Holy shit! Is Geraldine Ferrarro singlehandedly destroying the Hillary Clinton campaign AS WE SPEAK and we're too distracted by the Spitzer saga to notice? Nah, we're probably too distracted by the Spitzer saga. But...my sources in the leftist blogger community say that Ferrarro's statement to The Daily Breeze that Barack Obama wouldn't be in the race if he weren't a black man — remeniscient of her 1988 comment that Jesse Jackson wouldn't be in the race if he weren't a black man — has a lot of people REALLY REALLY ANGRY. A Latina political blogger has emailed an angry message to the vaunted Hillary Latino outreach committee. Keith Olbermann is going to do a special skewer-session about it tonight. Me, I'm still in the "dumbfounded" stage.) But I'll say this: her statement didn't actually surprise me. A story: one of my best friends is an ardent Hillary supporter mostly, she confessed to me the other night, because her best friend in high school was a light-skinned black man. "He got voted to lead everything. He'll always be more successful than me. Everyone loves a light-skinned black guy!" she said. I laughed.
I thought of how badly I hated George W. Bush in 2000 because he reminded me of this kid I ran against for some lofty student council position in fifth grade. He was an idiot, a total, shameless unabashed tool, and yet inexplicably well-liked! No one seemed to notice the emptiness of his charm. No one seemed to care because he was so...confident! They believed the hype. (Fools! I would have been soooo much more competent!)
Okay, so, to the present. Barack. He's got a little of that light-skinned black guy thing happening. In high school he signed yearbooks with little Afros over the B and O. BTW, do you think anyone ever teased him for having those initials, B-O? Nah, he'd have laughed it off, cocky bastard. He openly admits he played a "flashy," "street" game of basketball, clashing with coaches who thought he wansn't disciplined or team player-y enough. Oh man, then that guy gets into Columbia? What were his SATs, even? Does anyone know? Why isn't that public?
Okay, so... done with the rhetorical exercise! So here's the thing. I think I get what Geraldine Ferrarro was saying, and that's what's so despicable about it. She's trapped in high school, at the student council election she couldn't win because she wasn't popular enough. Lady, grow the fuck up! Have you read anything Barack Obama has written? Turns out the black boy can write pretty good! (Oh yeah, and teach constitutional law.) His blackness is very much a part of his identity. He struggled with it. Felt alienated. Funny thing that, the way "confidence" can sometimes result from experiencing/conquering alienation at an early age! And seriously, the kid was raised in fucking Indonesia. Would anyone want a fortysomething first-term senator in charge of making every major American foreign policy decision at one of our most tricky moments in history if he hadn't been raised in Indonesia? I probably wouldn't!
But WAIT: that's hardly the only advantage Barack Obama's being born a Kenyan Irish Hawaiian whatever has afforded him in his life and career. Having his flameout father abandon him — he got a whole BOOK DEAL on the basis of coming to terms with that! What's more, it also clearly afforded him not only an element of empathy for underprivileged Americans that furthered his career, but a nuanced perspective on the foreign policy challenges posed by poverty in Africa and maybe even the entire Third World! Beyond that, the fact that he is black has drawn OTHER BLACK PEOPLE who had maybe been previously disillusioned by politics into actually voting. But the fact that he is successful and black makes him relatable to all those other successful black people who go through life hounded by the nagging perception that wherever they are, whatever they have accomplished, affirmative action is to credit for all of it. Successful black people like Michael Eric Dyson totally dig that the Obamas understand this phenomenon.
It is all so unfair!
If you are thirteen years old!