The Spectacle Blog

Racism?

By on 9.10.08 | 3:40PM

Now that I have ripped into the McCain folks for charging "sexism," let me try to verbally eviscerate New York Gov. David Paterson for suggesting that it is somehow "racism" to make fun of Barack Justanotherlyingpolitician Obama's background as a "community organizer." That's bunk, and Paterson knows it. The fact is that Obama again and again has publicly tried to make a virtue of his job as a community organizer, and that it is perfectly fair game therefore to note that the job may not have been much to brag about. Just as Willie Horton was not a Republican attack (Al Gore raised it) and not racism (the same guy who did the ads, Floyd Brown, on his own produced the single most effective ad aver against David Duke), but about the real issue of crime, the belittling of Obama's accomplishments (or lack thereof) is a legitimate way to raise a serious issue, which is the lack of his qualifications for the office he seeks.

It would be nice if both campaigns would stop yelling childish accusations about the others' motives (it sounds like the brat whining to mommy that big brother made a mean look at him) and start acting like adults running for the office of leader of the free world in highly dangerous times.

Now, a caveat: It is absolutely true that the job of "community organizer" is not inherently useless or that it inherently merits belittlement. The reason so many conservatives don't know what a community organizer is, is because so many of them have never deliberately set foot in the inner city. Well, bleep them. I know plenty of people who have done jobs with titles similar to "community organizer" who have accomplished a world of good for the communities they serve. What Obama was trying to do was indeed a noble effort -- even if he took a misguided approach to it and (by his own account) didn't accomplish much. If community organizers take a Kemp-like approach, a personal and community empowerment approach, they can truly turn impoverished areas around. If they just try to organize to put more pressure on government for more or different sorts of handouts, they aren't doing much good no matter how nobly motivated. Based on Byron York's reporting in National Review, Obama seemed to take the latter approach -- and, predictably, wasted much of his time. (It is also worth noting that York's subtext seemed to be that what Obama did is the very definition of community organizing; if that is the assumption, it is wrong. One or even many examples do not necessarily constitute the whole.)

Sarah Palin's speech line tweaking Obama for his background was funny, well delivered, and on target. And it most certainly wasn't racist. But if Republicans overplay it, they betray their own ignorance about what is really necessary to lift a community from distress. On the other hand, if Paterson and company continue to yell racism, they harm the body politic as a whole with inflammatory rhetoric. Then again (again), the McCain folks yelling sexism are guilty of the same sort of sin, albeit on a subject a bit less inflammatory.

A pox on both their houses.

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