05.17.08

Barack Obama: elitist?

Posted in Politics at 12:20 pm by ducky

I hear murmuring that American blue-collar white voters think Barack Obama is elitist.

On the one hand, since I favor Obama, I’m slightly distressed for practical reasons. But as a liberal American, I am secretly overjoyed at how far we’ve come that white folks to find a black man too smart, too successful, too restrained, and/or too cultured for them to relate to. I wasn’t alive fifty years ago, but I have the sense that many white folks thought African-Americans were too stupid, too lazy, and/or too emotional to be fit for many jobs.

It’s possible that what they are uncomfortable with is Obama not conforming to their image of a black man, and so seeming too slick, too phony. They might also just be uncomfortable about how cool (meaning restrained and unemotional) he is period: it might be that Obama he doesn’t seem like people they know personally, white or black. H. Clinton had more breakdowns and meltdowns, and perhaps that made her seem more genuine. (Also, everyone is well aware that she’s had way more than her fair share of marital troubles and has done the difficult thing and stuck by her man — the tough gritty thing to do.)

If I’m right, then I don’t think Obama can do anything about it. If he starts acting more emotional, that will give people an excuse to use the “bad” black stereotypes that I enumerated above.

“He’s Muslim” — religion or race?

I have also heard that there are people who don’t support Obama because he’s Muslim. While this might be discrimination against (his mistaken) religion, I think it’s more likely that this is actually racism. I suspect that when they say, “He’s Muslim”, they mean, “He is Other, he is from genetic stock that is not like ours”.

I remember at a racism discussion group I went to about ten years ago with a woman who considered herself Christian and whose parents considered themselves Christian. However, the Nazis felt differently, and put her (at a very young age) and her parents in a concentration camp, as her relatives were Jewish. This woman was frustrated by (among other things) her son insisting that they were Jewish. Clearly “Jewish” means both “the faith that you practice” and “who your ancestors were”.

So when people say, “Barack Obama is Muslim”, I suspect that what they are saying is not, “he worships at a mosque” but “his genetic stock is different from mine”. They might be concerned that blood is thicker than water, and that if he gets elected, then he will favour “his people” (i.e. people in Muslim countries) over “our people” (i.e. white Americans)

I can imagine that going to grade school in Indonesia also hurts him with people who think he is Other. I can imagine people for whom going to school in another country is so completely, totally, utterly outside their experience that it would seem suspicious.

If he’s going to be swift-boated, I think this is the topic they will use.

So if I were Obama, what would I do? I’d start releasing photos of Obama as a child surrounded by white Americana. Going to Disneyland. Little League. Blowing out birthday candles. At the zoo with his grandparents looking dotingly at him. The next thing I would do is allow videographers to shoot him playing basketball; how him getting (rightfully) pissed off at something and yelling “Shit!”

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