Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Too much and too little to say

I've intended to elaborate on race and Geraldine Ferraro, but I've been busy. I apologize to all three of my readers.

But today Barack Obama gave a truly incredible speech, one that a) deals with race in a beautifully nuanced way, and b) reinforces why I will vote for him. Given that nuance, I'd like to mention a few words and phrases about race that demonstrate how shallow American discourse is:
  • the race card: I've written about this before, so I'll just link to that post and mention one other thing. Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford published a book in January called The Race Card: How Bluffing about Bias Makes Race Relations Worse. I haven't read the book yet, though I want to. But I hate the title; it reinforces this stupid notion that talking about race is a game. Ford's black, and that's really what disappoints me. He's allowing a term designed to short-circuit discussion a certain weight in a book that is, by many accounts, intelligent and nuanced.
  • racist: When asked about Geraldine Ferraro's idiotic comment that Obama is only a serious candidate because he's black and whether her comments were racist, he said he hesitates to use the term. And here's why: overt racism isn't as easy to identify these days. Does Ferraro look racist next to, say, the KKK? Or, for a less extreme comparison, to Rush Limbaugh?
  • race baiting: If you want to feel ill, go read the National Review blog "The Corner." (I won't link to it; you know how to use google.) For some reason, and I just can't figure out why, the writers there compare Obama to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson; one approvingly cites an email that says Obama is practicing race baiting. This term is similar to "race card," similar enough that I don't feel compelled to explain why. (But if one of my three readers wants an explanation, I'll append one.)
And one more sad thing: Obama gave a great speech today, and writers at Slate and The New Republic worry that the speech is too nuanced for Americans and might put voters off. Sigh.

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