When it comes to success in America, Blacks are urged to stay out of trouble, work hard and play by the rules. Yet again and again, the rules change when it comes to Blacks reaping the rewards of hard work or claiming prizes earned by sweat and sacrifice.
We have seen in the case of Sen. Barack Obama, the likely Democratic nominee for president, a shifting of rules and the blurring of lines. He played by the rules in Florida and Michigan, only to be accused by the Clinton campaign of involvement in an effort to cheat voters. He won a majority of delegates, only to have Hillary Clinton concoct a new theory. She had more popular votes–counting Florida and Michigan, states where neither candidate campaigned. In Michigan, Sen. Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot.
She counted Puerto Rico in her fuzzy math-popular vote equation, though residents of the island can’t vote in the November general elections. Sen. Clinton’s faulty figures ignored caucus voters.
Sen. Obama has tried to rise above, or at least avoid race, only to have Sen. Clinton make sometimes subtle and often overt appeals to White voters, “hard-working Americans, White Americans.” He has tried to run an upbeat campaign only to be the subject of “jokes” about assassination from Liz Trotta, a Fox News Channel analyst, and former GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, with Sen. Clinton making the observation “anything” can happen in a political race and citing the assassination of Bobby Kennedy as he campaigned in June 1968.
In a new political development, media attention on remarks by Father Michael Pfleger led to an apology by the pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church for the manner in which he spoke about Sen. Clinton and feelings of White entitlement in remarks at Trinity United Church of Christ. But the White priest was speaking about race from his perspective as part of a dialog. The United Church of Christ had announced a dialog on race would be held at UCC congregations to promote understanding and reconciliation after the initial attacks on Trinity over media misrepresented statements by Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Father Pfleger was asked to speak about race and was making points about the mindset among Whites that they are entitled to the presidency. Sound bites were used to make his words into a political problem for Sen. Obama, who withdrew his membership from the church.
Given the history of America and the pre-primary and early primary talk of Mrs. Clinton as the presumptive presidential nominee and expectations of a “coronation,” instead of an election, it is highly reasonable to conclude Mrs. Clinton had a sense of entitlement and her actions suggest it was connected to race. Otherwise why would she and her husband, former President Clinton, appeal to what filmmaker Michael Moore called “the worst side of White people?”
It is undeniable that Whites enjoy a sense of entitlement in this country. The threat from extremist White forces is reflected in the heavy Secret Service security detail around Mr. Obama and his family because of real threats on their lives from racists who feel a sense of entitlement and do not want to see a Black man in the White House.
Blacks are very sensitive to innuendo and subtleties that inject race into the campaign and are not voting for Mr. Obama just because he is Black. They feel he will make a good candidate. Blacks are falling out with the Clintons and see the powerful couple, not just in a legitimate race for the presidency, but spoiling a legitimate chance Mr. Obama has to make history.
As the New York senator has focused on the lack of Obama support among some White voters, anemic Black voter support for Mrs. Clinton has been largely ignored. The not-so-subtle suggestion seems to be that Black voters will rally to Mrs. Clinton regardless of what has transpired, but Whites will not side with Mr. Obama, even if it is in their best interest.
Harriet Christian, a self-proclaimed Clinton supporter from Manhattan, called Sen. Obama “an inadequate Black male” and blasted the Democrats for “throwing the election down the drain” May 31 at the Democratic National Committee rules committee meeting in Washington, D.C. “God damn the Democrats,” declared Ms. Christian, in a rant captured on video and posted on YouTube. She predicted angry Clinton supporters would walk away from the party. The older White woman was upset with the DNC decision over the seating and voting power assigned to delegates from Florida and Michigan.
Dirty politics and slash and burn campaigning has fomented the type of attitude expressed by Ms. Christian and have rubbed America’s racial wounds raw once again. The Clinton legacy may be forever tarnished with Black America and “first Black president” Bill Clinton may find his ghetto pass has been revoked.
The challenge, however, goes beyond the primary campaign and raises a question about the state of the American electorate and race relations.
Despite an unpopular war, a limping economy, skyrocketing gas prices, soaring food prices, and a devastating home mortgage crisis, if Mr. Obama is the Democratic nominee, the race with Republican candidate John McCain will likely be close for a single reason–a Black man is running against a White man. That racial reality quickly closes any gap between the longtime senator from Arizona and the young politician who brings a message of change.
The so-called “Bradley effect,” which is the tendency of White voters to cast significantly fewer ballots for Black candidates than polling shows, has cropped up in national and statewide elections. When that tendency–and racial fears among voters are fed–it is not good for the country.
The battle for the highest office in the country should focus on ideas and visions for America’s future. America is in a precarious position, with her international image and popularity at perhaps all-time lows, her war-weary citizens worried about the future and her economy in a lurch. If the age-old problem of racism taints the mindset of the American electorate, it will be another sign that its poisonous original sin may doom this nation.