Monday, March 3, 2008

More Post-Racial Nonsense

Oops. Turns out the pundits were wrong. Now we're getting reports that far from being the first and greatest post-racial politician, Barak Obama may actually be setting back the post-racial movement in America. At least, that's what Shelby Steele says, as explained in a recent article in Prospect Magazine.

I have to admit that I don't think I entirely understand the logic of what Steele is saying. However, the parts I do understand don't really hang together. The gist seems to be that whites see Obama as someone who will leave all talk of race behind and just happen to be black. Meanwhile, blacks see Obama as someone who will act as a new kind of civil rights leader and advance the black cause for equality. As these necessarily conflict, Obama can't achieve both. Thus, his presidency would disappoint one group or the other on racial grounds. Thus he is not post-racial and may even set back the movement for his having tried.

This is exactly why I hate the phrase post-racial so much. It doesn't reall mean anything and just gets people's heads twisted up in knots.

First of all, I'm not sure if the choice is as stark between pleasing black America and pleasing white America. As Obama himself might say, There's only the United States of America. But even from there, I'm not sure if this argument makes sense. First, it assumes that whites wouldn't see their own interests represented in efforts to bring all people equality. I think this is false. Steele also seems to assume that blacks only want massive programs of enforced equality, which I also think is false.

The entire argument seems to say that there is no one who could ever bridge the racial divide in America because helping blacks upsets whites and ignoring race upsets blacks. Not only is this view overly pessimistic, I think it's as much nonsense as saying phrase post-racial to begin with.

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