Response to Comments on Jackson and Obama

By Tammy Johnson Jan 17, 2008

After reading comments here on Racewire, on Alternet, and Huffington Post about her post about Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama, tjohnson responds. Voting booths and race: I’ll cop to being procedurally wrong in regards to the Iowa Caucus. But I stand by my assertion that white voters felt assured that Obama wouldn’t force their hand on issues of race. And I will go even further and say that it might not just be white folks who need this assurance. Race has been dealt with so badly by mainstream liberals and misused by right-wingers over the last few decades, that the pandering exhausts everyone. But that shouldn’t give Obama or any other candidate a pass when it comes to dealing with blatant racial disparities of crack/cocaine laws or the hypocritical treatment of immigrant workers in this country. Race is on the table in this, and every other election that we have ever had in the US. The only question is: how will we deal with it? When is the time? The “now is not the time to talk about race” argument never ceases to amaze me. Race is always pushed to the back burner, and this election is no special case. We are repeatedly told that the policy won’t pass if you bring up race, or the issue we are working on won’t gain white sympathy if we bring up race. The stakes are high. But when you consider the racial disparities in just about any issue you can think of, be it employment, housing, health care or education, you realize that the stakes are always high for people of color. The longer we delay the real discussion around structural racism in the US, the worse off our communities are. In fact, there have been more campaigns that prove that ducking the race issue doesn’t work for us than those that prove otherwise. How many racist ballot measures have we defeated in California, Michigan and elsewhere ducking the race issue? Exactly none! Our unwillingness to deal with what’s real is dooming this country to a very bleak future, no matter who the next President is. Having it both ways: You cannot in one breath say “This Black man is creating an historical moment around race in America!” and then in the next breathe say that it’s not about race. A Black man running for President of the United States is going to face the race issue. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. This is an opportunity to finally engage everybody, not just white people, on how structural racism cripples our society as a whole. Again, I would go one step further and say that EVERY candidate should have to deal with what’s real around race. It’s placed at Obama’s feet because of who he is, just like gender is the issue that Hilary must confront. That may not be fair, but it is certainly an opportunity that is being missed. What is twisted about the public debate is the lack of engagement around race, gender, etc and the policies these people will promote as President. I personally don’t really care if Obama can out-King King with his eloquent speeches. I want to see him out-King Dr. King when it comes to promoting policies that help people of color. What will be Obama’s Civil Rights Act? What is he going to do about immigration? I Don’t Need Another Hero: This is not the time to get caught up symbolism. We have real problems that require bold and forthright leadership. The mythical perfect moment to talk explicitly about race does not exist. The mythical savior figure who is politically safe enough and universally liked enough to talk about race without jeopardizing his standing is not coming. The work of building a nation that deals fairly and honestly with its race problem must start now. This is a place where we must make the road by walking. And I for one am not waiting any longer.