Wednesday, October 08, 2008

disturbing thoughts.

Yesterday I heard about the most upfront racist statement I've ever heard on the radio. No, I wasn't listening to some kind of shock jock and the n-word wasn't used. But the sentiment was palpably racist.
"I never really thought about whether or not that I was racist, or however you want to put it," said Tina Graham. She fears Obama would focus on African-Americans at the expense of poor white people like herself. "It's just the fact that I think that he will represent them, and what they want, and what they need. ... They're his people, they're his race." (You can listen to the NPR story here.)
While looking up that hyperlink, I was confronted with this story on the NPR homepage: "Searching for a President 'Just Like Us.'" This story is less about implicit racism than the populist appeal at work in both campaigns, but the title arrested my attention; for this is exactly what is at work in the aversion to Obama expressed in the above quote. He's not like me, this VA voter is saying. He is Them. And They are something to be afraid of--what They want and need is different from what We want and need, and we better make sure We elect someone who's going to work for Us. Not Them.

But what's been disturbing me today is not so much the spectre of implicit and unacknowledged racism or all the talk about "the Bradley effect" and how that may undermine Obama come election day.

What's disturbing me today is the realization that, for my own part, I dislike McCain because I recognize that McCain is Not Like Me. (He's hawkish, I have a peace dove tattooed on my foot. Etc.) Now, I hasten to assure myself, "Self, I have good reasons for being Me. So it's okay, there's nothing wrong here. It's a matter of principle and thoughtful rationale, not knee-jerk not-like-me-ness." I'd like to believe myself. But then there's Sarah Palin. Who is also very, very much Not Like Me.

And Obama is, perhaps surprisingly, Like Me. ("professorial!" oh, that warms the cockles of my heart, people!)


jocelyn said...

I heard another, similar comment on NPR a few days ago during Morning Edition. It's chilling that it's 2008 and we're still here. And yet, like you, I wonder how far I really am from that same place. Maybe I can just mask it better (from others and myself). I pray that's not the case. But if McCain wins, I'm seriously contemplating a move to Canada. Or at least the Northeast. :o) So maybe I'm in a similar boat as the NPR commenters, except my beef isn't about race.

Casey. said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting someone who is "just like us" to be our president. That's the way it's always been, and that is the basis for revolutionary movements everywhere...looking for a government that has your best interests at heart, and who will represent the things that you stand for and that are important to you. The problem comes in when "like us" includes things that are not ideological, but instead are outside of the person's control, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.

Anonymous said...

That would have disturbed me too. It's crazy that some black people don't like Obama because he isn't black enough and some white people don't like him because he's black. It's terrible that it is an issue. He's human people, and he will (hopefully) stand up for human rights.

JTB said...

like me, not like me aided & abetted by campaign rhetoric "you want a candidate who is for YOU." lots of variations of this from Bill, Hillary and Joe Biden this afternoon. I am undecided whether this rhetoric is divisive in itself, or simply in its effect when voiced to a divided society in which voters assume that someone "for me" necessarily has to be NOT FOR someone else, or maybe not for anyone else. The words of Tina Graham demonstrate that attitude pretty conclusively...