Sep 30, 2008

Obama's three challenges [LINK]

My latest letter to the Globe:

James Carroll asserts that "Obama's three challenges" consist of extraneous forces: Americans' perceptions of Race, Gender, and Class, the familiar liberal trifecta. Carroll's formulation is all too convenient, since it ignores "challenges" that pertain more specifically to Obama: negative attitudes concerning his level of experience, judgement, and tendency towards expansiveness. Obama would presumably remain blameless if he were to lose the election, given Americans' rejection of him as black, unmasculine, and nouveau-riche. Carroll's evasive rhetoric serves to avoid the sort of "reckoning" he says is necessary, but apparently only on the matter of race.

Carroll also asserts, nonsensically, that Obama's "genetic tie to slavery goes through his white mother." What exactly does this mean, anyway? Was one of Ann Dunham's ancestors a slave or a slaveowner? That is, after all, what "genetic" means. Or does simply being white represent the same sort of indelible stain as the "one-drop" racial standard Carroll identifies? Is it possible Obama's "tie to slavery" might also go through his African father? Kenya has a long legacy of slavery, one that continues to be a problem today. Since Carroll appears to rule out a "genetic tie" to slavery on that side of the family, is it because the Kenyan slave trade was dominated by Arabs rather than by Europeans, and that it often consisted of Africans enslaving other Africans?

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