Thursday, September 11, 2008

Finding a Balance

My homeboy and I had an interesting debate the other day.

We're both Obama supporters, both college-educated and gainfully employed young black men. (Well, I guess we ain't that young anymore.) We tend to view the world in racial terms and neither of us is in the habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, we were discussing the upcoming presidential election and trying to decide just how realistic an Obama victory might be. Previously, we had been cautiously optimistic, but with the introduction of the Alaskan Vixen, we're not so confident.

It's not so much that Palin is threat, it's more that what she represents is a threat. For some reason, Rip Van McCain couldn't get the Republican base excited enough to buy into his bullshit, which was a boon for Obama. Big Homie still had to deal with the ridiculous coverage he received from the media, but for the most part I felt good. But, with Palin's staunch opposition to abortion, her pretty smile and the faint whiff of trailer trash she gives off every time she walks by, well I think the base has found a reason to support the Crypt Keeper.

Now the race has tightened and my fried and I are trying to decide if we should chalk this up to general prejudice, or whether we needed to acknowledge that Palin appealed to the Republican base the same way Obama appealed to the Democratic base. With the latter, race is definitely factor, but it would be more difficult to say it's the deciding factor. My friend quickly decided that it was racism, pure and simple. I, however, was not so sure.

See, I can understand that there are many people in America who just don't agree with Democrats on much. They like school vouchers, think abortion is amoral, think public healthcare is socialism and fear taxes like the bubonic plague. These folks think we should stick it out in Iraq, think Iran needs to be humbled and are really afraid that the gays will marry one day. These people are blood red Republicans.

Many of these folks would vote for Satan if he had an R behind his name on the ballot.

But, there are a lot of folks that share many standard Republican values, but who are in pain because Republican policies don't benefit anybody but the uber-rich. These folks like the idea that the government could be there to help them out, even if they would never see themselves as looking for a handout. They want affordable healthcare and they would prefer to have their sons and daughters back from Iraq soon. These folks might consider voting for a Democrat if his/her plans sound good, and the Republicans have shown themselves inept. They probably have voted for Democrats in local and state elections.

But, a black president is still a stretch for them.

See, I'm thinking that if the Democrats and Republicans both were running white men, this race would have been over months ago. Because Americans have been conditioned to see white and male as the default for any position of power it would have been much easier to focus on the issues important in this campaign. And, on the issues, the Republicans get their butts whipped. Most logical people agree that George Bush and his Republican friends have screwed us all.

However, Obama introduces a wild card. The issues are still important, but what's also important is how a black person will handle ruling America. Because, despite the reality, most Americans view the president as the "ruler" of this country.

For many white people, the idea of placing a black person in the supreme position of authority is a scary prospect. They worry about retribution, about shifts in power. They wonder if a black person is really qualified for that kind of power and they are concerned about what seeing a black person in a position of authority would do to the minds of other black people. Truthfully, these are all legitimate concerns that I can understand.

And that's why I can't just chalk up the closeness of the race to pure racism and prejudice. Many voters are not certain that voting for a black guy will truly serve their self interest. They are also not certain that voting for a Republican will serve their self interest. So they are trapped in a sort of no-man's land where it seems like there is not great choice, but simply a choice of the lesser of two evils. ( Black people know all about that, don't we?)

Looking at things that way makes it easier for me to understand why Obama isn't destroying McCain. It's like there is a giant balance with black fear and Republican fear on opposite sides of the scale. That means race is a big issue, but I'm not sure if it's solely about racism anymore.

That's a tough position to be in.

20 comments:

Lolo said...

Here's my take on all this noise. I'm laughing about how this old man has to have a woman do his dirty for him, yet AGAIN. He can at least claim that he's no sexist, not when he continues to have women do his heavy lifting and hard work for his tired, old, honorable, war hero, self. His crippled first wife, his pill popping heiress, his hot lobbyist (man, did she pull a disappearing act or what??), and now, Pitbull McPalin.

He's consistent. Not honorable, not a maverick, but he is consistent.

Big Man said...

LOLO! Man, I thought I had pissed you off since I hadn't heard from you in so long. It's good to see your comment. I've heard from both you and Christina in the space of a week, reminds me of the good old days.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Yes good points. I was watching 20/20 last nigth and the whole pisode was on privelage of course the first segment was abut white privelage. It was all very interesting, but on the today show they mentioned before Palin a majority of McCAins votes where coming from people who beleived him to be the lesser of two evils. I don't even think I had ever had that thought about him. Yes, I can see people not being so sure on trying a black man, but hey it ain't too much worse he can do in my book. I don't know why they don't hand Barry this mess and see if he can get Ray Charles with it ( you know make it do what it do!)?

Oh well we shall see!! Great post!

-OG

Darth Whitey said...

Good post!

BTW, I am the infamous anon that has been haunting this blog (I like it) for a couple of months. This is my ID now, Darth Whitey. I'm a big Star Wars fan obviously and since some folks id themselves as "negro" in their ID here, I thought it only fair to identify myself in kind :)

Anyway, one thing to consider before chalking it up to racism is this-- why did Kerry lose then?

The issues were more or less the same. The demographics of the electorate have not changed. I really don't think there are many D's and independents who are going to vote R just because Obama is black. There are some to be sure, but they're all in states that were never in play to begin with. What do you think?

Ask your friend why John Kerry lost. His defeat was preposterous and so contrary to the self-interest of those who voted for Bush that it boggles the mind.

I agree with what you said otherwise though. Here's what I think happened:
1. people got uber-excited about Obama in the primary, he surged to a huge lead out of the gate, but basically he blew his wad very early on.
2. he basically had to run out the clock to win the primary, the other side was crushing him in the 4th quarter but didn't have enough time to complete the comeback.
3. he starts off with a huge lead in the general, and now again is getting creamed down the stretch, the election can't get here fast enough.

Now, the fact that he was ahead by so much at the outset and that now it is so close doesn't mean that everybody suddenly turned racist, no? I mean if he was ahead by so much, all those people who had intended to vote for him before something changed to change their mind, I don't think they would have ever declared an intent to vote for obama had they been racist from the start no?

Let me explain why I'm here actually and why it always sounds like I'm trying to counter the claims of racism: pretty much just to be the devil's advocate. I live in one of the whitest places in America (if you count Asians as white, which I think most folks who haunt this blog do,) also one of the most affluent and highly educated and highly liberal areas in America. So I don't really know how people in West Virginia think.

However, what troubles me about the posts and definitely about the commentators is how little nuance is demonstrated. Everything is soooo bad, the assumptions are so over the top, I just want to insert some caveats you know? Or heck, maybe I'm a closet KKK dude. You folks don't want to just have a big circle jerk do ya? What fun is just bitching without anyone to challenge ya?

BTW, I think I mentioned this before but just to lay out my unracist credentials: I date a very dark south Indian woman, she's darker that most of y'all. That's right :)

Deacon Blue said...

Darth, it isn't that playing devil's advocate is all bad. But sometimes, you have to know when not to ASSUME that someone is crying racism unfairly.

I'm white married to a black woman for the past 11 years, and having dated her nearly 2 years prior to that. There are times when my wife sniffs racism and I might call her on it to say "you're stretching," but for the most part, I will trust her gut instincts.

Why?

Because she gets treated differently than frequently (sometimes daily) because of her skin color, and has been since at least the day she got into pre-teenhood, and maybe even before then. (Little kids get a pass even from racists, in many cases)

Kerry didn't do a thing for me, and I have almost always voted Democrat. Frankly, the Dems have mostly rolled out a bunch of losers over the years, with Bill Clinton being the sole exception since Carter (who was a great man, just president at the wrong time, I think).

Obama is anything but a loser. He has a great political package and the fact that he isn't doing better against the oldest man ever to try to be president and a lying hockey mom from the middle of nowhere kinda makes it look like race is the big iffy factor for folks.

And for the record, dating outside your race doesn't absolve you, me or anyone else from possibly being a racist, and I hope you realize that and are using your Indian girlfriend as a joke. Not all racists hate all races...not even all racists are truly haters because often it's fear or ignorance mostly...and everyone has the ability to say "well, I'm not keen on non-whites, but YOU'RE cool."

Believe me, I don't have many racist beliefs, but I do have SOME. Not proud of them when I identify them, but they do exist.

Racism, like autism, is a spectrum, not a single tidy box with a rigid set of paramaters.

Big Man said...

The country was in nowhere near as bad shape when John Kerry ran. The Iraq war had barely begun and casualties were still fairly low. Katrina had not occurred, the markets had not collapsed and we weren't seen corruption investigations popping up in every section of the federal government. Our deficit was not outrageous, and Kerry was one of the most uncharismatic candidates in history.

Things were not even close to the same which was why I did not make the Kerry comparison.

Big Man said...

And I doubt most people on this blog count Asians as white. I count white people as white.

And dating a dark-skinned person does not make you "unracist." Being unracist makes you unracist.

Finally, I don't have a problem with anyone commenting here as long as they are respectful. I also disagree with the idea that my posts are simplistic or lack logic. Do I occassionally use hyperbole to make a points? Of course. If I wrote bland treatises no one would read.

I actually think many of your responses to my posts are an example of a white person who really struggles to see the world from a different perspective, but is convinced that it's everybody else who is all wrong. However, I don't have a problem with you commenting on the blog at all.

Big Man said...

My bad, I should have read Deac's comment. My pale brother took care of everything.

Darth Whitey said...

yah, my "using" my g/f as evidence of my un-racism was indeed a joke :)

I know that black folks are treated differently, there is no doubt, not disputing that. Just the extent of it and its ramifications are what I dispute. I really don't think a McCain victory in November, although disastrous, would be any sort of evidence whatsoever of widespread racism. It's not a referendum on America's racism. Kerry's defeat, even though it took place before the events Big Man itemized, is still astonishing to me.

The Dems are horrible at campaigning. The only reason Clinton won twice is thanks to Ross Perot. They're too "decent" or something. The Republican tactics always leave me with my jaw hanging down on the floor but they work! The dems need to get really dirty, start swiftboating or some crap. I hate that stuff but they're going to lose if they keep letting these jerks make issues out of the dumbest, most inconsequential crap.

Kerry started off the general with a huge lead but the Rovian tactics of the R's worked so well, it ended up being a convincing victory for Bush. Nuts! The exact same thing is happening now.

Obama is a great man, smartest politician I have ever seen, he'd be a great president. However, he was completely out-played in the veep game. Big disadvantage to go first, for sure. He made a responsible, sensible choice. McCain's choice of Palin, as stupid as it is, was absolutely brilliant. O should definitely have chosen Clinton, in retrospect, even though I approve of Biden. You have to play to win!

It's all about the debates now. I trust "we" will smoke the R's in those.

Big Man said...

Republican tactics work because people are stupid and they are typically running against horrible politicians.

Now, people are still stupid, but Obama is far from a horrible politician. In fact, he's one of the best we've seen in generations. His biggest problem is that he is black. As yourself this question, if Barack Obama were the exact same person, but looked like John Edwards, would this race even be close?

If the answer is no, then you need to admit that racial prejudice is quite widespread.

Darth Whitey said...

Why was Obama so far ahead after wrapping up the primary though? Did the R's just somehow manage to tap into people's prejudice since then? I don't buy it.

I'm pretty sure Clinton would be doing worse at this point if she were the nominee. The only difference is that she can throw a sucker punch and might be able to keep up with the slime coming from the R's. Obama has been too decent, too rational, too nice. ie, he's been the kind of president we need but not the kind that wins elections. Ugh. Let's hope that the debates clear this crap up and draw the clear contrast.

jelana said...

I agree with you that it is nothing but race. I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland. McCain is too old and unfit to be president and Palin is unfit to be vice president. His choice of her proves he has no judgement and Country First is an absolute lie. I abhor the idea of either of them running this country. Truly, I don't see how anyone of any color, could imagine Palin or McCain negotiating with any other world leaders. McCain never knows what he ia talking about and Palin doesn't know about anything outside of Alaska. We have 2 wars being waged and neither of them is fit to lead. To me this is absolute insanity.

Cedric said...

You could possible point to a lot of different reasons why white folks are leaving Obama like black folks are leaving the Galveston Sea Wall. But, the one thing that pre-dates and always trumps any of that political talk is race.

Remember this is America--Fugitive Slave Clause America, 3/5 Compromise America, The Nadir America, The Chinese Exclusion Acts America, Dred Scott America, Jim Crow America, Japenese Internment Camps America, Reagan/CIA/Nicaraugann Contra/Crack in the hood America, Toture-tanamo America, Katrina America. Eff Love, Race is the thing, you know?

Oh yeah, and assuming that angry black folk don't realize there are more races/ethnicies than White/Black/Mexican is a clear sign of racial prejudice.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

palin is a distraction i wont write aboyut her - i wont take the bait

Darth Whitey said...

Too late Torrance, the idiots at Kos and the MSM have already taken the bait, turned her into a martyr or something. That was the whole point of it, it was a brilliant ruse. The far left is more of a liability to the dems than the far right is to the repubs. I'm telling you, it takes talent to lose these elections. And "we", the good guys, are pretty damned talented at it.

the uppity negro said...

well...

hmmm...

Clearly McCain and Palin and the republicans are quite aware that this isn't about the issues. They are playing identity politics and for whatever reason, the Dems have fallen for it each time when it came to George Bush.

And after watching the Palin interview tonight, she came off a bit to chompy to me. I just viewed it as her trying to slightly overcompensate. She's confident, we already know that, but damn she was laying it on thick. Like HRC in a one-on-one interview never came off as that damn strong.

Anonymous said...

Here's my take on a few things (not that you asked, but you obviously chose to make this available to the public). I am a southern white woman, born and raised in Alabama most of my life. I moved to Atlanta for 10 years and now I reside in good 'ol Tallahassee, FL (home of FAMU). I have absolutely never considered myself a racist and truly supported the idea of having a black man for president. Regardless of color the my main concern for a candidate is that he were most qualified and truly had the best interest at heart for our country.
I am considered a conservative and as you had written previously - I do believe in school vouchers. I currently pay $800.00 a mo to send my child to private school b/c Gadsden County schools are rated an "F"...(the worst in the entire state) yet the county still gets my property taxes each year and the schools still suck. I don't believe in higher taxes, for shit's sake - don't we give the damn gov enough our paychecks already??? The problem IS the GOV!! They don't know how to manage our money. They have forgotten that they work for us "We the People".
I'm not here to argue which candidate is most qualified, which party is better or what race will bring in more votes. I do have concerns that the public may be leaning towards Obama because of his race and I sometimes feel like his primary goal is to simply get to the white house...and to make history by becoming the first black man to do so (need I refer back to his pastor of 20 years). I don't see that the advancement our country is truly a priority - I do see that the advancement of his race IS the priority.
The thing that pisses me off most is that I don't think racism will EVER go away. In fact, I believe that it has began to get worse. This morning my husband, child and myself went to eat breakfast at an iHop...our waiter was black. Out of the 6 tables he waited on we were the only white people in his section. I've never been so ignored and treated like such a burden - but you better believe the other 5 tables were well treated. I have been noticing that that majority (not all) of the black race have began to display some type of anger at us "the white man"...WHY? What did I do? How the hell will anything ever change if we don't ALL change our attitudes and judge people for who they are and how they treat you?
I am tired of being treated like shit by black people...yes it happens all the time (is it because I'm white, attractive, financially able???) WTF? When does it end? Who cares about the presidents RACE? Shouldn't we focus more on qualifications, character and how they bring our country together as a nation rather than sperate them into even greater divide??

I'm sure I pissed you off...I'm sure I will be considered the white bitch that held you down for some odd reason and I'm sure that every hardship you have ever faced is some how my fault. My apologies.

Big Man said...

I don't call women bitches anymore.

You wrote all those words and only managed to complain that Obama is trying to advance his race by becoming president and that black people are only becoming more racist.

That's pretty bad.

Were all the white men you voted for previously trying to advance white people? And if they were, why were you ok with that? And if that's what happened, don't you think that would make a lot, of black people pissed?

But, like many white people, you see racism as simply how you are treated by individual black people. Yet, you seem willing to shrug off the racism of individual white people. At least I assume you're willing to shrug it off since you didn't mention racism by white folks at all in your diatribe about how the world is getting worse.

Keep reading the blog, though.

Chris said...

I don't call women bitches either, I thought this was a great post, well written, penetrating and accurate.
I was amazed to see a white commenter admit to racists beliefs, here. I was not surprised that it was Deacon Blue.
I think there is a fine line between a racist belief, and an accurate generality. I think racism is pervasive, throughout society, and naturally easiest to notice when you get the short end of the stick. It is indeed a spectrum, and for most of us, an honest question is not are you racist, but how racist ARE you? More importantly, do you feel that you need to work on it, and how much effort do you put into keeping out of your thoughts and actions. I don't necessarily agree that black people generally consider asians as white, but in general, mostly, often, it seems to me in my experience, ect. that they are very aware that I am NOT black.
What's amusing to me, is that I thought of myself as White/NotBlack until a girlfriend's parents disenfranchised her for continuing to date me in my late teens. Coincidentally, this happened to me in Georgia, where I now live. As a military brat, I was much less aware of race before we moved to the south. I see a lot of Black bloggers discuss race. I have heard White people race. We Asians ( is it a racist generality of I include myself?) almost never talk about it. lol.
I think, and have posted that much of the work done on racism treats symptoms, rather than the disease. It would be a good thing, I think, If more discussion happened BETWEEN white and black people on racism. That would probably go farther in dealing with the fear and resentment than the segregated way racism is discussed now.

Big Man said...

Thanks for the comment Chris.

I would check out Angry Asian Man to get some race discussion from an Asian perspective, and also get some leads on more blogs that discuss that stuff. I don't talk about to much racism against other groups because I'm always concerned about making a mistake.

Raving Black Lunatic