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September 21, 2006

The GOP's Best Tool For Recruiting Black Voters: White Liberals

The more time you spend around them, the more you want them to lose.

The night of [Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention] I'm in a bar by myself in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and what do I hear all around me by the white hipsters as we watch the Democratic Convention together? "Wow, he's so articulate." "This guy should be president, look how well he speaks." "Wow, I'd vote for him." And it really hit me all at once...these guys are really patronizing. They deliberately go out of their way to vocally champion him in earshot of everyone else not so much for what it says about Obama but rather for what it says about them. I'm tolerant. I'm not racist. I'm a member of the "new" America, the kind that's multicultural, metropolitan and eats at French bistros all day (we were actually next door to a French bistro). I want to be sure everyone hears me vocalize my support for a black president. It all seemed so transparent and self-serving. Even worse is when I could feel people sneaking peeks at me, as if guaging my reaction to their progressiveness. I didn't respond.

But that word "articulate" kept flying around the bar. Over and over. And it really bugged me, because it was so damn patronizing. How often do you hear people marvel at a white guy just for being articulate? It's considered par for the course; it's what you expect for a white guy. That's why Bush gets so much flack for being inarticulate, because mere articulation is considered such a basic skill for a white politician that Bush's lack of it is found to be appalling. When these white liberals go on and on about how incredible it is for Obama to speak well, it speaks volumes about their expectations of black people. They hold black people to lowered standards, then praise them for accomplishing things that are considered the norm for white people. What they're really saying is "he's articulate...which for a black guy is incredible."

Bonus: John McWhorter on the one real reason everyone's big on Barack Obama, but won't admit. (Hint: It's related to the fact that he's articulate.)

No one likes to be objectified, even if that objectification is supposedly "well-meaning." I have to imagine it's pretty grating for blacks to constantly be cast in the role of Damsel in Distress for Great White Heroes to untie from the railroad tracks. Well-meaning, sure, but still essentially props in the narrative of White Liberal Heroism.

Or, in the style of the vacationing, screenplay-writing Jeff Goldstein, blacks are merely signifiers, reified ideations, in a narrative of white liberal superiority.

Or something.

Many of our choices are signifiers of who we are (or, at least, who we perceive ourselves to be, or how we would like to be perceived). But when human beings are used essentially as tribal-signifying fashion accessories, you're getting into a kind of dicey area.

Typo Patrol... Corrected this one, corrected some of my more egregious typos on earlier posts. What the hell is wrong with me today?


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posted by Ace at 02:45 PM

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