who sees every aspect of American life through the lens of ethnicity. At best, he has been described (by racialist and full-fledged polysyllable-babbling idiot Michael Eric Dyson) as the "Rosa Parks of racial profiling.”

But Gates is more than that. He is a faux moderate who, underneath it all, is convinced that American society is deeply and irreparably racist. He is an opportunist, and a defender and purveyor of the "dominant white racism" myth that continues to plague American society.

He is, underneath it all, Barack Obama.

Which is why President Obama came to Gates’ defense without knowing the facts and without knowing Sgt. Crowley. He and Gates are on the same wavelength: The police are, by and large, a bunch of discriminatory brutes. Whites can never quite do enough to atone for the sins of their ancestors. And blacks, short of openly violent conduct, can never do anything that would justify arrest.

Here is Gates on racial profiling in New York magazine from 1997: "Blacks -- in particular, black men -- swap their experiences of police encounters like war stories, and there are few who don’t have more than one story to tell … There’s a moving violation that many African-Americans know as DWB.: Driving While Black."

Obama thinks like Gates on racial profiling. While in the Illinois State Senate, he was instrumental in passing laws designed to target racial profiling; racial profiling, Obama said in defending Gates, "still haunts us." Despite Obama’s dismissal of his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- despite his protestations that he does not agree with Wright on his more extreme anti-American statements -- Obama openly discusses his agreement with Wright on basic race relations. In his first book, "Dreams From My Father," Obama quotes Wright approvingly: "These miseducated brothers, like that sociologist at the University of Chicago, talking about 'the declining significance of race.' Now, what country is he living in?"

What country are Gates and Obama living in? The truth is that while both Gates and Obama paint themselves as moderates seeking a bright new future, they are relics of a racial past that has largely disappeared. Institutional racism is no longer a shadowy backdrop to law enforcement – it is a bogeyman, a windmill at which whites are supposed to tilt, and for which unsuccessful African-Americans can blame their lack of advancement. Gates and Obama are both examples of black men who have taken advantage of white guilt to their advantage; now they seek to perpetuate white guilt out of their own guilt over their ill-gotten success. As Gates put it in a speech in 1996 about affirmative action, "For me, someone who has benefited so much from the opportunities of affirmative action, to stand at the gate and try to keep other black people out would be as hypocritical as Clarence Thomas.”

Obama and Gates have a stake in pushing their vision of the universe. It benefits them -- they make fame and fortune from whites who seek to appease them by providing them opportunities vastly exceeding their qualifications. Their success, however, brings with it a certain cognitive dissonance: While Obama and Gates recognize that they have been successful through preferential treatment, they wish to see their success as a product of their own hard work. The obvious way to resolve this dissonance is to blame white society for its continuing racism. If America is a racist country, any handout is an entitlement rather than an act of charity. Thus, according to this logic, Obama and Gates deserved their success after all.

There are many victims in the Gates case. Most of them are, ironically, black. Joseph Crowley and the police departments of the country will survive intact. Many African-Americans, however, will continue to think that they are entitled to resist police, to blame "white society" for their problems, to peg shortcomings on "institutional racism" rather than personal irresponsibility.

Obama and Gates have benefited from white largesse. It is time for them to stand up and help African-Americans achieve success without preying on unwarranted white guilt.

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