Obama's Racial Catch 22

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"The race card" has been a large point of contention in the both the primaries and general elections. But is accusing someone of playing the card just as bad as 'playing it' yourself? Adam Serwer, writing fellow at the American Prospect, looks at the racial dimension of John McCain's criticisms of Barack Obama.


Adam Serwer

Comments [28]

ian from berlin


this is a conversation that i don"t think would be as likely to happen even a few years ago. So this may be proof that things are indeed moving forward. i too appreciate the openness of the conversation. lets hope the openess spreads :)

Aug. 12 2008 12:59 PM
ian from berlin

well i think time will heal wounds. younger americans are doing much better. the educated black middle class is coming out of the shadows as it becomes less taboo in black society as a whole to be anything outside of the stereotypes. and more white young people see black doctors lawyers and generally positive blacks. and of course the more people marry each other, as in so many cases an coffee colored kid is a fast track to racial harmony. personally i think the civil rights moment was an important surgery that left alot of scar tissue and as that generation gives way there will be fresh tissue beneath. I think the more the topic is discussed the more the topic will be less toxic until one day it comes down to being as meaningless as red hair, green eyes or freckles. at least i hope so ;)

Aug. 12 2008 12:54 PM
Tina from Manhattan


I can tell from the tone of your comments that you are open-minded. I appreciate it.

Aug. 12 2008 12:42 PM
Tina from Manhattan


I think you'd be suprised that there is a lot of respect for the whys and the history. So what now? How do we move forward?

Aug. 12 2008 12:37 PM
ian from berlin

oh and tina
i grew up in a jewish liberal part of america so i understand the damned if you do damned if you don"t sort of feeling liberal equal rights minded people deal with.

Aug. 12 2008 12:27 PM
ian from berlin

yeah this things do create anger and both black and white overstep by calling each other racisist. some feel like the response from government and society trickles down to every white person they meet and that is simply not the case. but as a social group blacks have been marginalized for so long that at this point all that is left for some is anger and wide spread accusation. more than anything i think that america need to simply respect why they are angry. This is why people say "you will never understand." because the history and the problems facing black american is so clear to blacks that if white person does not see it is frustrating. now how can you say to black america: "i see you point" i don"t know, perhaps the same way i tell "white america": its cool, i"m not as bad as you may have heard i am" but all of that being said perhaps this is sliding off topic.

Aug. 12 2008 12:24 PM
O from Forest Hills


I agree!!

Aug. 12 2008 12:12 PM
Tina from Manhattan

no Trth

it's prejudice. It's not fair to say just ignorance. and to me prejudice is different to racism as racism is blind hatred, learned hatred, and prejudice is reacting based on a pre-valued determination and there is a lot of history there to give rise to Black Americans feeling a need to defend themselves. Just sometimes, often, and I get it a lot because I must seem like the enemy full on, it's not always accurate. As I said, I may just be closer to the door so naturally I will exit first.

Aug. 12 2008 12:09 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

O #7 - wrong forum, take my word for it.

Tina #13 - what you describe is not racism, it is ignorance, by all means stand up for yourself. Don't hold your breath waiting for sympathy from Black American females indeed, why do you deserve sympathy? A little human kindness for sure.

Aug. 12 2008 12:04 PM
Tina from Manhattan

Well I have to tell you as a white person who has waited tables, and please ask anyone who has ever waited tables and I KNOW they will tell you the same thing: perceived racism is very strong coming from the Black American community. I dealt with that as an issue when I first moved here from a White, liberal part of America. I was quickly corrected that, "no, you don't have a liberal and equal view of people. No, it's impossible because you are white and from a particular place. Yes, you are racist and I will look and look until I find a way to prove that I am right." As I said, I used to aoplogize, now I don't. Chances are if I stepped on someone's foot regardless of color, it's because the city is crowded, and I didn't step out of the elevator first because I think I am priviledged to, I just happen to be closer to the door.

O above has a very valid point.

Aug. 12 2008 12:02 PM
ian from berlin

unfortunatly it is usually reduced to black and white which is due to habit more than actual color. it has more to do with america and black people. The image that america has of black america is at fault. it is shorthanded it as"white people" because america has always been run by white people. however i have dealt with this from all colors: white hispanic jewish middle eastern and yes even black. America as a whole has issues with black folks and as black americans are terribly conflicted because it comes down to turning ur back on one or the other.

Aug. 12 2008 11:45 AM
ian from berlin

no not at all. i think it is something to talk about for both of them i was as excited to see a female candidate as i was a black because of the conversation they would bring up and the way either person's candidacy would redefine what either a woman or a black person could be. and in that regard it would effect the worth of a black person's life as in sean bell issue or the disposability of women as simply a strong male's accessory or plaything. i"m all about talk! its just a shame that the conversation is reduced to sound bites instead of full conversations which is what is absolutely needed to move things forward for women and minorities

Aug. 12 2008 11:35 AM
Tina from Manhattan

and Ian, would you say it's only White people who look at you this way or would you say that Jewish people do, Asians, hispanics?

Aug. 12 2008 11:28 AM
Tina from Manhattan


But it was OK to talk about Hillary's campaign in terms of her femaleness and it's a divisive issue to talk about Obama as a Black American and there's debate about 'is he black enough' (whatever that's supposed to mean), is he using the race card? Is he addressing real issues like Sean Bell? etc etc

Aug. 12 2008 11:26 AM
ian Hutchinson from berlin

for the answer to "O"'s question as in what happened to you. the reason why race is so difficult for white amerian to understand is that it is very subtle long gone are the days of clear white hooded racisism. that has been replaced by a set of expectations and assumptions that you have to activly fight with or against. people assume that i will steal from a store peaople assume i am under educated and assume that i am aggresive. assume i love hiphop and even as you may think: "i don"t do that" replace the "black" with "women" and all of the subtly of the situation should become clearer. people expect women to be weak expect women to be submissive and while women can be strong or dominant is a factor that creates a constant pressure on you which is simply exhausting to deal with on a daily basis. does that answer ur question?

Aug. 12 2008 11:19 AM
Tina from Manhattan


I relate. You're not going to get sympathy from a group of Black American women because there IS a lot of prejudice. I dealt with it all the time at two restaurants I worked at. Especially when I first moved to New York. Now if I get pushed on the train or someone refuses to scoot-over so I can sit down, I don't say sorry, I sit down anyway. You have to understand where the hostility is coming from, and try and deal woth it person to person. It's hard. I got shouted at racially by a young teen on Halloween night in a really menacing way and I was just walking past her in the street. I don't care anymore. You're right, but whining isn't going to solve anything.

Aug. 12 2008 11:15 AM
seth from Long Island

Some people think the Paris Hilton/ Britney Spears ad was racist because it played to fears of a black man having appeal among white women. I think the ad was racist for a different reason. The ad was blatantly denigrating Obama's intellect. It was saying he's not smart enough to be president.
The real airhead in this race is John McCain not Obama. Dummies do not get to run the Harvard Law Review. Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for their racist attack on Obama. The media doesn't have the guts to call out McCain for his racist tactics because they want to keep this contest a nailbiter.

Aug. 12 2008 11:11 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Seth, they may never know b/c McCain is doing a good job of distracting 'em with jokes.

Everytime I sit and listen to his issues, I have to hear his monlogue. Why doesnt he just go work for the tonight show? I hear Jay Leno is leaving.

Aug. 12 2008 10:59 AM
seth from Long Island

There's no way John McCain can win this race other than by playing, or more likely, having his surrogates play the race card.
John McCain clearly lacks the mental horsepower to be president. The more time John McCain can't talk issues and substance, because he's a clueless buffoon. Unfortunately, the media is pulling out all the stops to cover up McCain's incompetence because a horserace is great for ratings. If enough voters knew how dumb McCain is, his poll numbers would collapse.

Aug. 12 2008 10:50 AM

Thank you Robbie for you comment.

Aug. 12 2008 10:42 AM
Robbie from New York

Nobody is a "racist." Oh, wait everybody is a "racist." How convenient.

When people refer to racism and are not talking about institutionalized racism with its current and historic underpinnings they are either naive or uninformed about what "racism" truly is ( vs. prejudice, bigotry, etc) or are just plain lying.

Aug. 12 2008 10:41 AM
O from Forest Hills

I don't have $100k, but tell me what has happened to you.

Aug. 12 2008 10:35 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

"O" I put $100k on the table that says your negative experiences with race b/c you are white cannot equal the what I have experienced this week alone.

Aug. 12 2008 10:23 AM
chris o from new york city

Oh yeah, and if anyone calls McCain on his use of race in ads, then he accuses them of playing the race card. Dishonest and dishonorable - we can't afford 4 more years of the same old politics.

Aug. 12 2008 10:20 AM
chris o from new york city

John McCain has an ad where a (white) guy says "Hot chicks dig Obama." Meanwhile, young white women are saying things like, "His eyes are dreamy" and "He's a rock star." John McCain, I don't approve of this ad and you do because you've become a pathetic coward that would rather win an election than run a meaningful, honest and honorable campaign.

Aug. 12 2008 10:19 AM
O from Forest Hills

You guys don't get my point. There are black people that are racists towards white just as much as there are white people that are racists towards blacks. Look at violent crime statistics.

When I worked with a group of black women, I was told I am white so I don't get it and I was the only white woman in the group, I was eaten alive by them.

Aug. 12 2008 10:17 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

There is no "race card!" It's just a fact, if you are black you are black if you are white you just are, the difference is the way you are treated in this world b/c you are one or the other.

Aug. 12 2008 10:13 AM
michaelw from INWOOD

There's nothing wrong with Obama using the race card. Good for him. Do anything and use anything to get elected.

The problem with Obama is votes the same way McCain and the rest of the Republicans do.

Obama is black use it or lose it.

Aug. 12 2008 09:57 AM

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