Barack Obama Doesn't Care About Black People!

|

Barack Obama, lucky in his enemies.

[Rev. Al] Sharpton strongly urged the nearly 10,000 people who filled Hampton University's Convocation Center not to select a candidate next year just because they want to see an African-American or a woman or a Hispanic in the White House for the first time.

Without naming Obama, Sharpton added that "just because you're our color doesn't make you our kind." He pointed to President Bush's secretaries of State, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, as examples of African-Americans he said haven't necessarily worked in the interest of the African-American community.

Sharpton also chided Obama for making his presidential announcement in Springfield rather than before the predominantly African-American audience at Hampton, and said the Illinois senator needs to declare "what's his embrace of our agenda."

Indeed, accused of not playing the race card enough by Al Sharpton. If he hasn't already, Obama should really find the appropriate Vermont Teddy Bear for the occasion and send it Al's way.

Seriously, this is stupid. Insofar as Obama has any record, it's as a state senator who worked on (broadly defined) civil rights issues. He wrote an anti-racial profiling law, requiring police to record the ethnicity of everyone they pulled over so the figures could be studied and corrected. He wrote another one requiring interogations and confessions to be videotaped to avoid coercion, which—incredibly!—happened sometimes in Chicago. He opposed "the way the death penalty is administered in this country," meaning "hey, how come all those black guys are on death row?" (He also fought to ban ephedra, so let's not go crazy about his awesome legislative career.) I was living in Illinois during Obama's Senate race and heard all about this stuff; Republicans were going to use it to paint him as soft on crime, before they imploded and couldn't find a candidate to run against him.

Even if you loathe Obama, there's something to this. He springing a trap door under the Sharptons et al; the "civil rights" leaders who combine doctrinaire liberalism with lots and lots of race baiting.

NEXT: Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Rudy

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Um, Al Sharpton just told his audience not to vote based on skin color, but on the candidates’ beliefs and accomplishments.

    And that reflects poorly on him, how, exactly?

  2. Ok, in the article it actually says that his black agenda-embracing ability could be “diluted” because of his mixed heritage. Why doesn’t Al Sharpton just come out and say: I am a racist who believes in the genetic inheritance of blackness, though I will vote outside my race in order to further this racism more properly.

  3. Z, You mean this:

    “Within the African-American community, questions are being raised about Obama’s African-American credentials.

    Some people wonder whether Obama’s mixed-race heritage dilutes his effectiveness on African-American issues. Others complain that he didn’t earn his political stripes in the 1960s civil rights movement. Still others wonder about his Ivy League education and upscale Chicago address.”

    Please note the complete absence of any attribution for any of these ideas. If the writer actually knows any black people who are saying this, he doesn’t let on to us.

    Al Shartpon, on the other hand, is quotes thusly:

    “I think the identity politics should not be based on race,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a 2004 presidential candidate. “It should be based on agenda and policy — who stands for our best interests. We cannot put our people’s aspirations on hold for anybody’s career, black or white.”

    “just because you’re our color doesn’t make you our kind.”

  4. This episode may tell alot about Obama. Either he’ll tell Sharpton and his ilk to go take a flying you know what, or he will knuckle under to these divisive creeps.

  5. You want Obama to chastise Sharpton for saying people should NOT vote based on race, creech?

    I think we’re watching preconceptions crrash into reality here on Hit & Run, and reality doesn’t seem to be holding up very well.

  6. i want obama to chastise sharpton for being a crook and a hustler whose principal interests are the continued hi-flyin’ lifestyle of al sharpton.

  7. Some candidates have to work to produce a “Sister Souljah Moment”, others have it thrust upon them…

  8. Joe will never admit that Sharpton is an unprincipled opportunist and racist. Keep talking, joe, and lose what little credibility you have here.

  9. I think the point is that Sharpton is arguing for a political litmus test first, then a racial test. The opposition to Obama is because he isn’t “really black”, a sort of racial essentialism that argues that you only get support if you agree with Sharpton’s definition of what it means to be black. The term “oreo” doesn’t seem to be far beneath the surface here. I don’t think that Sharpton is advocating for race blindness at all: he’s arguing that an oreo is worse than a honkie who does what he wants.

  10. Thanks for demonstrating, ed.

    Since you know what story you want to tell, the facts simply do not matter to you.

  11. This isn’t about Al Sharpton this is about the divisions in the black community. The media does a terrible job of actually reporting on the black community and black issues. This is about the fact that Obama father is Kenyon, not African American and about the fact that he was raised by his white mother. There is a huge social division among black immigrants from Africa and the West Indies and black decendents of American slaves. The majority of black people in America are the latter. Further, interracial isn’t too popular in a lot of the black community, especially among black women who have a hard enough time finding suitable black husbands. The media is so stupid really racist that they judge everyone by the color of their skin. Just because Obama looks like other black people doesn’t mean that he is culturally like them.

  12. “The opposition to Obama is because he isn’t “really black”, a sort of racial essentialism that argues that you only get support if you agree with Sharpton’s definition of what it means to be black.”

    From the article, “I think the identity politics should not be based on race,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a 2004 presidential candidate. “It should be based on agenda and policy…”

  13. i want obama to chastise sharpton for being a crook and a hustler whose principal interests are the continued hi-flyin’ lifestyle of al sharpton.

    Exactly. I don’t know how else to read this but as a (very) thinly veiled threat that Obama better start toeing the Al Sharpton line if he wants support from the “black community.”

  14. John,

    Please tell us more about how black people feel.

    Sure, Al Sharpton is talks about “agenda and policy,” but I agree that you probably know better what’s really going on.

    I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how black peole don’t consider Obama “black enough.” Every single one of them was a white conservative.

  15. And BTW, the only black Presidential candidate Al Sharpton supports is…Al Sharpton

  16. joe, Sharpton is talking in code here. You know, the way racial(ists) often do.

    He’s still all about getting his kind of black man elected, and would support his kind of black man over a better qualified white man or woman. A racialist, in other words.

    Its just that Obama isn’t his kind of black man, you see. Obama is an alternative to the Sharptons of the world, who have so demonstrably failed their peopl, and is therefore very threatening to his power base.

  17. While Sharpton does have a long history of saying some folks aren’t “black enough” or whatever, not to mention that whole Tawana Brawley thing, but I think in this instance joe’s interpretation is closer to right.

    Now, we can speculate all we want about Sharpton’s motivations, his reasons for opposing Obama, and his racism…but it’s an undeniably true statement that sharing skin color has nothing to do with whether or not you share political opinions. I’m a honkey from Oregon and I’ve more politically in common with Clarence Thomas than I do with Ron Wyden or Gordon Smith.

  18. Take the “while” off of that first sentence and pretend I’m literate, thanks folks.

  19. Ah, black-people code. Who taught you black-people code, RC?

    Sure, Shartpon explicitly denounced race-based voting in favor of “policy and agenda,” but white conservatives JUST KNOW what he really means. In his black-people code.

    Gimme a break.

  20. Folks, don’t you know its always the other side that talks in code? Our side means only what it says and nothing more. Get with the program.

  21. I don’t get the “Vermont Teddy Bear” reference.

  22. …but it’s an undeniably true statement that sharing skin color has nothing to do with whether or not you share political opinions.

    I’d agree with you if I thought that was what he really meant. But everything Al Sharpton does is loaded with context that I for one (and apparently most everyone else here) choose not to ignore.

  23. Joe: You’re right on this one, I think. And I say that as a person who tends to describe Al Sharpton as a “race-hustling poverty pimp”.

  24. Ah, black-people code. Who taught you black-people code, RC?

    Not “black-people code” joe, Al Sharpton code. I’ve been hearing this guy’s routine for so long that I know it by heart…even all the subtle variations.

  25. joe:

    You say: “I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how black peole don’t consider Obama “black enough.” Every single one of them was a white conservative.”

    Yet you point out that Sharpton says that Obama isn’t “one of us”. Hunh?

    It’s only a matter of time that black agitators are going to straight-out call Obama a “Tom”. Want to re-address this issue a couple months from now?

  26. I gotta disagree Timothy,

    I often agree with Joe, but on this one he is wrong. Al Sharpton is is threatening Obama with marginalization within the black community.

    And yes, despite the crime of being a white conservative, John’s point about the animosity between African immigrants and slave descendants is very real. I have seen it with my own eyes.

  27. TCR,

    Al Sharpton, no doubt about it, based his political views on the interests of the “black community.”

    But look at what he is saying in this article – that that community hold together not by skin color or ancestry, but by a shared set of beliefs and interests. He goes on to say that voters shouldn’t assume someone’s commitment to those beliefs and interests because of their skin color.

    It just doesn’t matter what he says, does it? You start out with the understand that his message is racist, and from there it’s just a game of figuring out how to read racist messages into his statements.

    Perhaps by postulating that he’s speaking in code.

  28. Umbriel is right. This is a Sister Souljah moment.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it hasn’t been worked out in advance. My dad said there was a possibility he would vote for Obama after 60 minutes last night. When he finds out Sharpton doesn’t like him, move “a possibility” to the “a probability” column.

  29. mk: Knowing Sharpton and Sharpton’s history, particularly his belief that he has a monopoly on the “best interests of the black community” that wouldn’t surprise me…however, I think it’d best to wait until he’s really put his foot in it to cull him on the carpet for it. When he comes out and calls him Uncle Tom, or makes a house-slave reference like Mr. Banana Boat Song did with Rice and Powell, then I think we’d be right to go after him about it.

  30. MNG,

    ‘JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE OUR COLOR DOESN’T MAKE YOU OUR KIND’

    “I think the identity politics should not be based on race,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a 2004 presidential candidate. “It should be based on agenda and policy — who stands for our best interests.”

    Is anybody seriously having trouble interpreting what Sharpton is saying qualifies someone as “one of us,” and what does not?

    mk,

    I’m not saying the social division between African immigrant communities and black American communities (for lack of better terms) is an invention of John’s. I’m saying there is nothing anywhere in Sharpton’s statements to justify John’s, and your, assertion that Sharpton’s coyness is race-based, rather than policy- and agenda-based.

  31. Al Sharpton can’t win for losing. Imagine the reaction if he had said the exact opposite – that blacks should vote for Obama simply because of his skin color?

  32. JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE OUR COLOR DOESN’T MAKE YOU OUR KIND = Uncle Tom = “Not black enough”

    Or is my math really off?

  33. Obama is not an African American. There is such a thing as an African American and an African American culture. Why is that so difficult to understand Joe? There is a reason why Jessee Jackson got like 90+ percent of the black vote in the 1984 primaries and currently Hillary is outpolling Obama among Blacks. It is not hard to figure out nor particularly interesting or unexpected if you actually know anything. Why is that so hard for you to understand or accept?

  34. MNG,

    Yes, Sharpton is saying that people who do not share a set of beliefs and understandings are not part of the black community.

    Isn’t a GOOD thing to redefine that community as a group of people with similar interests and beliefs, rather than basing it on skin color?

  35. Dan T. – -ooh, ooh, I like that game. Can I play? I’ll pick Biden.

    Biden can’t win for losing. Imagine the reaction if he had said the exact opposite – that Obama was just the latest inarticulate, dirty, African American to run for president.

  36. But look at what he is saying in this article – that that community hold together not by skin color or ancestry, but by a shared set of beliefs and interests. He goes on to say that voters shouldn’t assume someone’s commitment to those beliefs and interests because of their skin color.

    Again, you have to take what he says in the context of Al Sharpton. Based on what I know about Sharpton, and “race hustling poverty pimp” sums it up nicely, I tend to read between the lines a little.

  37. John, 10:21 AM: “There is such a thing as an African American and an African American culture. Why is that so difficult to understand Joe?”

    joe, three comments BEFORE: “I’m not saying the social division between African immigrant communities and black American communities (for lack of better terms) is an invention of John’s. I’m saying there is nothing anywhere in Sharpton’s statements to justify John’s, and your, assertion that Sharpton’s coyness is race-based, rather than policy- and agenda-based.”

    I’m not the one missing a point here.

  38. read on sharpton’s speech: “Obama better spend some time massaging my ego for I am the voice of the blacks in America.”

    simultaneously a disgusting ploy for media attention and a perfectly reasonable point, i.e. “Don’t think us blacks are going to vote for you just because you’re black, you have to kiss our ass first.”

    Isn’t that what every special interest group demands of its political allies?

  39. TCR,

    The context of Al Sharpton is that he believes the black community is defined by its socio-political position in American society, and achieves its genuine expression through a certain variety of leftist politics.

    I see nothing about this context that contradicts either his words of my straightforward interpretation of them.

  40. Didn’t Sen. Biden just get criticized for praising the very thing that Sharpton is criticizing?

  41. joe:

    “Isn’t a GOOD thing to redefine that community as a group of people with similar interests and beliefs, rather than basing it on skin color?”

    joe, Sharton is “redefining” this paradigm by LABELING OBAMA AS A TOM. Dont’ you see the irony here?

  42. Dan T. – -ooh, ooh, I like that game. Can I play? I’ll pick Biden.

    Biden can’t win for losing. Imagine the reaction if he had said the exact opposite – that Obama was just the latest inarticulate, dirty, African American to run for president.

    I think you make a good point – Biden’s episode was another example of how public officials simply cannot address race in any manner without exposing themselves to overblown criticism.

    IMO, neither Biden’s nor Sharpton’s remarks were inappropriate.

  43. I’m sorry if I seem to have jumped the gun a bit on Obama being called a “tom”. It’s just that I have already heard him called that a few times in my place of work.

    It seems to me that Sharpton is intimidated by Obama as he stands to be quite successful without having asked permission from him first. That may sound unfair, but I will stand by it.

  44. Ultimately, what is troubling about Sharpton’s comments is the implicit assumption that it is particularly meaningful to talk about what entire groups of people do or should believe and that the black agenda, for lack of a better term, is what Sharpton defines it to be.
    I think Joe is right to dismiss the idea that Sharpton is dismissing Obama as not sufficiently black. He is, however, suggesting that Obama be dismissed because he may not buy into what Sharpton believes to be the program that best represents black interests.
    Let’s face it, though. Thinking primarily in terms of groups, rather than in terms of individuals, is the starting point for racism, as well as a bunch of other unpleasant isms.

  45. The question of Obama’s traction with African-American voters completely misses the point of his candidacy. His candidacy is not about, nor does it depend, on securing the “black vote”. He gets that vote, by and large, because he is a Democrat and not because of his race. He understands exactly what his goal is, and exactly where his base of support lies. Mentioning the word “generation” 13 times in a 20 minute speech is not just a rehetorical flourish and not just to invoke Kennedy comparisons. He is speaking to the constituency that he and he alone among the Democratic hopefulls can bring to the party in a significant way. From my recent post:

    “A key element in the selection of any Vice-Presidential candidate, is to identify what constituency they bring to a ticket. From a purely political perspective, it is interesting to ask – Exactly what constituency does Barack Obama bring to a Democratic ticket? It is not his home state. Illinois is already True Blue. It is not the black vote, Hillary Clinton outpolls Barack Obama among blacks. But if Barack can bring a generational constiutency, if he can mobilize a demographic block that historically cannot even be bothered to vote, then Barack would be a formidable addition to any Democratic ticket. This is a campaign to capture that constituency and trade it for a spot on the ticket.”

  46. Joe,

    The context of Al Sharpton is that he defines the black community by whatever suits him at the moment. When he’s holding a press conference about racial profiling, (or some girl who completely fabricated a story about being raped by white folks) then the black community is all about skin color. When he’s running for president, the black community is a “group of people with similar interests and beliefs.” Sorry, not buying it.

  47. MNG,

    “joe, Sharton is “redefining” this paradigm by LABELING OBAMA AS A TOM.”

    Where? All you’ve done is apply a harsh term, which Sharpton never used, to his statement about who to vote for.

    Number 6,

    Every thread about any presidential contender on this site turns into a discussion of how that politician isn’t sufficiently libertarian, based on whether that candidate buys into what the commenter believes to best represent the American interest. Isn’t that thinking primarily in terms of a group?

    The obvious rejoinder here is that liberarian and American are political, ideological groups, which people gain membership to based on their ideas. However, isn’t that exactly what Sharpton is doing – saying that membership to black-ness is based on ideas?

  48. He goes on to say that voters shouldn’t assume someone’s commitment to those beliefs and interests because of their skin color.

    I must have missed the presser where Sharpton said he was opposed to the Congressional Black Caucus excluding that white guy.

    Ah, black-people code. Who taught you black-people code, RC?

    Racialist code is pretty much the same everywhere, joe.

    If David Duke came out against some white guy, citing “policy” and what-not, would you take that at face value? Who taught you to hold black politicos to a lower standard?

  49. The question of Obama’s traction with African-American voters completely misses the point of his candidacy. His candidacy is not about, nor does it depend, on securing the “black vote”. He gets that vote, by and large, because he is a Democrat and not because of his race.

    Just so. And why are the Sharptons of the world afraid of this? Mightn’t it have something to do with their power base, and the threat Obama presents to it, as a black politico who owes them nothing?

  50. TCR,

    I can agree that much -maybe most – of what Al Sharpton does is based on self-promotion and not ideology.

    However, there is an ideology there. When he holds a press conference about racism – which is based on skin color – then he talks about the problem it poses to people with that skin color.

    In politics, adversaries are not usually mirror opposites of each other. When Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act, it was not because he held a set of beliefs about race that were the polar opposite of those held by John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Similarly, that Sharpton speaks up in opposition to people motivated by race and skin color (even when they are imaginary people) does not mean that he himself hold the equal-but-opposite set of beliefs about race and skin color.

  51. “I must have missed the presser where Sharpton said he was opposed to the Congressional Black Caucus excluding that white guy.”

    The Congressional Black Caucus does not aim to be the only people who vote in favor of policies that Al Sharpton supports, not does Al Sharpton want them to be.

    “Racialist code is pretty much the same everywhere, joe.”

    How would you know?

    “If David Duke came out against some white guy, citing “policy” and what-not, would you take that at face value?” Yes, if David Duke came out against a white candidate, I’d assume it was because he disagreed with that candidate’s stated beliefs. Am I missing something here?

  52. joe,

    “I’m saying there is nothing anywhere in Sharpton’s statements to justify John’s, and your, assertion that Sharpton’s coyness is race-based, rather than policy- and agenda-based.”

    John doesn’t appear to have made any such assertions.

  53. “Mightn’t it have something to do with their power base”

    Do Grover Norquist and Ken Mehlmann advocate for Republican candidates because they believe in Republicanism, or does it have something do with the power base? Both, probably. They are professional politicians.

    I fail to see why this becomes more sinister when a black polito does it.

  54. Nascar Dad, are you kidding me?

    “This is about the fact that Obama father is Kenyon, not African American and about the fact that he was raised by his white mother. There is a huge social division among black immigrants from Africa and the West Indies and black decendents of American slaves.”

    “Obama is not an African American. There is such a thing as an African American and an African American culture.”

    Are you kidding me? John hasn’t made any assertions that Sharpton’s statements are based on race?

  55. joe,

    John’s very first sentence in the comment you quoted was: “This isn’t about Al Sharpton this is about the divisions in the black community.”

    So, no, I am not kidding you.

  56. . However, isn’t that exactly what Sharpton is doing – saying that membership to black-ness is based on ideas
    That’s certainly part of what he’s suggesting. And I disagree with him.

  57. Nascar Dad,

    This isn’t about you, it’s about the fact that your posts are both meanignless.

  58. Joe,

    I think your arguments make sense, because some of the critiques of Sharpton seem to miss the mark. But considering the background, where Debra Dickerson has come out and said that Obama “isn’t really black,” don’t Sharpton’s words seem like piling on?

    I mean, maybe Sharpton’s words were completely divorced from the larger context where Obama’s “blackness” is in question. But it really does seem to me that Sharpton is more shrewd than that.

    I mean, why did he have to chastise him for making his announcement in Springfield, Illinois in stead of to the predominately black audience he spoke before? I saw Obama’s speech, the audience had black people and white people. And what about the symbolism with Abraham Lincoln? That’s not good enough for Sharpton?

    Seems like Sharpton is grasping at straws when he critiques Obama’s choice of location, especially considering the fact that there is this silly meme going around questioning Obama’s blackness. If Sharpton wasn’t trying to encourage that meme, he could have refrained from his silliest critique of Obama.

    I understand that Sharpton said that the black community shouldn’t support candidates just because of race or gender, but the way he goes about it seems to be to further polarize people and communities. After all, if a viable black candidate comes along who doesn’t anchor his whole identity to his race, and who sees nuance in argument rather than polarizing everything, then what greater threat to racial identity politics can there be? If Obama turns into a mainstream candidate rather than a “black candidate” then what use is there for people like Sharpton, who has become the de facto media spokesperson for black issues.

    If Obama demonstrates that complex issues that involve race can be solved (or at least progress can be made on) without hyper-focusing on the negative aspects of racism (race baiting, fanning flames) then large numbers of black people will follow Obama’s methods, since there are many people, black and white, who are yearning for a positive leader. If that happened, what use would there be for someone like Sharpton?

  59. Well, Number 6, since the other option is to believe that biological characteristics amoung to a meaningful category called “race,” I’m sticking with the “socio-political standing” theory.

  60. No, Joe, the other option is to think of people as individuals, and not pretend that one’s ancestry is particularly meaningful.

  61. No, Joe, the other option is to think of people as individuals, and not pretend that one’s ancestry is particularly meaningful.

    The problem is that when you have 300 million people in a country, you can’t think of them all as individuals.

    That, and the simple fact that your ancesctry is incredibly meaningful – it’s basically the #1 factor in your socio-economic status.

  62. This is about Al Sharpton not being asked if he wanted a position on Obama’s campaign yet.

  63. Jay J,

    I don’t disagree with much of what you’re saying.

    What I disagree with are the counter-factual assertions that Sharpton’s statements amount to racism.

    I grew up in an Irish-Republican home. If a candidate names O’Bamma had run for office without ever addressing the hated Brits or the suffering of the widows and orphans, he wouldn’t have been considered “our guy.” A leader who said that we shouldn’t automatically vote for him because of his ancestry, but should look for a real Irishman would have been arguind exactly the opposite of endorsing “genetic inheretance,” though that is what the second comment on the thread accused Sharpton of endorsing.

  64. Dan T- The problem with your point about the number of people in the US is that generalizations, especially those based on ethnicity are counterproductive.
    Your second point is a fair one, but remember that the reason that is true is that many people insist on pretending that one can draw conclusions about individuals based on their ethnicity.

  65. Al Sharpton is is threatening Obama with marginalization within the black community.

    Winner!

  66. Dan T- The problem with your point about the number of people in the US is that generalizations, especially those based on ethnicity are counterproductive.

    They can be, certainly. But they don’t have to be, and I don’t think that we have much of a choice when talking about politics at the national level.

  67. Number 6,

    “No, Joe, the other option is to think of people as individuals, and not pretend that one’s ancestry is particularly meaningful.”

    Well, yes, one can pretend that race doesn’t actually have any real-world consequences. Most people prefer not to deliberately ignore what happens in the world when thinking about politics.

    There really is racism, you know. People actually do identify with, and are identified by other as, certain racial and ethnic groups. You can choose to pretend this is not so, but you’re going to have a hell of time explaining a large number of problems and dynamics that exist in our society.

  68. Well, yes, one can pretend that race doesn’t actually have any real-world consequences
    One can, but that’s not what I’m suggesting.

  69. joe,

    “This isn’t about you, it’s about the fact that your posts are both meanignless.”

    Hmm – you didn’t seem to think so when you responded to the first one. I suppose it was when the second when proved you wrong that you changed your mind. A couple of years ago I commented here under a different name and gave up on it after a few exchanges with you. I convinced myself that it was my fault for not engaging you in a civil manner, and that if I set a better tone, that I could have pleasant and productive exchanges with you. I see now that I was mistaken – your just an ass.

    John’s comments in this thread are supported by an interview Debra Dickerson gave on The Colbert Report recently – you can still see it on Comedy Central’s website if you are so inclined. In it she says that Obama is not black, and she describes him is an “African African American.” She discusses the political obstacles that Obama faces because of his unique heritage – a fact which you seem to acknowledge here: “I’m not saying the social division between African immigrant communities and black American communities (for lack of better terms) is an invention of John’s.” Those distinctions are all John has commented on in this thread.

    You’re going crazy about people “reading between the lines” of Sharpton’s remarks, all the while creating meaning for John’s from the whole cloth.

    Respond if you want, but I won’t be revisiting this thread. I’ve learned my lesson about engaging you in any kind of discussion.

  70. “Obama, you better kowtow to me, or I will tell my black people, none of whom are individuals with any concerns other than what I tell them to be concerned about, to vote against you. Whitey.”

    –Al Sharpton

  71. Number 6,

    “many people insist on pretending that one can draw conclusions about individuals based on their ethnicity.”

    I can conclude that an individual is going to be viewed as black based on his ethnicity.

    And if six black couples are denied home loand, and six white couples with nearly identical financial documents are able to secure those loans, I can conclude something about that bank.

    And there is no way I’m going to pretend not to notice that, just because we’d both rather live in a world where that sort of thing didn’t happen.

    You want race to be meaningless in our culture? Work to make it meaningless. As long as racist treatment and de facto segregation actually exist, the concepts of race are going to continue to exist.

  72. TPG,

    And that is different from various uber-American political activist grouops accusing John Kerry of not being authentically American, how, exactly?

  73. Joe,

    Sounds good to me. Whether Sharpton is a racist or not, I don’t know. His most recent comments don’t seem to me to be the logical equivalent of racism or anything, just an attempt to slow Obama down, since a successful Obama could make Sharpton look even more useless.

    And I can see how if an Irish candidate came along who didn’t focus on the issue (or instead, focused on them in a different way) that certain Irish leaders and constituencies wanted, or in the way they wanted, some would feel their power disintegrating, especially if the mainstream candidate threatened to steal away some their Irish (and persecuted) identity.

    That’s all I want to claim here. Sharpton is almost like enganging in a form of protectionism in an attempt to rescue a dying industry (race baiting).

    Whether Shaprton is a racist, don’t ask me. But I do think just like Reagan and the GOP engaged in race baiting on the right, Sharpton and others have done similar things from the left.

  74. Joe-I do want race to be meaningless. But one can not get to a non-racist society by thinking things like “Black people (or at least true black people) believe X” anymore than one can get there by thinking, “Black people shouldn’t get home loans because they never repay them.” My point is simply that racism (Which is real-disgustingly so) is predicated on the idea that people can be defined by their ethnicity.

  75. Jay J.,

    The “protectionist” argument, while quite possibly true, is irrelevant. The point of a democratic republic is that individuals stand in as representatives for broader interest- and ideology-based coalitions.

    Is Sharpton working to protect his own status, or to maintain the significance of a certain political movement that he believes in? The answer is “Yes.”

    When Howard Dean said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” was he just promoting himself, or a political movement that he represented? Again, the answer is “yes.”

    Sure, politicians are self-interested, but the self-interested power struggles between ego-tripping pols representing different sets of beliefs and interests are how our political system works.

  76. I can’t imagine anything about which I’m less qualified to have an opinion than one african american’s view of the blackness of a political candidate.

    It strikes me as no more loaded than the charge that someone is not a ‘real conservative’. Of course you are trying to control the argument by defining terms. That is what politicians do. Sharpton is trying to establish that he has a kind of credibility with a base that obama needs to court, just like the evangelicals do. It isn’t good, bad, or otherwise, it is just coalition politics.

    The real story is that I doubt very seriously that we are still in a place where Al Sharpton gets to define even the policies that are reflective of true blackness, whatever that is. He’s just posturing like he always has. Why get worked up about it?

  77. Number 6,

    If you believe, as I do, that racism is based on, is furthered by, and exists to maintain, differences in power among racial groups, then efforts to expand the power of black people through solidarity is indeed a way of working towards the elimination of racism.

    Racism isn’t just in people’s heads. There are also racist patterns of power in our political, business, and social spheres. Those aren’t going to go away just by wishing; racism needs to be rooted out and defeated. Culture flows from material conditions.

    Also, saying “black people believe X” is exactly the opposite of defining people by thier ethnicity.

  78. Wow, props to Jason L. I’ve been failing to express that same idea since the beginning of the thread.

    Once you take sking color out of the equation, Shaprtonian black politics becomes just another example of coalition politics, no different than Rick Lazio saying that Hillary Clinton isn’t a real New Yorker.

  79. I don’t want to get into any arguing about Sharpton’s morals, beliefs, or values, but he was the only guy I saw on TV on 9/11 or 9/12/2001 that spoke calmly and rationally and didn’t scare the crap out of me. In my mind, his slate was wiped clean. The Tawana Brawley incident no longer affects my judgment of him.
    Maybe I don’t have the same knee-jerk reaction to him as a lot of folks. I don’t see him as a wicked man, a crook, or a hustler but as a politician who plays in an outdated mode. His significance is fading, not that I believe he was ever all that significant on the national stage.

  80. joe’s technically correct. And in this case, Sharpton’s words are not in-and-of-themselves damning. And if it were anybody but Sharpton I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. But I have to say that I suspect that Sharpton’s as motivated by the benefits of casting aspersions on the racial/ethnic credentials of a rival for black leadership as he is by policy considerations. Certainly Sharpton has carefully maintained deniability in his statements, but it does not take much of a stretch to see that he’s pointing out that Obama’s a half-white immigrant, not an all-black with generations of American discrimination in his history.

    If it was Jesse Jackson, I’d buy that this wasn’t carefully worded to avoid explicitly stating it while strongly implying it. But Sharpton’s just that one step further down the spectrum of exploitation, and it will take clearer signs of reform than just skirting the edge of racism to deserve the benefit of the doubt.

  81. I do agree with Jason, and perhaps joe and Timothy, that this is only marginally newsworthy. Posturing from a political animal. But I still don’t think that Sharpton’s history is such that it is in any way unreasonable to conclude that he’s attempting to cast Obama as racially impure.

  82. Is Sharpton working to protect his own status, or to maintain the significance of a certain political movement that he believes in? The answer is “Yes.”

    And is doing so by engaging in racialist politics (albeit for once he feels constrained to do so in coded terms). joe, are you really so sanguine about race-based politics in this country of ours?

    C’mon, joe, Sharpton’s entire history is one of race-baiting. And all of a sudden we’re supposed to forget that? Or pretend that this isn’t more of the same?

  83. This whole argument just higlights how rediculus the idea of one “black culture” has become. Check out Debra Dickerson’s bizaar reasoning behind her assertion that Obama is not black.
    http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/index.jhtml

    It seems to me that those blacks that claim to decsend from slaves are racist against the more newly arrived black immigrants. Is it because these new immigrants spend less time wallowing in self pity? Whether Sharpton won’t support Obama because of his ethnicity or because of his policies matters little. Sharpton wants to believe that he represents the “true African-Americans”, you know the ones that politicians should pander to, and becomes defensive when a person with a “different cultural experience” threatens to move black issues past the age-old policies of laying on the guilt trip and begging for hand outs. Surely Obama’s success represents a chance for African-Americans (of which Obama is truly one of having been born in America to parents from Kenya) finally acheive that long elusive dream. More power to them and hopefully men like Sharpton will finally become the fringe of African-American culture instead of its leading figure.

  84. Once you take sking color out of the equation,

    Jesus wept, joe. That’s kind of a major factor to sort of casually toss out the window.

    Would you take anyone seriously who said this about David Duke?

  85. Joe, I think we agree more than we disagree. You mention that the system itself can be racist, and I agree completely. I also think that some sense of solidarity can help address those problems. However, I think the goal should be to get to where race (as defined by ancestry) is simply not meaningful.
    So-two seemingly contradictory statements. Solidarity can be good. Thinking about people in terms of groups is bad. The two do reconcile, insofar as individuals can throw their lot in with people in similar circumstances without defining themselves primarily in terms of that group.
    There’s much more to say here, and frankly, this isn’t the best place to undertake a long explanation of what I’m getting at. So, apologies for what is necessarily a truncated and not very coherent statement of my ideas.

  86. Joe,

    I guess our disagreement has been widdled to whether or not its relevant that Sharpton is trying to protect his political status.

    I agree that that’s what politician’s do, but that by itself doesn’t make it irrelevant.

    JasonL may or may not have made a good point that getting worked up about it is a waste of time, but I don’t agree with him that coalition politics is morally nuetral. I mean, if truth gets the shaft because someone is trying to *arbitrarily* (by using unsound tests) posture as the more authentic version of black, democratic, christian or whatever, I’m gonna go ahead and say that its wrong.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t get worked up about it, but that’s a different issue than evuluating its moral merit.

    And while part of the point of a Democratic government is so people can stand in as representatives of causes, the point of a Democratic government is not so demogogues (although Sharpton is a mild version of this compared to say, Farakhan), can continue to employ tactics well beyond their usefulness.

    I understand that these negative things are by-products of democracy, and they’re things we need to live with in order to maintain our overall freedom, but they’re certainly not the point of democracy.

    Which brings me back to relevance. I think that when the REVEREND Al Sharpton so often claims a special kind of moral authority for his views, he needs to shot striaght, that’s all there is to it. One of the main reasons I’m not a republican is because they assert a certain type of moral purity by their alignment with the religious right and by their policies aimed at religious voters. But as anyone can see, they’re not particularly moral in how they go about things.

    Someone may be right to come along and tell me not to worry about it, but that’s not the same thing as saying its irrelevant.

  87. RC Dean,

    “joe, are you really so sanguine about race-based politics in this country of ours?”

    I do not feel that rallying black people around a common set of issues and beliefs is any different than rallying farmers, veterans, or Evangelicals.

    “C’mon, joe, Sharpton’s entire history is one of race-baiting. And all of a sudden we’re supposed to forget that?” No. Unlike highnumber, Sharpton’s actions during the 80s and 90s will always color my view of him, and I will never take him seriously until he does some Maoist-style public self-criticism over them.

    But at the same time, he’s clearly changed, grown, since them. He’s become more thoughtful and less knee-jerk incendiary, and I’m not going to dismiss everything that comes out of his mouth.

  88. Appropriate Vermont Teddy Bear for Obama to send to Sharpton is at link below:

    http://us.st11.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.com/I/vtbear_1936_4368498

  89. RC,

    “Once you take sking color out of the equation,

    Jesus wept, joe. That’s kind of a major factor to sort of casually toss out the window.” It’s not being “casually” set aside. Sharpton explicitly makes an argument here – not an assumption as part of a larger argument, but the very core of his point – that skin color doesn’t matter, that this is about ideas. And not just in the shiny-happy fantasy world of “colorblindness,” just pretending the whole set of issues don’t exist, but is actually grappling with them.

    The difference between what Sharpton is saying, and what you’re trying to get at with the example of David Duke, is that Sharpton isn’t trying to get everyone to ignore the issues of race. He’s putting them front and center, and trying to work them out.

  90. Number 6,

    What do you mean by “no longer significant?”

    My identity as an Irish-American is part of who I am. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – I wouldn’t want to be devoid of culture beyond the shopping mall. I don’t see why it is any worse for African-Americans to feel connected to their family’s backgrounds.

  91. Joe-There’s a difference between acknowledging one’s background and defining one’s self according to it.
    It’s the difference between, “I have Irish ancestors” and “I am Irish-American.” If your ethnicity is the most important part of your identity, you have a problem.
    And it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that the only culture outside of “the old country” is the shopping mall. But that’s a discussion for another thread.

  92. Who says it’s the most important part of my identity?

    Who says it’s the most important part of anyone’s identity?

  93. …and when I call myself an American, I’m defining my identity through a group I belong to every bit as much as when I call myself an Irish American. (I don’t actually put the hyphen in there. Irish is an adjective, not a co-equal noun.)

  94. Joe-I didn’t suggest that you define yourself primarily (primarily is the key word) as Irish American, or American for that matter. But we’re starting to go in circles here, and that gets boring very quickly. So, I think I’ll just stand on what I’ve already said.

  95. As a black man I’d like to say, screw you Al. I’m with you that we shouldn’t vote for Obama just because he’s black, but don’t tell me he isn’t our kind just because he doesn’t do everything you would like him to do the way you want him to do it.

  96. Joe–

    As I read this thread, I applaud you for forcing everyone to address what Sharpton actually said rather than the subtext that is so tempting for each of us to stick in.

    That said, I still think there’s something here you’re not addressing. Sharpton’s statement that we should judge not on skin color but on beliefs and accomplishments is great, but then he follows it with “just because you’re our color doesn’t make you our kind.” Sharpton seems to be saying not that skin color doesn’t matter, but that skin color alone isn’t good enough.

    Your Irish example is the same thing. Saying we should vote for a “real Irishman” doesn’t sound to me like anyone with the right beliefs qualifies, but rather that only an ethnic Irishmen with the right belief qualifies.

    I guess I’m saying I agree with Fenevad. This is really an argument for two litmus tests.

  97. Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. Just as there is no such thing as a collective or racial mind, so there is no such thing as a collective or racial achievement. There are only individual minds and individual achievements.

    -Ayn Rand

  98. It’s late and I am tired so I am unable to post here. That is too bad because this is exactly the kind of muck raking argument I like best.

  99. “I’m defining my identity through a group I belong to every bit as much as when I call myself an Irish American.”

    Joe, do you really refer to yourself as an Irish American?

  100. As much as I tend to cringe when folks post Rand quotes, that one says it very well.

  101. wayne,

    I define myself as “Joe Boyle.”

    I’m a short, smart, liberal, middle class, Irish man from Massachusetts, who lives in the city and has a background in Urban Planning.

    I’m also a dad and a husband.

    I bring up one or more of these characteristics as the situation warrants.

  102. It’s good to see that Rand agrees with Sharpton about the irrelevance of genetics.

    It’s too bad she never managed to get her head around the concept of culture.

  103. Joe, by way of clarification, when you say “Irish man” do you mean son of an Irish immigrant with a white American, or a descendant of Irish Americans who is ‘one of’ the Irish American community? Because just because you’re the same color as an Irish American doesn’t mean you are one.

    I keed I keed!

    ish.

  104. Or for that matter, are you the son of a short man with a tall woman, who just happens to look short.

    Sorry, the absurdist in me is really yearning to break free. And yes, I am a descendant of long-standing American smartasses, not just a half-smartass johnny-come-lately.

  105. lunchstealer,

    Keep in on the down-low, but I also spent four years in an Irish religious school.

  106. Oooh, real Irish street cred. Don’t worry, joe, your secret is safe with teh innerweb.

  107. Sharpton: “Just because you’re our color doesn’t make you our kind.”

    Joe: “Rand agrees with Sharpton about the irrelevance of genetics.”

    I’m going to assume joe is using the Bizarro World dictionary, where up is down, left is right, and Al Sharpton is colorblind.

  108. Ooh, your assuming is so truthy!

    Yep, you sure got me there, where Sharpton says that being the same color doesn’t make you part of a certain group.

  109. “I’m a short, smart, liberal, middle class, Irish man from Massachusetts, who lives in the city and has a background in Urban Planning.”

    Joe, I am a middling tall, moderate, middle class, hybrid of several groups that have been put upon in the past, man from Kentucky. I grew up in the city, Chicago, in an Irish neighborhood for a while and a Mexican neighborhood for a while. The hyphenated American thing has always kind of annoyed me, but I can live with it.

    Urban planning… They could use you in Iraq; God knows, they need some planning.

  110. Defending Sharpton? Sharpton? The man who gave us the Tawana Brawley episode?

    Jezismarja! Joe has completely lost it.

  111. Sharpton and Jackson both want the same two things:

    money and power.

    Who will give them a better deal, Hillary of Obama?

    Which one has more to lose?

    I say Hillary gives them the better deal and they keep on ripping obama until the primaries.

  112. Unless Hillary manages to paint him as a “Stepinfetchit”, Obama will have the black vote no matter what the good Reverend says.

  113. I agree with Fenevad and Power Forward in that it seems like Al Sharpton is strengthening the litmus tests, rather than weakening them in a color blind way.

    By saying that perhaps Obama isn’t one of their “kind” Sharpton seems to be going farther than groups who share interests because of ideology or shared goals, like environmentalists, veterans, union members, etc.

    I see how it can look like Sharpton is trying to say that the race of the candidate doesn’t matter, but considering Sharpton’s background and the recent racial stuff surrounding Obama, it seems more like he’s saying that in order to be one of their kind, you need to be black and share Sharpton’s ideology.

    I know Clinton was referred to as “the first black president” but Sharpton isn’t big on Clinton, neither is Farakhan, Cornel West, etc. Meaning these people aren’t as generous with their praise for Clinton as many in the black community.

    Of course Jesse and Clinton are allies.

    Anyway, it seems like Sharpton is putting up more walls, not tearing down old ones.

  114. great topic, first its quite easy to point out that al sharpton’s argument is baseless, the issue is not obama’s blackness but its the status quo of al sharpton. come on, if obama is not black enough is hillary black enough? maybe i am color blind. Al sharpton have used black community for his personal gains, what has he really achieved for black people? we Know he’s being given money by clinton machine to discredit obama? why not talk about obama’s issue’s and not blackness. we all know that obama legislative record in Illinois and community work ,proves his great achievement for poor communities mostly the black.black people should stop the idea of giving people like al sharpton blank cheques..no am wrong nobody should say that what al sharpton thinks all black people think like that…thats the nonsense of the media

  115. It is easy to see what the Sharpton/Obama feud is about. It does not require any real feeling on Rev. Al’s? part that Barack isn’t “black enough.” It’s all about power and money, and heritage only comes into it insofar as Sharpton, like Jesse Jackson, is a representative of the “leadership tree” that has its roots in the Civil Rights establishment, the Black Church, and the racial spoils system that originated in the Johnson Administration. The Senator isn’t a part of that network, which means that he isn’t beholden to those who run it, the way a Harold Ford or a Kweisi Mfume? would have been, had they made it into the Senate and later decided to run for the big job.

    BTW, I’m also an American of Irish descent, with my late paternal grandparents our family’s most recent immigrants. I only ever identify as “Irish American” when I’m discussing Ireland or the culture of the Irish diaspora. When I’m around folks who were actually born in Ireland, I’ll politely wait to let them call me “Irish.” It’s rather presumptious for a narrowback to do otherwise.

    What drives me nuts is when I go to an explicitly I-A event, and run into members of my ethnic group who assume I share the cliched traits of the group: Catholicism, allegiance to the Democratic party, New Dealish politics and, in some particularly obtuse cases, a sympathy for the feckin’ Provos. That despite having a Catholic education I have quit the church, was raised in a Republican household, have never been a fan of dirigisme and converted to libertarianism shortly after hitting voting age, and think that the Provos are a mess of commie bastards tends to give these folks pause. I expect they don’t want to hear me recite from Rothbard on the example of the Brehon Law as a form of anarchism, but I digress. My point is that, once one’s family gets disconnected from the immigrant enclave it first found itself in, white ethnic identity isn’t as reliable a marker for political identity as it was in the old neighborhood. If I had to hazard a guess, members of Catholic ethnic groups who dealigned from the Democrats and/or realigned into the Republicans did so for two main reasons. The first is economic. My immigrant grandmother became an American citizen and taught school. She was a member of a New York City Democratic Club. Her American-born son fought WWII, took a job in a suburban school district, and became an Eisenhower-era Republican. For many of the “ethnics” who voted for Nixon and/or Reagan, economic circumstances pushed them to the Republicans, but so did the matrix of “social issues” – chiefly crime and abortion.

    Many black Americans are also immigrants, but of an internal kind. The Great Migrations that moved so many ex-farmhands into the industrial cities of the North resulted in enclaves for their people, too. Racial segregation has proven to be much harder to overcome than ethnic segregation, and while some areas of the country (Queens, NY, the DC suburbs) have seen a significant rise of middle-class homeowning African-Americans, our central cities remain as both cultural and population hubs for the black population. Even the much more recently arrived, and, in some cases just as impoverished Hispanic groups spread out more than A-As do. They also are less of a political monolith.

    I think it is telling that Obama, who has taught at the University of Chicago Law School, was elected to the Illinois Senate from the Hyde Park district. He was at once representative of the ultraliberal and whiter-than-most-U of C community, and of the neighboring poor and black South Side. That district has a habit of electing Democrats who are independent of the regular Cook County machine, which was probably why a Hawaiian-born blow-in with an Ivy League background caught on there.

    Kevin

    1.) Actually , the proper stile for a Protestant minister is “The Rev. Mr. John Jones” when you write it, and “Mr. Jones” when you say it. “Pastor Jones” would also be correct, if and when the minister is appointed to a congregation. Of course, one can swap in “Dr.” if the clergyman has been granted a doctorate.

    2.) Despite the African name, the former Frizzell Gerald Gray is all American African-American.

  116. My basic response will be in our university’s newspaper in the context of Malcolm X and the definition of Uncle Toms, and will read as thus:

    This notion [conservative/Bush appointee does not equal Uncle Tom] doesn’t seem to stop Al Sharpton, who recently appointed himself Grand Inquisitor of Blackness by stating: “Identity politics should not be based on race, it should be based on agenda and policy [?] just because you’re our color doesn’t make you our kind.” We get it Al: if you aren’t a race-baiting liberal democrat you aren’t black and don’t care about blacks.

    That is pretty much what I pulled from it, with my own snark and wit added in.

  117. Barack Obama is actually racist to Hispanic Americans in Illinois!
    It can be verified with documented evidence Barrack Obama as an Illinois Senator has been placed on repeated written notice of ongoing illegal race discrimination against American Hispanics. I ,a Hispanic American, have been denied the right to formally officially file race discrimination “IDHR & EEOC” charges against Hormel Foods Corporation and UFCW at the agencies IDHR & EEOC in Illinois since 2004 when in fact other nonHispanics are allowed to file such charges of Race discrimination. Despite Barack Obama and his office having full knowledge and understanding of this serious situation Barrack Obama a civil rights attorney himself has refused to hold anyone at IDHR & EEOC accountable for their actions regarding the issue of IDHR & EEOC discriminating against Hispanic American complainants and to date Barack Obama is not investigating or even asking for any independant third party to investigate this racial discrimination citing only a separation of powers. It is unconscionable for Barack Obama to have used this device as it regards race discrimination which has effectively empowered IDHR & EEOC to maintain their illegal & discriminatory position and with Barack Obama’s inaction Barack Obama is in fact discriminating against Hispanic American constituents of Illinois.
    American constituents who happen to be Hispanic are being harmed by Barack Obama who to this date continues to condone such illegal and discriminatory misconduct by his inaction.
    This information can be verified by any news media so if you want the truth demand they cover this story as it concerns every American!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.