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John Ridley

John Ridley

Posted: January 25, 2008 03:18 PM

In Defense of Race Cards


If you were playing, say, Pai Gow poker in Vegas and you found a table where the dealer showed his cards before you set your hand, that's the table where you'd wanna put your taw into action. It's always better to know what's on the table rather than having to guess what's in the hole. Which is why for the life of me I can't understand why people are so darn consternated over Clinton and Obama (and their spouses and supporters) and the various race cards they've been publicly playing of late. Sure, it's petulant and puerile, and we'd be better off if the candidates debated more pertinent issues. But we'd also be better off if the election strife in Kenya got play over Britney's latest shave-my-head-threaten-my-kids meltdown.

It is, however, the real world and so we might as well live in it.

And in the real world even the most intelligent, high minded people have racial hang ups.

That, by the way, is what I like about bigots. Where the high minded love to espouse tolerance before going home to their self-segregated neighborhoods to tell jokes that lead off with two people not-like-them walking into a bar, bigots do you the favor of just dumping their various cards of bias right on the table: public considerations of how we'd all be better off if we'd listened to Strom Thurmond back in the day. Giving tips on how to take a bite out of crime by aborting all black babies. Demonstrating to the press they'd never use a word like faggot by using the word faggot. Those folks, while beleaguering to endure, are easy to ignore.

The high-minded tend to parse their words so often-times we are left wondering about their intent.

I don't really care to wonder.

I want to know if Senator Clinton really believes that it took a president to get blacks their civil rights. I want to know if Obama really thinks that taking money from Indian-American supporters really makes Clinton (D)-Punjab. What did Andrew Cuomo really mean when he said the presidential candidates can't shuck and jive their way through a press conference?** Does Michelle Obama really think that blacks who don't vote for her husband constitute the slumbering masses?

And even though it was clearly meant in jest, does Obama truly believe the appropriate response to the question of whether or not Bill Clinton was the first black president resides in Bill's dancing abilities?

Not his SAT scores. Not the hours of community services he completes each month. His dancing abilities.

Harmless comments taken out of context and whipped to a froth in a media cycle? Maybe. But if were gonna sweat Don Imus or Kelly Tilghman, don't presidential candidates deserve as much of our hot attention?

So as off-topic as it may seem, I'd rather know about the cards they're playing sooner rather than later.

Later being after I cast a vote for them.


**My post originally contained this sentence: "What did Andrew Cuomo really mean when he said Obama can't shuck and jive his way through a press conference?" As has been noted in a number of news sources (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/11/nyregion/11cuomo.html?ref=us), Cuomo was referring to all of the presidential candidates. I have updated the sentence to reflect this.