Wednesday, January 30, 2008

He’s Black

Last night in my three-hour long English class, the subject turned to the elections.

I tried to solicit the students’ thoughts about the race, just to see what permeates to them through the blogonewsophere.

Someone said, “I’ve heard that Bill Clinton has been saying really bad things about Obama.”

“What’s he been saying?” I asked.

The student said he didn’t know.

Another student, Jeb, who is black, recalcitrant and pretty ridiculously funny (a reliable Chris Tucker impression always kills), said, “I know what he’s been saying.”

Jeb got up to the board.

Jeb makes me nervous. You never know what he’ll do or say for a laugh.

But right then, he just grabbed a piece of chalk and said, “This is what Clinton has been saying about Obama.”

And he wrote: He’s black.


He’s exactly right. It was almost a relief that the subtlety of all this isn’t lost on a smart if edgy guy like Jeb.

That’s what Bill Clinton’s crime is: He’s been pointing out that Obama is black.

And in the same bassackwards way Bill Clinton made us more honest about sex, he’s forced us to become more honest about race.

Why can’t we mention that Obama’s so-called race? Obama does. It’s a theme of his campaign: Race is another false and arbitrary division.

And what Clinton is saying that it really isn’t. And you know what, it really isn’t.

It’s a painful and horrible reality, but this is not a colorblind society. We are a classist society built on a history of racism that seeps into our every day life.

Obama may want to transcend race, or he may just want to ignore it and make it an American issue. I like that idea, but I need practicalities. How are you going to improve lives for the disproportionate amount of black people who are underserved by educational system then locked up by our penal system? I want to know.

Also, the great story of this race is the way that gender is being ignored while sexism pervades the discourse.

People discuss whether Obama is black enough. But the implicit arguments about Hillary are A) she’s not woman enough or B) she’s too much of a woman.

While her husband gets criticized for not acting the role of a good wife, Hillary is trounced by talkradio types everywhere for being shrill, bitchy, even cunty. They may not use those words all time. But you can hear it in their voice. The Hillary hatred in this country is a hatred of a strong woman. It’s too personal. Too strong.

It’s not women, you say. It’s that woman.

And even right there, you’re pointing out the sad truth of this whole stupid game:

We all look stupid when let our prejudices speak for us.


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