Some African-Americans have raised the question about Barack Obama, "Is he black enough?" The young senator's problem is that he is not white enough for a lot of Americans who I think are not ready to accept a man of color as president. This is sad. If Obama got the nomination, I would gladly vote for him rather than any of those no-good Republicans.
I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but white racism has been driven underground. Few white people today will voice even a legitimate criticism of an African-American lest they lose their job or get crucified by the press and be branded as a racist. But just because people keep silent or even maintain a fašade of tolerance doesn't mean that prejudice has been extinguished. We would be far better off if white people felt free to express their true opinions. Then, at least, we would know where everybody stands.
There is no genuine debate in America on the subject of race. Like the state of Israel, the subject is forbidden if it involves criticism or dissent from the politically correct views. This is not good. Hidden prejudice is difficult to combat.
Thomas Jefferson said words to the effect that lies or errors are not to be feared as long as people are free to debate them. Prejudice of any kind is, after all, an error in thinking. These days it is equated with hate, but that, too, is an error. A person can be prejudiced but not hate what he's prejudiced against. People can hate without being prejudiced. The point is that errors in thinking can be corrected if people are free to discuss them. Hate, which is an emotion, is another problem altogether. Haters generally hate everybody, often including themselves.
Sen. Obama was lionized at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He has become a celebrity and draws nice crowds at his personal appearances. But he remains far behind Hillary Clinton despite the fact that he is twice as intelligent and thoughtful, and, no doubt about it, he would make a far better president.
True, he is jug-eared and sounds often too professorial, and many Americans today are looking for stars rather than leaders. But I believe the hidden wall is simply prejudice against the idea of an African-American as president.
Right up through and long after the War Between the States, the belief that African-Americans were inferior was universal. The North was as prejudiced as the South. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French observer, noted of America that "The prejudice of the race appears to be stronger in the states which have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never been known." Even Abe Lincoln expressed his belief that African-Americans were inferior and could never live as equals among whites.
Such deeply ingrained beliefs are difficult to get rid of, especially if, as we have done, we have created a situation where everyone feels compelled to hide them.
As I said, I sincerely hope that I am wrong about this. Obama would clearly be superior to Mrs. Clinton or to any of the Republicans, with the exception of Ron Paul. Nevertheless, I fear the senator is too white for some blacks and too black for some whites.
November 5, 2007
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2007 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.