Bring It On!

Is This Race All About The Race?

July 27th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

There is a perception that Barack Obama exudes a degree of hubris that may be viewed negatively by a number of voters. The unasked question is whether this impression has its origin in the fact that Barack Obama is actually an over confident candidate or simply a candidate who exceeds the standing or status many voters feel comfortable attaching to a black man. In other words, isn’t it possible that a number of white voters have a problem with accepting an intelligent and competent black man as their equal…let alone as their next president?

Part of the problem with America’s struggle with race centers on the fact that the issue may have become an unspoken prejudice long before it ceased to exist. Specifically, I think it’s plausible to argue that the success of the civil rights era may have inadvertently been to stifle overt displays of racism rather than extinguish the underlying prejudices that motivate acts of intolerance and discrimination.

Take a look at what is happening with the polling on the 2008 election.

From The Chicago Daily Observer:

Obama continues to run substantially worse than the hypothetical generic Democrat, meaning the public has not yet fully made up its mind about him.

Which is to say that if the candidate were, say, John Edwards or any such substantial white guy it would, for all practical purposes, be over right now.

I warned earlier that all polling to date must be taken with large doses of salt, but one pattern has been fairly consistent: Obama’s lead has ranged from roughly 4 to 8 points while the generic Democratic vote this time around ranges from 10 to 12.

There are other readily explainable reasons why Obama runs behind the generic Democrat: His exotic background–African father, Indonesian schooling, oddball middle-name and so forth also come into play.

Which gets us down to the real, still largely unspoken question of race.

There are still loads and loads of Democrats and independents who are unlikely to vote for him because of what still remains what Gunnar Myrdal called the American dilemma.

That is the real referendum on Obama.

More importantly, it’s a referendum on us.

As such, I’m suggesting that the nature of racism has merely evolved and the 2008 election is our first foray into unearthing the essence of its transformation. I would equate it with the construct of passive aggressive behavior. It’s akin to the teenager who is jealous of the academic success of a rival student. Rather than address the issue (animosity) head on, one student attacks the physical appearance of the rival student or promotes the perception that the other student’s success comes from being a brown nosing goody two shoes. I suspect many Americans are predisposed to expressing their racial animosities accordingly.

Let me offer another example to make my point. As a gay man, I’m keenly aware of those individuals who describe the visibility of gays as an “in your face” effort to force society to acknowledge or accept homosexuality. Simply stated, the message imparted by this rhetoric is meant to remind gays of their status and their position as lesser members of society who should be grateful that they are allowed to exist…so long as they continue to refrain from outward displays of pride (hubris).

In fact, the evolution of gay rights and the assimilation of homosexuals into society mirrors the process whereby outward demonstrations of racism became unacceptable and the laws that institutionalized it were removed. Regardless, the deep seated sources of racism have yet to be extinguished…just as will be the case with homophobia as gays achieve equal status. In the end, while legislative equality may prohibit certain acts of racism or homophobia, it can rarely remove the ingrained bias that can still be expressed without recourse.

In the following videos, The Daily Show uses humor to uncover and expose elements of this very phenomenon. Though the state often acts appropriately to correct institutional injustice, elections remind us that the state is woefully unable to halt the long standing bias that is frequently exhibited in the ballot box. While our judicial structure makes it increasingly difficult to legislate bias once it’s been identified and purged, democracy, by its nature, can do little to extinguish it in the individual.

The 2008 election will have a winner and a loser based upon the votes of the people…and history will undoubtedly record it as a valid democratic election. As is often the case, history will also note the validity found in the commentary and cultural observations of the time…which will include satirical programs like The Daily Show that sought to highlight the bias that democracy is unable to expunge from the individual.

In the end, the objective of an enlightened society ought be to endeavor to mitigate the lingering bias of the individual at the same time that it prohibits its legislative imposition by the state. Only then will our elections actually be about the issues and not about the skin color, the sexual orientation, or the gender of the candidate.

Wyatt Cenac Visits With Jewish Seniors In Florida

Larry Wilmore: Bad Timing For A Black President?

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 15 Responses to “Is This Race All About The Race?”

  2. By Lisa on Jul 27, 2008 | Reply

    “There are still loads and loads of Democrats and independents who are unlikely to vote for him”
    See now if Obama were a Republican ,republican voters would still vote for him because the
    racist republican voter base their choice on the letter R after a name and similar views
    as opposed to the letter D, not because of the color of one’s skin.
    If Bobby Jindal were the nominee I would vote for him .
    I like the way it’s Moveon and liberal bloggers who keep race the issue .
    It’s not like FOX can influence anyone because who watches them anyway,republicans?
    Or Moveon/President Soros watching them so they can make a mountain out of a molehill.

  3. By Lisa on Jul 27, 2008 | Reply

    I forgot one thing Daniel, I think Obama has a good chance of winning this race and if he does what do you think would be the main reason why?

  4. By Lisa on Jul 27, 2008 | Reply

    I’m sorry,other than Hope and Change and race.

  5. By Liberal Jarhead on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    Hubris - interesting. I can think of some politicians in both parties who do ooze hubris, i.e. arrogance and entitlement, but he isn’t one of them.

    Dubya himself is the most obvious Republican example, with his messianic certainty and “God likes me better than you” attitude. On the Democratic side of things, I like Bill Richardson’s policies but he’s about as arrogant and overbearing as they come (he’s been the governor of my state for several years and I worked in state government for a lot of that time, so I saw way too much of him. I’d vote for him because he’s effective and gets good things done, but I don’t like him.)

    But that’s not the impression I’ve gotten from Obama’s appearances or his words in print. The impression I’ve gotten is that he is pretty down-to-earth and listens to people.

    Does anyone give examples of this Obama hubris they’re talking about? I’d like to see them.

  6. By Daniel DiRito on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    Liberal Jarhead,

    I’ve heard the accusation from numerous media pundits (CNN, MSNBC in particular…I try not to watch Fox) as well as on the blogosphere. The first one that really annoyed me came from Andrew Sullivan. If you do a Google search for “Obama + hubris” it will return numerous results.

    My impression is that this is an adjunct to the elitist label the GOP is attempting to attach to Obama. Recall the 2004 image of John Kerry wind surfing? Accusations of having an “uppity” wife? The GOP always returns to the well if they believe it’s to their benefit. Here’s some links:


  7. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    Does anyone give examples of this Obama hubris they’re talking about? I’d like to see them.

    Without lending credence to them, I offer this.

  8. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    And this.

  9. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    And this.

  10. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    And when Andrew Sullivan begins blogging signs that he thinks Obama might be just the teeniest bit hubristic, there might just be something to it.

  11. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    And then there was the whole thing where he, apparently unlaterally, added 10 new states to the union. Now THAT’S hubris!.

    I kid! I kid!

  12. By Daniel DiRito on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    Craig, Craig,

    How dare you demonstrate such hubris…it was only seven additional states! LOL.


  13. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply


    But he had not yet visited three other states. One main-land state and Hawaii and Alaska. 57+3=60. NOBODY does hubris like Obama! ;-)

  14. By mr bigstuff on Jul 29, 2008 | Reply

    i’d say michelles babies daddy chances are a helluva lot better than good.

    the number of states matters not. the magic number is 270 and that is virtually a mathematic impossibility for ole p.w. songbird unless the cheney/rove cheat machine gives him the secret code to the diebold vote stealing programs. i hear tell that p.w. songbird offered up one night of sordid republican debauchery with the natty light queen in exchange for the secret code, but since republican politicians prefer penis over puss, they turned down the offer.

  15. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 29, 2008 | Reply

    Mr. Bigstuff, get a life. It was a joke. Jeez.

  16. By mr bigstuff on Jul 30, 2008 | Reply

    now i get it. ha ha ha.

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