Affirmative Action, Sista Souljah And Obama
Noam Scheiber has a very interesting take on Obama as a politician with an uncommon aversion to, well, politics:
Obama has tended to shun similar stunts when they relate to race. The run-up to South Carolina was rife with talk that post-racial Obama was morphing into a decidedly pre-post-racial candidate. To reverse the slide, blogger Mickey Kaus suggested he give a speech embracing class- rather than race-based affirmative action, something Obama had flirted with in the past. Kaus had a point: The atmospherics would have been irresistible to ambivalent whites. I pushed a milder form of the idea on my own blog. Not long after, I got a response from an Obama adviser: Never gonna happen. Urging Sister Souljah politicking on him was the surest way to provoke a scowl.
Matt quotes the same section in making an argument for an Obama switch from race-based to class-based Affirmative Action. For the most part, I also believe in the class-based approach. First of all, forgive me, but I'm not much concerned about the middle class black kid--and there are a lot of them now--who has to go to a lesser state school because he didn't get his first choice. He should have applied to Howard University, and maybe Hampton, anyway. My greater worry is for poor kids for whom college is simply not an option. The fact is that there are disproportionate number black kids who fit in that box.When Obama said his daughters shouldn't receive Affirmative Action, I think a lot of black folks understood that. I think there are plenty of white folks in this country who certainly won't enjoy the privileges that my very black seven year-old son will enjoy as a child.
But a word on the Kausesque Sista Souljah suggestion. Obama is right to resist this. A switch from race-based Affirmative Action to class-based Affirmative Action is an honorable policy. Embracing that policy in order to demonstrate to whites that you aren't a nigger-lover is loathsome. The fact is that the net African-American population in states like West Virginia and Kentucky is minuscule, and race-based Affirmative Action has almost nothing to do with why those states are economically depressed. I would go so far as to say that if you surveyed the average white voter and asked him to list his concerns, abolish Affirmative Action wouldn't even come up.
I think people often forget that Obama is actually black, and saying to a black man that he should kick the shit out of his own to show he's down with the club is, in the main, insulting. I would submit that Obama finds the Sista Souljah tactic distasteful as human being, but also as an African-American. Using black people as a bogeyman to, quite literally, scare up votes is an old tactic. Let's not marry that vile strategy to something that actually is a decent idea.