Friday, February 09, 2007

Debra Dickerson: Obama Is Not Black

Having watched Stephen Colbert's hilarious interview with Debra Dickerson last night, I feel compelled to comment on her view that Obama is not black and that white people are only supporting him because of he is not. She writes:
I honestly can't look without feeling pity, and indeed mercy, at whites' need for absolution. For all our sakes, it seemed (again) best not to point out the obvious: You're not embracing a black man, a descendant of slaves. You're replacing the black man with an immigrant of recent African descent of whom you can approve without feeling either guilty or frightened. If he were Ronald Washington from Detroit, even with the same résumé, he wouldn't be getting this kind of love. Washington would have to earn it, not just show promise of it, and even then whites would remain wary.

I have two reactions to this. First, it's just plain wrong. I don't think most, if any, whites make this distinction among blacks. (This goes for both non-racist whites and for racist whites.) Ronald Washington from Detroit would have no problem getting support if he had all the talent and personality Obama has. Look at Oprah: She is wildly popular with whites based on similar reasons as with Obama.

Second, since virtually all of the people supporting Obama are white liberals, not conservatives, she is essentially saying that white liberals would not support a black person descended from slaves. I find this particularly hard to believe, and it further undermines her argument.

ADDED: I think Obama has the right attitude on this issue:

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said his campaign for the presidency "will send a wonderful message to young people of color and to immigrants around the country" if successful.

He makes clear, though, that he hopes to make race irrelevant in his bid to become the first black to occupy the White House.

"If I'm talking about the issues that matter to people, if we do a good job in letting people know who I am and what I stand for … they'll make their judgment not based on my race but based on how well they think I can lead this country," Obama told USA TODAY.

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