[Ta-Nehisi]

...from arguably the last group of people who should be giving advice on race. I won't get into this too much, but I just want to say that rather than writing a memo to Obama on how to deal with "white voters" and the "race problem", Newsweek would have done better to send "white voters" a memo on how to deal with Obama and the "race problem." It was tragic to see so many interviews with folks in Kentucky and West Virginia saying point blank that they wouldn't vote for Obama because he was a colored. The conclusion always was, "Wow this is a huge problem for Obama," not "Wow. this is a huge problem for these people."

I know that seems backward, but roll with me for a second: We can all agree that a presidential election is an extremely important event, arguably the most important mass event in the country. If you have voters who essentially disqualify candidates, on race alone, isn't that, like, kind of a problem for the voters? Please do not counter with "but blacks vote for Obama on race!!" As I've said before, it ain't the same dog. Blacks--because we've basically had no other choice--have a long record of voting for white people, and will continue to do so. A guy who openly says "I'm not voting for a black guy," get's no such consideration.

Anyway, my point is that this is of a piece with the widely held view that racism is basically a problem for black people, not whites, that our history of slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, housing covenants are an injury to black people, not to the larger country. We think about the Civil War, as a war to free the slaves. But here's another way to think about it: It cost us 700,000 American lives--and the near fracturing of our country--to accomplish something that the rest of the civilized world accomplished with the stroke of a pen. I'm simplifying I know, but the point is racism poisons everything and everyone. Black folks obviously pay the most obvious price, but we really aren't its only victims.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.