McCain “Plays the Race Card” by Accusing Obama of “Playing the Race Card”

By Victor Corral Aug 01, 2008

I’m confused. Are we in an election, or in a scene from a 1970s made-for-TV movie in which a Black guy, a bitter old sailor, and Kenny Rogers are playing a high-stakes game of poker, but instead of betting with money, they’re betting with our collective futures? I’m afraid it might be the latter. Earlier this week, McCain played the “celebutard card” when he compared Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in an attack ad. Then, Obama told an audience that Republicans would try to scare voters away from him because he has a “funny name” and doesn’t look like “all those other presidents on the dollar bills.” So, then McCain countered by playing his “race card” when he accused Obama of playing his “race card,” which came as a surprise to me, because I could have sworn that merely by being a black guy running for president, Obama had been “playing the race card” all along. So if you followed, the score is…um….it doesn’t matter! This nervous tendency to point out every instance in which there is any direct or indirect mention of race by the McCain campaign makes me think of a recent Northwestern University study which found a high level of anxiety among whites regarding race. Researchers found that “many whites worry about inadvertently getting into trouble for seeming biased,” and as a result, whites tend to “avoid situations where bias might be revealed.” In this case, McCain seems to be avoiding the issue of race altogether, and turning it into something positive by saying “hey, look at me, I’m not ‘injecting race’ into the campaign, the Black guy is, so vote for me,” which smells of that “post-race” idea that’s been floating around “America’s Best Political Team” and all the other pundits on those mainstream media “news shows.” This idea of not talking about race because “we are beyond it” or because “it shouldn’t matter” is not a good strategy, or a productive one. For people of color, the idea that we live in a “post-race world” negates the inherent differences in their social condition and experience that is largely based on race. For whites, avoiding the issue of race, or interracial interaction, only exacerbates racial anxiety and leads us to talk about Britney and Paris instead of pressing political issues like race.