Politics & Policy

A Post-Racial President?

Obama's policies have been the opposite of his rhetoric, with race as with other issues.

Many people hoped that the election of a black President of the United States would mark our entering a “post-racial” era, when we could finally put some ugly aspects of our history behind us.

That was quite understandable. But it takes two to tango. Those of us who want to see racism on its way out need to realize that others benefit greatly from crying racism. They benefit politically, financially, and socially.

Barack Obama has been allied with such people for decades. He found it expedient to appeal to a wider electorate as a post-racial candidate, just as he has found it expedient to say a lot of other popular things — about campaign finance, about transparency in government, about not rushing legislation through Congress without having it first posted on the Internet long enough to be studied — all of which turned to be the direct opposite of what he has actually done after getting elected.

Those who were shocked at President Obama’s cheap shot at the Cambridge police for being “stupid” in arresting Henry Louis Gates must have been among those who let their wishes prevail over the obvious implications of Obama’s 20 years of association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Anyone who can believe that Obama did not understand what the racist rants of Jeremiah Wright meant can believe anything.

With race — as with campaign finance, transparency, and the rest — Barack Obama knows what the public wants to hear, and that is what he has said. But his policies as president have been the opposite of his rhetoric, with race as with other issues.

As a state senator in Illinois, Obama pushed the “racial profiling” issue, so it is hardly surprising that he jumped to the conclusion that a policeman was engaging in racial profiling, when in fact the cop was investigating a report received from a neighbor that someone seemed to be breaking into the house that Professor Gates was renting in Cambridge.

For those who are interested in facts — and these obviously do not include President Obama — there has been a serious study of racial profiling in a book titled Are Cops Racist? by Heather Mac Donald. Her analysis of the data shows how this issue has long been distorted beyond recognition by politics.

The racial-profiling issue is a great vote-getter. And if it polarizes the society, that is a price that politicians are willing to pay in order to get votes. Academics who run black-studies departments, as Prof. Henry Louis Gates does, likewise have a vested interest in racial paranoia.

For “community organizers” as well, racial resentments are a stock in trade. President Obama’s background as a community organizer has received far too little attention, though it should have been a high-alert warning that this was no post-racial figure.

What does a community organizer do? What he does not do is organize a community. What he organizes are the resentments and paranoia within a community, directing those feelings against other communities, from whom either benefits or revenge are to be gotten, using whatever rhetoric or tactics will accomplish that purpose.

To think that someone who has spent years promoting grievance and polarization was going to bring us all together as president is a triumph of wishful thinking over reality.

Barack Obama’s past and his present tell the same story. His appointment of an attorney general who called America “a nation of cowards” for not dialoguing about race was a foretaste of what to expect from Eric Holder.

The way Attorney General Holder has refused to prosecute young black thugs who gathered at a voting site with menacing clubs, in blatant violation of federal laws against intimidating voters, speaks louder than any words from him or his president.

President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court is, like Obama himself, someone with a background of years of affiliation with an organization dedicated to promoting racial resentments and a sense of racial entitlement.

An 18th-century philosopher said, “When I speak I put on a mask. When I act I am forced to take it off.” Barack Obama’s mask slipped for a moment last week but he quickly recovered, with the help of the media. But we should never forget what we saw.

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2009 Creators Syndicate, Inc. 

Thomas SowellThomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author, whose books include Basic Economics. He is currently senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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