I can't stand white liberals. Obviously I can't stand white liberals. I don't intend to be converted again...White liberals, in my mind, become frightened of you saying the words any more. I have one thing against white liberals which is their assumption that their morality and what they take to be civilisation and their religion is something which I need. It seems to me that the only way we can deal with each other as human beings or as social units is to understand that we have to give to each other.
- James Baldwin, 1965
I said earlier this week that the Clinton strategy is to level as many racist attacks as possible, hoping to provoke Obama into pointing out that the attacks are racist, attracting the resentment of white voters. Apparently, Obama doesn't even have to say anything; the Clintons will blame him for the blacklash among black voters created by their own racist appeals.
"I'm particularly offended at the way some have taken out of context and apparently deliberately tried to mislead others about what was said," said Clinton inside a local Mexican restaurant in Reno. Clinton called the attacks "baseless and divisive." She went on to say that she was "personally offended at the apporach taken that was not only misleading but unecessarily hurtful."
"It clearly came from Senator Obama's campaign and I don't think it is the kind of debate that we should be having in our campaign."
Yeah, well my feelings were hurt when you told me they I needed to be humbly thankful to great white father Lyndon Johnson for taking the political risk of signing Civil Rights legislation rather than admiring the contributions of regular people, who risked life and limb to fight for my rights.
Notice the patronizing tone:"it clearly came out of the Obama campaign" as though we don't have eyes and ears to see for ourselves and our own minds to make up.
What you have to understand, more than anything, this strategy is based off of the kind of liberal white paternalism that has worked hand-in-hand with overt racism to hamper black advancement for decades. The rationalization behind these attacks is that in the end, the Clinton campaign is doing what is best for us as black people, because Obama couldn't win in the general anyway. You see? by using racist stereotypes and distortions of black history to defeat Obama, they are helping us, our childlike race, who are incapable of making the right decisions for ourselves. We couldn't possibly be supporting Obama because he has convinced us that he cares about our issues and actually has a chance to win, it's only because we're shallow and want the emotional reward of having a black president. (Only white people could possibly view such a desire as 'shallow'. They are, after all, used to the constant reassurance of their own superiority. Condi is a hack, but you know what she means to a little black girl? She means she can see herself there someday.) Liberal or conservative, the great white minds that run our country all think they know what's best for us, and so they never listen.
It's like Baldwin said. You think white liberals are your friends; but then your figure out, someday, that the only difference between them and conservatives is that they feel sorry for you, and you never respect someone you feel sorry for. Someone's political beliefs are not an indication of their maturity with issues of race.
But let's talk about the kind of "debate" Senator Clinton thinks we should be having.
- Bob Kerrey, in endorsing Clinton, refers to "Barack Hussein Obama" and later tells CNN that he spent time in a "secular madrassa".
- Clinton official Bill Shaheen says that Obama will be asked if he "dealt drugs". To my knowledge, he will be the first presidential candidate to ever have that accusation leveled at him.
- Soon after, Mark Penn goes all cocainecocainecocaine on Hardball
- Bill Clinton refers to Obama as a "kid" (Why didn't you just call him a "boy" Bill? It's not so hard. Just say "Now look here boy...")
- Hillary belittles the legacy of MLK and other Civil Rights Activists
- Clinton supporter Andrew Cuomo uses "Shuck and Jive" in an interview, claims it didn't refer to Obama even though he was talking about Hillary's win in New Hampshire
- A Clinton adviser is quoted anonymously as describing Obama supporters as people who "want a hip black friend".
What conversation is it, really, that Clinton wants to have? One that starts with us all agreeing that Obama is some uppity nigger who has no place running for president?
The flagrantly racial tactics of the Clinton campaign have even begun to stress out Josh Marshall at TPM, who wrote a post explaining that he was having a hard time "dealing with the issue".
I'm discussing this with you because it's quickly become a complicated editorial issue for us to deal with.
It's genuinely unclear to me how much one side or the other is consciously pushing this, how much it's escalated based in part on misunderstandings, or whether, in a somewhat related fashion, hyping journalistic accounts has given the engagement a life of its own.
Some of the statements recently attributed to the Clintons have seemed at best awkward in how they're discussing race and the civil rights movement, others have struck me as unobjectionable statements interpreted in a tendentious fashion.
Marshall is characteristically diplomatic in not assigning blame, but I have to invoke the "don't start none, won't be none" rule here. The existence of the issue is proof that there is an issue. There was no issue until the Clinton campaign began attempting to goad Obama into playing the race card. Until today, the Obama campaign didn't even mention it.
UPDATE: I have to emphasize that when I say "white liberals" I don't mean white people. A person who identifies himself as a "white liberal" to a black person is trying to use the work of others as a proxy for the emotional growth every American has to go through to cope with race. That's why it's dishonest. It's not that I don't believe that white people and black people can't be friends or love each other, that's fucking ridiculous. What I'm saying is that doesn't come from making excuses for why someone can or can't do or be something.