Thursday, March 18, 2010

What You Get When You Judge a Man by the Color of His Skin

Imagine a man who’s been awarded educational prizes based on questionable merit in a corrupted system, whose youthful predilection for Marxism and Marxists he has never fully disavowed, whose adult devotion to a preacher of Coughlinesque anti-Semitism and fire-and-brimstone anti-Americanism he has expediently and only reluctantly repudiated, whose self-description as a con law professor has forced a university, tripping over itself to avoid challenging the tarting up of his resume, to offer a more “nuanced”  description of his duties there, whose political career and principal vocation over most of his life has been the promoting of the victimological approach to policy-making—and some impressively dexterous self-spinning.

Now, to steal an image from John Grisham, imagine that man is white.

Do you fill his coffers and elect him . . . to the school board? Chairman of the City Council? (Should he run for a lesser spot on the City Council first? Nah! Why waste the time?) Can you envision him as Public Safety Commissioner of, say, Birmingham, Alabama? How about Police Commissioner? Do you see him as your state senator? Or even, with some expert advice and fortuitous opponent-choosing, your U.S. senator? All of the above, maybe.

Or maybe not. If that man is, in the marvelously felicitous phraseology of Mr. Joseph Biden, “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” and you are a progressive liberal-minded intellectually-inclined elitist, apparently what you do is give him loads of your money and all your loyalty, elect him president of the United States, and congratulate yourself publicly, mightily, and often, for so doing.

But now what? Let’s say your interest runs to foreign policy. A year has passed during which your chosen one has made worse than a hash of that: It’s in deep disarray. It and he and all his dogsbodies have devalued us everywhere, pinballing reactively from crisis to disaster, and when they should be fighting withdrawing like snails into shells, leaving behind just the slime souvenir. And, worse, much worse, they’ve targeted our one true democratic friend and ally in the Middle East—a country whose existence you cherish—for censure and contempt, to your great shock and unhappiness. What do you do?

You could tell the truth about him that he’s just an articulate enough black man with none of that American-exceptionalism-trumpeting jingoism you’ve found so embarrassing, so distasteful, elsewhere, and sufficiently presentable to have qualified for your largesse, and about yourself that you’re just a racist in reverse. But that’s a remedy you probably won’t seek. There is an antidote, though, to the damage you’ve done, which requires a bit less courage than the truth-telling: Keep the hole of worry, anger, and horror your president’s enmity for Israel has bored into your heart like a mezuzah on your doorpost to remind you of who he really is, and when the time comes to open your wallet and pledge your allegiance once again, do so for somebody who has earned it by more than just the accident of the color of his skin.


  1. "Keep the hole of worry, anger, and horror your president’s enmity for Israel has bored into your heart like a mezuzah on your doorpost to remind you of who he really is..."


  2. ...actually, maybe I can expand on that,

    I think you give too much credit for conscious awareness in liberal American Jewry. In my experience, which unfortunately exists in my family, the preferred expression is... blankness, followed by incomprehension. The NYT-reading, middle aged reformed high-holiday, Chinese food-eating suburban quasi-Jew spends more time sending small checks to the Sierra Club than thinking about Obama. Obama's election was an affirmation to the self, a small badge of cheap courage, another token to place on your Toyota's bumper sticker. Since all politics to this person revolves around the self, to question the moral result of her vote is to challenge her morality.

  3. You, Miss Rachel, are a great writer!

  4. Great post, with one exception: a racist in reverse

    I know what you mean, but there is no such thing as a 'racist in reverse.' You're either a racist or you're not.