the singularity of the narrative

In the early days of the Obama phenomenon, I harbored hopes that Barack Obama's viable candidacy might cause a sea change in the way America sees itself in terms of race, as it does appear to be genuine evidence -- in the broadest possible sense -- of the final demise of American racism as we once knew it. (And I'm old enough to remember it in its primeval ugliness.)

Little did I know that even if his campaign turned out to be successful (which it was when he won the nomination), that would not be seen as evidence of the demise of racism, but as occasion to turn up the accusatory, even inquisitory, volume.

Stuart Taylor Jr. looks at the racial grievance crowd's narrative, and sees it as expanding rather than contracting:

An African-American candidate with left-of-center views and less than four years in the Senate appears poised to win the presidential election over a seasoned white war hero who was until lately a media darling.

And Barack Obama's favorability rating (53 percent favorable to 33 percent unfavorable) in a recent CBS News/New York Times poll was "the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years" of that poll.

There is much to celebrate in this, even for supporters of John McCain. Win or lose, Obama has proved (if more proof were needed) that although many blacks are still mired in poverty -- a legacy of our racist history -- contemporary white racism has been driven to the fringes and is no longer a serious impediment to black advancement.

So, is the racial-grievance crowd celebrating? Hardly. Instead, the obsessive search for ever-more-elusive evidence of widespread white racism and sneaky appeals to it goes on.

Yes, and the obsessive "search" (inquisition is more like it) has reached truly absurd proportions.

The race boils down to racism.

Discussing the poverty of Obama's Kenyan brother "implies" that Barack Obama is black.

Bill Ayers is the new Willie Horton. (This was an improvement on the earlier narrative that discussing Ayers was "tinged" with racism.)

Socialism is code language for black.

Of course, if Obama loses, the country won't be seen by the grievance machine as a place where a black, left-wing, first term senator can become president, but as an evil racist place which will never allow a black man to get ahead. And we will all be in for the biggest collective scolding in American history.

What should the lesson be if Obama loses? "Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him," Weisberg asserted in August. "If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race."

This is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that. A chorus of such commentary after an Obama defeat would reinforce in the minds of black children the pernicious myth that there's no point studying or working hard, because the white man will hold them down no matter how good they are.

And if he wins, any criticism of his adminstration will be taken as another attempt to keep the black man down.

If that's the narrative, then the narrative sucks. And I mean literally. The racial grievance narrative sucks so bad that it will engulf and devour anything in or near the periphery of its path.

Why, its sucking power is almost astronomical.

And while an astronomical term might be in order, don't expect me to use a racist term to describe it, OK?

Certain things can't be tinged with humor.

What's satire for me is someone else's deadly serious grievance.

Onward and downward!

posted by Eric on 10.24.08 at 09:34 AM


When people cling to a narrative that unreasonably, stretching it to cover almost unrelated items, they may be accurately sensing that there is little else to cling to there. When the corn is gone, people clutch the husks frantically.

I am not suggesting that victimology will all soon go away - there is too much of it resurfacing in theis election to believe that - but the wild extensions we are seeing in the racism claims may not be a conquering of new territory, but a grasping at straws. How are you going to convince kids who elected an African-American the first time they voted that the country is hopelessly racist?

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  October 24, 2008 10:13 AM

To prove the legacy of racism is over in America: do not elect the black man.


M. Simon   ·  October 24, 2008 10:27 AM

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