Believe it or not, we read and think a great deal of the New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. He is clever, smart, and a good writer. But recently we think he has made a big mistake (besides writing for the New York Times). McCain recently ran a TV ad that we believe was devastating, linking Obama with Paris Hilton. His point was obvious: just because somebody is a celebrity, you would not vote for them to have their finger on the atom bomb. Bob Herbert interpreted the commercial as being “highly sexualized” and designed to feed stereotypes about what black men really want, i.e. white women — or, at least some similar nonsense.
Mr. Herbert misses the point. The point was that both Paris Hilton and Barack Obama are famous for being famous. Indeed, Mr. Obama is the Paris Hilton of politics. Neither one of them had basically accomplished much after they obtained a certain pinnacle — Paris Hilton doing her nightclubbing (arguably, her imprisonment), and Barack Obama being elected to the Senate. Yes, we know he was against the Iraq war, but so were our brother-in-laws, but neither Obama nor our brother-in-laws were Senators at the time and were not in a position to put their money (our brother-in-laws would have to borrow it from us) where their mouth was.
Mr. Herbert views the campaign apparently, as do many other people, sadly, as being one that turns on the linchpin of race. Ironically, the only candidate who seems to have brought race to the campaign was Mr. Obama. (“You know, [I don’t] look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”)
We do, however, believe we do live in a post-racial world — at least here in America. There is not a person this side of a lunatic asylum that hires or fires somebody because of their race or religion. We basically hire the person who can best do the job.
Of course, many years ago race permeated hirings, firings, admissions to schools, etc. The biggest national bank would say in their want ads, “Jews need not apply,” and if you were African American they would do you a favor if they took your money. Now, the last president of Citibank was a Jew, and the CEO of the largest entertainment company in the world (Time Warner) is an African American.
We believe the cogent point in Obama’s nomination and his triumph is the nomination itself. When Michelle Triola sued Lee Marvin, the actor, for palimony, she was successful in having acquired that right. Everyone forgets that she basically received nothing through the courts, but what she did do was establish a principle, namely that palimony would be alive and well and living in America. Similarly, by Obama’s being nominated, it meant that a particular glass ceiling had been breached. Now, he must rise and fall on his own abilities, achievements or lack of them. We do not believe that anyone would or would not vote for Obama (except for a few nitwit plantation owners in the South) because of his color and, indeed, our suspicion is that even these same people would vote in the blink of an eye for Colin Powell.
If racial prejudice is not dead in America, hopefully it’s taking its last gasps, so let’s not give it resuscitation.