Friday, August 1, 2008
The Race Card
What they're going to try to do is make you scared of me...you know, 'He doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills'. - Barack Obama
Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. - John McCain campaign
You know, I’ve always hated the phrase “the race card”. I’ve always thought that the fact that a person would even let this phrase cross their lips tells me all I need to know about their views and opinions on race. Once I participated in a wrap-up session for an internship program I did in the ad industry, and an offhand mention of the dreaded “race card” was directed at me when I dared to mention feeling a little discomfort at being the only black male intern at my agency. In our society, which remains too undereducated and afraid to engage in frank talk about race, the “race card” phrase functions as a way to suppress any conversation or real examination of how race affects our world and to take a shortcut through the pearly gates into that “post-racial” society that is easier for those with smaller minds to pretend we’re in. In my case, it was used to deny my feelings because they made others in the room uncomfortable.
To use the phrase assumes that “the race card” is a trump card that black and brown people just have at our disposal to use at our will, as if our race does not exist until we mention it, and as if this card hasn’t (in the words of Whoopi Goldberg) “been pinned to us” in every situation that we find ourselves in. Now, we find ourselves at the place in the campaign where we all feared we’d end up eventually, the place in which Barack Obama begins to acknowledge the root of some of the more unfair (“I just don’t know who he is!”) accusations against him and the place in which the republicans do their best “Who, me?” posturing and attempt to turn themselves (and by extension their base of working-class white voters) into the victims of yet another black man playing the “race card”.
Old man McCain has been on a negative streak lately (a recent CNN poll found that 1/3 of McCain’s ads refer to Obama negatively while 90% of Obama’s ads don’t even mention McCain), and while some of us are tired of the same old game, this stuff is apparently doing a good job of shoring up McCain’s base against Obama (and certainly not for McCain, because I haven’t heard anything about his own plans out of the man’s mouth in weeks). I’m inclined to agree that the only chance McGhoul has is to whip up his supporters, the republican base (suckers or millionaires or both), and perhaps a few skittish independents to become vehemently, virulently opposed to the other guy, that elitist liberal with the ungrateful, angry wife. You know, the one who plays the race card.