What if Barack loses?

I try to stay away from prognostication. But even the kid has his moments of weakness:

That's why an Obama defeat would be met with resignation more than rage. No one is more tired of talking about racism than black people. The disenchantment with protest politics, the fatigue from refighting old battles over school integration and affirmative action, even the rise of politicians like Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick point to a shift in the disposition of black America. The big issues of the day aren't so much racial profiling and police brutality as the achievement gap, the incarceration rate and unemployment. The great race conversation has not only decreased in volume; for black people, it's also become much more introverted. At this moment, black America is in the grips of a kind of barbershop conservatism that is more concerned with its own progress than with the attitudes of whites.

So, yes, an Obama defeat would be greeted with a loud sucking of the teeth and a deepening of self-doubt. A loss would be hugely disappointing, and to put it crudely, it would also be more of the same. But it is also true that the biggest change has already taken place. The Obama campaign has been the anti--O.J. trial, a 24-hour ongoing drama about a black man cast not as a problem but, potentially, as the solution.


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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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