Who Does A Guy Have To Lynch Around Here?

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So this is me on Ferraro in Slate:

The racist card is textbook strawmanship. As opposed to having to address whether her comments were, as Obama said, "wrongheaded" and "absurd," Ferraro gets to debate something that only she can truly judge—the contents of her heart.

It's a clever and unassailable move: How would you actually prove that Ferraro is definitively a racist? Furthermore, it appeals to our national distaste for whiners. It's irrelevant that the Obama campaign never called Ferraro a racist. It's also irrelevant that Ferraro said the same thing of Jesse Jackson in 1988. And it's especially irrelevant that Ferraro apparently believes that Obama's Ivy League education, his experience as an elected official, and his time of service on the South Side of Chicago pale in comparison with the leg-up he's been given as a black male in America. By positioning herself as a victim of political correctness run amok, Ferraro stakes out the high ground of truth telling.

A couple commenters pointed out that I never explicitly said why I thought Ferraro's comments were racist. Fair enough. Basically anytime you reduce someone success or failure strictly to their race, the comment is racist, no? The most potent aspect of racism, to me, is that it simplifies people, it dehumanizes them, and strips them of all complexity. Ferraro argued that the most essential factor in Obama's success was that he was lucky to be black--not his skills as a politician, not his intelligence, not his education, not his speech-making. He's black, and thus is getting a pass from hypnotized blacks and, more importantly, sympathetic whites.

When you discount all of someone's attributes, and essentially say that, but for the sympathy of white people, you would not be in this race, I don't know what else that is, besides racism. It's dehumanizing, belittling, and false. Again, if I said that the only reason Hillary was in contention is because she's a woman, that would be patently sexist. There'd be no debate at all. So why are all complicated about race?

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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