I’ve never been one to go around looking for racial aspersions. While I know people who have made searching out transgressions a way of life, I’ve always been so thoroughly in love with being Black that I’ve found very little to be sensitive about. I’ve always understood that while we do have shortcomings within the Black community, there are shortcomings in every community, and while problems in the Black community are often more pronounced, they’ve been magnified by deprivations that we can overcome. Thus, I see that as all the more reason that we should clearly identify our problems and confront them head on, instead of luxuriating in blissful denial, or treating them like some sort of family secret. So, even as a young militant, my militancy was directed toward the eradication of ignorance, not only in the Black community, but in the White community as well, because I understood even then, that our primary enemy wasn’t the people, but rather, the ignorance that resides within the people.
Many have called me naive, as they convinced themselves that the mere acknowledgment of reality constitutes an assault on our image. But I remain steadfast in the conviction that any culture involved in a desperate struggle for survival, yet still manage to produce a Martin Luther King, a John Coltrane, or a Shirley Chisholm, has absolutely nothing to fear from truth. So while some search for transgressions as they try to hide our faults, and others carefully nurture their anger over what America once was, I’ve found myself contemplating the picture of an idealistic young White woman cuddling her innocent, Black baby boy, and witnessing in amazement the miraculous improbability of what that love has wrought.
However, while I spend precious little time contemplating the dying gasp of Jim Crow, I’m not so naive as not to recognize that he still wields a mighty sword; and while I’m not predisposed to looking under every log for injustice, I’m far from so naive that I’ve failed to recognize the pivotal role the sword of injustice has carved out in this historic election.
In that regard, every since it became clear that Barack Obama was more than just a flash in the pan to be tolerated until he could be discreetly pushed to the side, desperation has forced the race card into play by the most unlikely sources. Then, every time Obama says so much as ouch, he’s accused of racist intent. It’s been very subtle, and very shrewd how the scenario is being played out—Obama is being drenched in racial innuendo on a daily basis, and he can’t say a word without being accused of playing the race card. It allows Obama’s opponents to play the race card with impunity, then precludes him from even whimpering a complaint.
I first broached the subject in an article for the Los Angeles Sentinel (5/08) entitled “Is Hillary Engaged in Subliminal Messaging?” In that article I pointed out how curious it was that Hillary would indicate that a Republican was more qualified to be president than a fellow Democrat. Hillary was quoted as saying, “He’s [McCain] never been the president, but he will put forth his lifetime of experience. I will put forth my lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002.”
Many were shocked and perplexed by that comment, but I didn’t find it perplexing at all. Hillary was both desperate and angry at the time, because what she considered an entitlement up to that point, was being threatened by a young upstart-and a Black one, at that. So she dug into her political arsenal and came up with her most potent weapon-the race card.
When considered objectively, her intent was crystal clear. Neither she nor McCain had any experience with being president, and when you compared Hillary’s resume to Obama’s, she had less legislative experience. So what was she talking about when she said, “lifetime of experience”? And since McCain is a Republican and she’s a Democrat, why would she align herself with him against a fellow Democrat? There’s only one possible reason—they are both White. And when you parse her statement, it only reinforces that conclusion.
She said, McCain has never been president, but he will put forth his “lifetime of experience”, and I will put forth my “lifetime of experience.” She didn’t say legislative or governmental experience, mind you, she said “lifetime” of experience. Now, what do both she and McCain have in common in their lifetime of experience that sets them apart from Obama? Correct. They are both White. Then she went on to say, Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002. She seems to have forgotten that Obama also has a lifetime of experience—in fact, his experience is much more extensive than her own.
That’s clear politispeak for the question, what experience in a Black man’s life would prepare him to be president? And her final sentence answers the question as she hoped the voters would—None. All he brings to the table is a speech. But of course, if Obama challenged her on that remark, she’d gasp and say, “How dare you!” Because, of course, she’s allowed herself plenty of room for plausible deniability.
That’s the kind of thing that Obama has to contend with on a daily basis. Another example of the blatant use of the race card is the now infamous John McCain political ad using Paris Hilton and Britney Spears superimposed over images of Obama. There are a number of racial triggers at work here. First, the mere image of attractive White women combined with that of Black man is enough, alone, to inflame many Whites across this country. Then there’s the attendant message that Obama is a high-living Black superstar who is much too frivolous, and will be much too busy playing with his transmogrified White girls, to be trusted with the serious business of protecting the nation.
Then the race card was played again when Obama went abroad. Instead of taking into account how well he handled himself, the ease in which he interacted with other world leaders, and the tremendous reception he received by the people of the world-leadership qualities America desperately needs in order to regain its lost stature in the world—they called him presumptuous, and accused him of acting too presidential. Isn’t that what we’re looking for-someone who’s ready to lead, “from day one?” For any White politician, that would have sealed the election, but they flipped out the race card with Obama, by implying that he’s “too uppity.”
So, is the race card being played? You bet it is—everyday, but not by Obama. We’re making this Black man walk on eggshells on a daily basis-and the sad part is, Black demagogues are joining forces with their demagogic counterparts on the other side (How dare he say we need to help raise our children—what kind of turncoat brother is that?), because there’s money to be made, and careers to be maintained in the anger, hatred, and suffering of the status quo.
Black children are told by their elders that a Black man has to be twice as good. Well, Obama is that and more. He’s not only twice as good, but I’m convinced that there’s a depth to his character that we haven’t even begun to recognize. So if by some chance Obama happens to fail in this effort, it won’t be his failure, it’ll be ours.
Eric L. Wattree
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at