Barack Obama should no more be a touchstone to race than Rev. Wright is to the black church.
Thousands of African-Americans have run state and local elections without recourse to Obama’s stereotypes or odious associations. Dozens of black pastors have commented on national politics without stooping to the hatred of Wright.
Gov. Jindal made thousands of appearances without voicing angst about the legacy of Anglo imperialism in India; Joe Lieberman ran for vice president without evoking German responsibility for the Holocaust. Americans cannot accept that Obama’s candidacy must be a referendum on one’s racial liberalism or that the son of a white mother and African national father gets to play by a different set of rules from past African-American and other ethnic and religious candidates. One cannot imagine how a Jindal or Lieberman could have made race and religion, and the politics of grievance, prominent issues in their campaigns rather than incidental to their identities.
The candidate creates the climate of the campaign, and the media reacts accordingly. Obama’s dilemma is that in the past his conscious evocation of identity politics and the Wright liaison bore local and regional fruit, and, in his inexperience, he didn’t know quite when to quit while ahead when he entered the national limelight.
Likewise for the last six weeks too many prominent African-American politicians, intellectuals, professors, and ministers chose to defend Wright on the airwaves (e.g., by defining Dr. King down, by evoking ‘black liberation’ theology, by straining to find false credence for his lunantic theories on AIDs, 9/11, etc.) before Wright cut their legs out from under them all by confirming the supposed past snippets were hardly that, but fair representations of what he stands for, by giving a racist speech on brain chemistry and genetics, and by his sinister effort to undermine their candidate. Again, all that was not the “right wing freak show” but the logical dividends from the investment of Obama & Co.