Nice acerbic piece by Gary Yonge, contrasting Barack Obama with those great black hopes of yesteryear, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
By the time Obama came of age, there was no civil rights movement to emerge from and few union halls to go to. But thanks to the gains of the civil rights era he could attend the nation’s best universities (Columbia and Harvard) and get a fantastic job. With no roots in the black politics – the soil was too barren for anything beyond community organising – he emerged from academe. Politically speaking, he was not produced by the black community, but presented to it.
In this respect, Obama shares a great deal with a number of black politicians of his generation who have come to the fore in recent years. Among them are the Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick (Harvard); the Newark mayor, Cory Booker (Yale); the Democratic Leadership Council chair and former Tennessee congressman, Harold Ford Jr (University of Pennsylvania); and the Maryland lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown (Harvard). Obama’s trajectory is not the rule; but nowadays it is by no means an exception.
In most of Obama’s rhetoric, Yonge muses, “race is virtually absent from his message but central to his meaning. He doesn’t have to bring it up because not only does he espouse change, he looks like change. He has the role of an inadequate and ineffective balm on the long-running sore that is race in America. His victory would symbolise a great deal and change very little.”
Thanks to Pete for the link.