Even Obama: Presidential Politics Explode the Myth of Colorblindness

By Guest Columnist Jan 25, 2008

For decades, advocates for racial equality have been fighting the tides of the new American movement for colorblindness, the idea that if we don’t talk about race, somehow racism and the inequalities which it spawns will magically disappear. The simple and unavoidable truth is that we are always talking about race even when we’re not, and usually it’s a destructive conversation. Case in point, Barack Obama. As much as he’s tried to avoid talking about it, Obama has been unable to duck the, shall we say commentary on his ethnic background and the color of his skin. At every turn, politicians and pundits have reminded Obama and America of his blackness. He has been asked if he is “black enough” or if he can win Iowa. He’s been told how “clean” he is and comments abound about the fact that he isn’t “scary.” He’s been told he’s no Martin Luther King (as if any of the other candidates are). One wonders why a black candidate must be MLK to qualify but others need only be related to an ex-president? But I digress… Pundits of the conservative persuasion seem to take pleasure in referring to Obama as Barack Hussein but make no reference to Hillary Diane or Johnny Reid. Coincidence? I think not… Sadly, Senator Obama has refrained from engaging in the debate thus far. Suzanne Malveaux asked him if Bill Clinton was the first black President? Obama merely laughed and said he’d have to see Bill dance before making a judgment. The correct answer was no, but the real question is if Obama wasn’t black, would she have asked him that question? Brian Williams asked Obama about the rumors that he is Muslim and that he was schooled in a madrassa. Sadly, Obama’s response sounded like a Seinfeld episode; I’m not Muslim, not that there’s anything wrong with that. He even appealed to the cause of the colorblind by referring to these false statements as “fear-mongering” instead of what it really is, racism.t So if we are already having a conversation about race anyway, why not have a constructive one? Why should we fear to be criticized for stating the obvious? When did race become a four letter word? America is already having a discussion about race. Perhaps it’s time that the advocates for racial justice to chime in.