Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, stalwart booster of the classic English game whiff-whaff and inveterate offender of the Papuans, has thrown his support behind Sen. Barack Obama. A big reason, Johnson says, is Obama's race, which, he figures, would have a profound effect on all of those white racists he's read about in The Guardian. A sample:
And then there is the final, additional reason, the glaring reason, and that is race. Huge numbers of voters, whether they admit it to themselves or not, will hesitate to choose Barack Obama for President because he is black. And then there are millions of white Americans who will undoubtedly vote Obama precisely because he is black, and because he stands for the change and the progress they want to see in their society.
After centuries of friction, prejudice, tension, hatred—you name it, they've had it—America is teetering on the brink of a triumph. If Obama wins, then the United States will have at last come a huge and maybe decisive step closer to achieving the dream of Martin Luther King, of a land where people are judged not on the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I note that only one person has been shot by racist hooligans for wearing pro-Obama gear—and it was in the city Boris Johnson governs, not in the hillbilly USA. For a writer as consistently entertaining as Johnson, this is surprisingly weak, we-are-the-world stuff. (Also note BoJo's upbraiding of McCain for his impromptu "bomb Iran" song, which he acknowledges was a lame joke, but suspects would make the Iranians want a nuke even more if the Republicans win. Coming from Boris, whose gaffe tally is notoriously high, it's not a very convincing bit of criticism). Johnson's colleague at the Telegraph, America correspondent Toby Harden, thinks so too, arguing that the race bit is especially thin gruel.
With a seemingly straight face, Boris argues that race is a "reason" for wanting Obama to be elected, blithely stating that many white racists will vote against him because he's black while many blacks will back him because of he's one of their own. And yet—get this—an Obama victory will show that in modern America "people are judged not on the colour of their skin but by the content of their character". Talk about trying to have it both ways.
Boris concludes, with a customary flourish, that Obama being elected would mean that being black would be as relevant "as being left-handed or ginger-haired". Yeah, right. Somehow I doubt we'll be reading Boris columns about the need for ginger-haired American presidents to inspire persecuted carrot tops everywhere.
If Obama wins, Old Etonian born-to-rule Boris pronounces, "black people the world over will be able to see how a gifted man has been able to smash through the ultimate glass ceiling".
Well how about a black politician being judged on his economic and foreign policies rather than his value as an inspiration to other blacks?
I have a piece on Obama and race in the current print edition of reason, to which you should really subscribe if you haven't done so already.