American Blacks Cannot Be Blamed For Barack Obama
I'm responding to a number of comments that in large part have gone unseen because they were intercepted before they ever went up. Racists are always attempting to hitch a ride on legitimate sites, and AT is unfortunately no exception. Anyone operating in the millennial media world must be careful, particularly a center-right website dealing forthrightly with sensitive topics as we do here. There is nothing more common than fanatics of various stripes stepping over the line in the guise of "telling it straight." And there is no topic where this is seen more often than race.
The argument here appears to be that, Obama being black, he acts as a natural representative of black Americans as a whole, that his faults are their faults, and that the entire Obama administration represents yet another instance of the unworthiness and inferiority of blacks.
We will give this claim a bit more attention that it actually deserves in hopes of doing something to nip it in the bud.
First the contention that Obama is a "representative" American black. AT readers will be well aware that I don't believe that Obama is representative of much of anything at all, that he is sui generis to an extent that he might as well have walked off a starship from the planet Zong. I haven't shifted in that opinion one iota.
First, let's consider how we define American blacks. This is an exercise that is generally overlooked, surprisingly so considering how much debate has occurred on the topic. As a people, American blacks are West Africans who were taken as part of the slave trade, and unwillingly brought to America where they suffered an undeniable ordeal lasting centuries. Once here, they developed a culture sharing both African and Southern aspects, a unique combination of Scots-Irish and West African traits, particularly marked by an intense form of Christianity. After enduring almost a century of legal segregation after their liberation as a result of the Civil War, they have for fifty years been entering the mainstream of American society, with not unexpected snags and delays. They lag to a slight extent economically and scholastically, as might be expected considering their historical background. (I'm well aware that there plenty of exceptions to these statements, but we don't construct arguments out of exceptions.)
And Obama? Here we have man with a white American mother and an East African father. No connection to West Africa whatsoever. He spent his early years in Hawaii, one of the most racially diverse areas in the United States. He was raised in large part by his white grandparents. He spent several years in Indonesia as the stepson of an Indonesian Muslim. After returning to the U.S. he attended some of the country's leading universities including Columbia and Harvard. (At some point here, possibly at Columbia, which is set cheek-by-jowl with Harlem, he laid eyes on his first black slum.) Virtually his entire professional life has been spent among white elites.
So what overlap exists here? Absolutely none. If you were to draw a Venn diagram and label one circle "Obama" and the other "American blacks," there would be no shaded portion -- in fact, they would scarcely touch. He has nothing in common with American blacks. He shares neither their legacy nor their experience. His posture as representative of black America is a pose, one of the many that comprise the persona of Barack Obama. A charade, as we have been reminded of recently by no less an authority than Cornel West. Unlike Colin Powell, Condaleezza Rice, and Clarence Thomas, raised respectively in Harlem, Alabama, and the Carolina Gullah region, Obama is in no way a product of American black culture. American blacks have no responsibility for him, and cannot be held to blame for his excesses.
If anything, Obama is a product of white American culture, by means of affirmative action. Obama is to some extent the stereotype result of affirmative action, the black kid made good who is continually trotted out to justify these obnoxious programs. (Recall Patrick Chavis, the black doctor who took Allan Bakke's place in medical school, and was presented as a towering success and proof positive of the value of set-aside programs until it was discovered that women were dying in his liposuction clinic.)
Blacks are commonly given the blame for affirmative action. Years ago, while riding the Trenton line, I saw a drunken white construction worker confront a young black: "I don't hate blacks," he insisted. "But why do they get all the jobs?" He kept this up for the better part of half an hour without realizing that the student he was taking to was a Nigerian.
Affirmative action is not a black innovation at all. It was first instituted as policy by President Richard Nixon in the form of the "Philadelphia Plan," evidently as an effort to mollify liberals. (We all know how that worked out.) So affirmative action is not only a white atrocity; it is a Republican atrocity, part of the long litany of crimes committed by RINOS in the name of proving that they're not right-wing trogs.
The liberals latched onto affirmative action for their own purposes. As with forced busing, it was utilized as a method of putting the screws to working-class whites to assure that they got with the program. As has been pointed out repeatedly by Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams among many others, any benefit that accrues to blacks is totally accidental.
Shelby Steele in particular has written extensively on the dilemma set-asides created for blacks. Not only are intelligent blacks subject to the customary pointed-hood variety of racism, but also to doubts instilled in many whites when confronted with (or hearing about) unqualified blacks who got their positions by way of affirmative action and nothing else. Capable blacks feel excessive pressure to prove themselves as more than affirmative-action products -- something that cannot, on the face of it, be condemned as racism, but does nothing to aid black advancement or ease the tensions between the races. Yet another example of a liberal solution that makes the problem infinitely worse than it was in the first place.
What affirmative action does is provide an easy leg up for those sly individuals who can figure out how to game the system. We have all become acquainted with the master gamesman over the past few years. Obama has successfully gamed Occidental, Columbia, Harvard, the U of Chicago, the Cook County political machine, the Annenberg Foundation, the U.S. Congress, the Nobel committee, and the American voter.
These are not black organizations. The system that put Obama into office is a system constructed by white liberals for white liberal purposes. Obama merely learned to create the perfect persona to take advantage of it -- part sophisticated intellectual, part woebegone victim, part street-smart tough. The fact that it was so easy for him is an indictment of the liberal mindset in and of itself.
Obama has been a disappointment to American blacks along with everyone else. (Proportionally more blacks than whites are suffering unemployment due to the Obama recession, for one thing.) Obama has served as a wakeup call to black America. It's more than possible that Obama, by his very nature, will expose the phoniness of the liberal racial system. We must not let the racist remnant wreck this opportunity.
It was the Democrats who supported slavery, the Democrats who established segregation, the Democrats who have excused racism at every turn and in every form. That's their record, and it can't be denied. It's best we leave it to them.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker, and author of Death by Liberalism.