THE BLOG
03/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Once You Go Black...

Here we go. Again.

Barack Obama is now 'lucky' to be a black man in politics? That's so convenient, it almost leaves me speechless. What former vice-presidential-candidate bigmouth Geraldine Ferarro inferred about Senator Obama — that he is where he is due to the color of his skin — isn't entirely without merit. It's just that her claims, clarifications, diatribes and subsequent lack-of-apologies are nothing more than insulting race-baiting wrapped euphemistically in a weird compliment. She takes a small slice of a voter's possible selection criteria and puts it front and center, knowing damn well what will happen. Ms. Ferraro conveniently fails to extrapolate that white men have been comfortably riding their race into Washington D.C., state and local offices for 200 years. But now it's a problem that a black man might please a few folk who, out of guilt or pride, might want to see him succeed? It's not that she was simply marveling at America's curious infatuation about Obama's story, but she was applying the sort of cutting and cheap litmus test that I'd expect from the angry white male block. It's the age-old argument that entirely misses the fact that there hasn't been a candidate in our lifetimes that didn't benefit from a certain appeal due to their height, wealth, race, name, faith or smile.

This so reminds me of the O.J. mess over a decade ago, where white Americans woke up to systematic racism and all of a sudden wanted to end it right then. On TV. Mainstream America woke up just in time to protest the first well-known black man in history from being the beneficiary of money and privilege in the criminal justice system. Gee, thanks for tuning in. And they wondered why so many black folk jumped for joy at his acquittal?

So now we have a black candidate who has run what has been — through any historical measurement of success you apply — about the best presidential race in modern times. And Ms. Ferraro, another trailblazer benefiting from her gender by her own admission, wants to reduce all of that incredible success to the results of public sympathies about his race? Or was that public enthusiasm? I can't tell. Listen, if America is feeling guilty and wants to elect the catharsis candidate, go right ahead. Remember, we have two to chose from. Three if you add McCain (lingering Vietnam War Vet sympathies). I'm sure Ms. Ferraro would readily agree that Hillary is a 21st Century echo of the feminist movement and gets quite a bit of steam from that too. But what also isn't mentioned enough is that both candidates suffer under this weight too. America's stubborn issues of race (he hasn't won yet, folks!) and gender (she is clearly under a double standard) are on the front burner.

For the past number of months, I've had to listen to the drone of political reporters and pundits reacting to, dissecting and compartmentalizing the so-called 'black vote' whenever it pertained to Senator Obama. Sure, they also parse the (still angry) white men over 40, the female, the elderly, retired clowns, gay Russian cyclists, and umpteen other sub-categories. But this sort of exit polling and projections have largely been spurred on by the clumsy handling of race and gender by the media. Blacks don't vote as one organism. And to reduce even a vote by somebody like John Lewis to a fist-pumping bout of racial solidarity is insulting to say the least. After all is said and implied, it's white America that has a much longer history voting in unison (for white candidates, of course) than blacks do.

But what worries me most is that the campaign Obama tried so hard to avoid is now taking shape in spite of him due to rogue forces on all sides. And to a lesser extent, the demonization of Ferraro will only force us into our O.J. postures again. To focus voters on Obama's success as a result of mainly race will reduce this to forced political bussing. This will surely drive some whites and conservatives away from his candidacy and make others second guess themselves. Nobody wants to get hoodwinked like the poor white township of Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles. I really hope we're all smarter than this, but I don't know.