After skimming the blogs on race and politics this morning before the South Carolina polls closed, I voted for the following as best line:
As soon as there was a real black person standing in his way, Bill [Clinton] wiped the cork off his face and reminded the entire electorate that however bad the Clintons were or are, they were still at least white. They were still not "outsiders," no brown skin, no Arabic or Swahili names. They still at least belonged in the White House, where Obama had no business even thinking he was running, being a "kid" and a "roll of the dice" and all.
The whole post, at Too Sense : Race, Politics and Hip-hop, is also a useful gauge of the impassioned confusion that still reigns—and rains—in so many quarters as the historically aberrant campaign of Barack Obama versus the Clintons rolls on.
And now (10:15 pm est) that Obama has thumped Hilary in S.C., it's gonna be coming down really, really thick for the next nine days until Super Tuesday. My executive summary: don't believe anyone who talks as if they know what this means. Don't believe the New York Times headline declaring a "coalition of white support" in Obama's S.C. win. Don't believe this post at Afro-Netizen, holding up the alleged corpse of "post-racial America" just long enough to spit on the grave it still refuses to bed.
Don't believe anything Bill Bennett says on CNN, on GP. (That's 'general principles' for those of you who don't speak North Bronx).
You don't have to believe me, either, but believe these facts:
- Barack Obama goes into Super Tuesday tied two-up with Hilary in caucus/primaries and ahead in delegates.
- Whether it suits him strategically or not, whether he has solicited its support based on race pride or not, black America is mobilizing for Barack Obama.
- Even in the deep South, Obama remains as much a cause as a candidate among whites under a certain age.
- Woe be unto the Clinton's if they try anything like last two weeks again. Their black non-elected surrogates like Andrew Young and Bob Johnson are now officially toast, useless to them, if not to themselves.
- South Carolina magnifies and underlines the writing the Clinton's black elected official supporters have already seen on the wall. Yes, they will be with Hilary for as long as they can. But no, they will not be putting their necks on the railroad track of the Obama train by attacking him.
Is America past race? Hell no. Does America really want to get past race? Hell yes; the only question is how bad. Bad enough to go up against every ineffable inherited assumption about the inevitability of white supremacy? For under-40 white America, the answer, so far, is 'yes'.
Bad enough to turn on Bill and Hilary Clinton? That's what we're about to find out.
Don't believe the fervent chants "Race Doesn't Matter" rising from Obama headquarters in South Carolina tonight. Race still matters. But don't disbelieve the spirit in those chants that still refuses to hush: race need not matter for much longer, at least not the way it used to.
Yes, I was more than willing to take Toni Morrison's metaphorical confirmation of Bill Clinton as the first black president literally. Yet now I have to accept his recent conviction in the court of cultural politics: Bill adroitly removed the burnt cork from his face, and did everything he could to smear it on Barack Obama. It seemed, they said, to throw Obama off his game. It seemed, they said, to reveal him as "the angry black man."
There has never been a teflon for what the Clinton crew tried to stick on Obama. Until, perhaps, now.
There he is, not so much on CNN, but YouTube, before a roaring crowd of mostly black folks and those same young white people. When he toasted the "most diverse coalition in history" they spontaneously shouted back "Race doesn't matter." He doesn't look any blacker for his run-in with the Clinton surrogate army. Obama's challenge was never convincing white people to see him as white. It was to see him the as he sees himself, and in the process a better reflection of themselves.
" I did not travel this state...and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina, I saw South Carolina."
Some call such a statement the height of denial. But, when Franklin Roosevelt came into every living room with "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" in the face of the Nazi war machine, America denied the reality of our position all the way to pre-eminent superpower.
When he drops phrases like "the categories that supposedly define us," the crowd goes nuts. He becomes a vessel for every yearning for validation as unique individuals beyond category. He becomes the repository for a vision of America that, like Brigadoon, only emerges from the mists when the politics of hope meets the politics of fear at a critical historical intersection, and somehow hope beats the light.
It ain't over yet. But God seems to be favoring Obama with an extended yellow light.