Calling out racism

Take a look at these two pieces, one from the NY Times Op-Ed page and the other from the Sun-Sentinel. Both deal with Barack Obama and the touchy subject of race. Bob Herbert, who wrote the first one, points out just how disingenuous the McCain campaign is being when it accuses Obama of "playing the race card" (a euphemism that needs to die alongside "electability" and "throwing someone under the bus"). I especially liked the way Herbert wrapped his column up.

Whatever you think about Barack Obama, he does not want the race issue to be front and center in this campaign. Every day that the campaign is about race is a good day for John McCain. So I guess we understand Mr. McCain’s motivation.

Nevertheless, it’s frustrating to watch John McCain calling out Barack Obama on race. Senator Obama has spoken more honestly and thoughtfully about race than any other politician in many years. Senator McCain is the head of a party that has viciously exploited race for political gain for decades.

He’s obviously more than willing to continue that nauseating tradition.
He's absolutely correct on that, because while race relations have improved in this country over the last 30 years, there's still some truth to the notion that if this election comes down to being the white guy versus the black guy, the white guy probably wins. Obama is a thousand times better of a politician and a candidate than John McCain is--and a better person, too, at this point--but he has to be in order to win over enough white voters to win the election.

And as though to prove Herbert's point, here's a report of Obama today speaking in Florida:
Florida - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he does not think the campaign of rival John McCain is racist but that it is cynical.

Obama's comments today in Florida come after the Republican's campaign charged this week that Obama had "played the race card" in accusing McCain and others of planning to scare voters about how he looks.

Obama says the cynicism comes from the McCain campaign's efforts to distract voters from real issues and engaging in negative attacks.
McCain is trying to play on the same resentment Jesse Helms did when he ran this infamous ad against Harvey Gantt.

McCain is playing to the idea that black Americans somehow have it easier in this country because they're able to "play the race card" in any argument, and unfairly tar anyone who is critical of them of racism. If McCain is successful at that, he'll get the same sort of white resentment vote that Helms and Nixon and Reagan and Republican politicians for decades have relied on to win elections.

But while Obama might not be able to hit back hard on that sort of thing, there's no reason we can't. We need to call it out wherever we see it, because that's the only way we are actually going to be able to move beyond racist tropes in our everyday lives. Obama has to seem to be above it all, and can't call out his opponent personally. I'm not running for office, however, and I don't have any such strictures on me. Neither do you.

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