Sullivan posts an interesting note he got from a reader:
I worked four years as a teacher in the Black community in Oakland in the early 90's and these ideas from Wright's sermons were endemic. To me the remarkable thing about Obama is that he has positioned himself, and set as a goal for himself, to lead Black culture towards one of participation and non-victimization. You can't do that if you're not participating as a member of the Black community, whatever state you find it in.
How do we go forward? 3 percent of all Black men are in prison, and it's 11 percent of black men aged 25-29. Mostly on drug charges. The community has been in crisis for decades. And here come many conservatives with a message to marginalize the Black community further.
What is more helpful here? That, or putting into a position of leadership someone who has really heard and understood all these arguments in the Black community, disagrees with
them and says so and yet is still respected there, and asks young Black men to take responsibility and shows how it's possible to live a decent life in America? It seems pretty obvious.
The reader makes a huge mistake by conflating his experiences in the black community with the entirety of black America. Also, to put it bluntly, he thinks too much of "mainstream" white people. A healthy percentage of black folks may believe that the government concocted HIV to kill us, but the conspiracy theories of white America are legion--and much much deadlier. A sample:
In a February CNN-Time poll, 76 percent of those surveyed felt Saddam provides assistance to al Qaeda. Another poll released in February asked, "Was Saddam Hussein personally involved in the September 11 attacks?" Although it is a claim the Bush administration has never made and for which there is no evidence, 72 percent said it was either very or somewhat likely.
That was in 2003. It is also an incredible number, and it led to arguably the largest military blunder in the history of this country. Black people do not need to be lectured about conspiracy theories when fully THREE QUARTERS of this country believed Saddam was behind 9/11. This is to say nothing of the religious fictions of the wing-nuts, which Chris Hayes outlined, last week.
Evangelical Christians believe that anyone who has not accepted Jesus as his personal lord and saviour will be sadistically tortured for the rest of eternity, which means that each of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust now spends each instant from here to end of time suffering torture far worse than what they faced in Dachau or Treblinka.
Oh, wait. I think I've gone off on a tangent here.
Anyway, beneath the flaws of that argument there is a salient point. White conservatives have basically pursued an Ahmend Chalabi strategy with black folks. By which I mean, they want to pick who they get to talk to, even though most times, those folks have virtually no standing with black people. I always want to laugh my head off when I hear people propose Ward Connerly or Clarence Thomas as the sort of black guys they'd like to deal with. Don't they know these cats have, like, no truck with us?
Anyway, I think Obama is the first dude to come along in a long long time who has credibility among black folks (In Harlem there are Obama '08 signs in the liquor stores). At the same time he enjoys, at least some, credibility among whites. I also agree that, in general, it's good for black boys to see a brother running for president in this manner. I'm not into the mythology which says that Allen Iverson was the worse thing to happen to black kids. But I do believe that it's worth something that, right now, the baddest black dude in America isn't holding a mic or a basketball. He's wearing a suit and he was the president of Harvard Law Review. Just a little diversity is good for us all.