Monday, February 12, 2007

Who is afraid?

From this weekend's Meet the Press

If America actually nominates him and then votes for him for president and elects him, this will be a sign that we are a good and decent country that has healed its racial wounds. Now, Jesse Jackson had a same subtext, but Barack Obama is a much different politician than Jesse Jackson—much less threatening, much more appealing, and he actually has the ability to carry this off. (from Glenn Greewald's excellent blog.)

That was Roger Simon, Chief Political Columnist for The Politico, a beltway online mag. I don't know much about Simon, but some preliminary research shows he is still claiming that McCain is "a straight-shooter" and that McCain is "honest and authentic enough to tell you what you don't want to hear." Media Matters has the video here. That, coupled with some false indignation regarding John Kerry's "botched joke" tells me as much as I need to know about him for now.

Greenwald makes an excellent point when analizing the above quote:
One could say, I suppose, that Jesse Jackson was more ideological and further to the left than Obama is -- though I think that is far from clear at this point. But even if one believes that, in what conceivable sense was Jesse Jackson "threatening" in a way that Obama is not? Jackson -- whatever else one might think of him -- is a Christian minister whose speeches almost invariably were grounded in religious concepts of faith, hope, charity, and aiding the impoverished and disadvantaged, and were free of racially inflammatory rhetoric, or any type of notably inflammatory rhetoric. Even for those who disagreed with Jackson politically, in what sense could he be viewed as "threatening"?

What do we as a culture mean when we say Jesse Jackson is threatening? He's not a criminal. You could even nominate all 47 members of the Wu-Tang Clan and I don't think anybody would actually think Method Man is gonna come to Whitey's house, sew his asshole shut, and just keep feedin' him and feedin' him and feedin' him.

So, threatening how? Jackon threatens to increase visibility for marginalized groups and their needs? Well, yes, although no one could actually come out and say that worried them.

Does the fact that Jackson is "more threatening" than Obama mean that we as a culture could live with our white daughter bringing a 19 year old Obama home after her Freshman year at a high end liberal arts college, but the idea of Jackson taking her away is too much to bear? Why should that be the case? Is is a matter of skin tone? Are we really no further than the days of "passing"? A man like Simon sees Obama as Black like black people should be Black. For Simon, being more Black than Obama is threatening, and therefore marginalized, but Obama is acceptable, which we know because he is "less threatening."

The same as the Biden post below, maybe Simon could explain himself given the chance, which is another discussion entirely. It's just interesting to push these words a little to see the underlying assumptions.