Obama the Divider

During a speech at what ironically was termed "UNITY 08" -- a convention sponsored by members of "Journalists of Color, Inc." -- Senator Barack Obama illustrated why he is anything but a "post-racial" candidate. Given his background, his appearance at an event wherein "diversity" was the main ideological course on the menu is not surprising, as he continues to be a person for whom ethnicity is of central importance. Just as was the case during the Democratic primary, Obama self-sabotaged precisely at the moment in which the punditocracy was selling us on the inevitability of his victory. Once again, his words betrayed him. On full display was his inner nature -- an inner nature he works hard to conceal.

At UNITY he informed supporters: "There's no doubt that when it comes to our treatment of Native Americans as well as other persons of color in this country, we've got some very sad and difficult things to account for. I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged. I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."

The supposed uniter was given a chance to utter an uplifting message to minorities, but he declined to do so. Instead of convincing them to bond with their fellow countrymen, he sowed feelings of resentment. Again Obama showcased disdain for America's history, but the precise meaning of his speech was not clear. Perhaps he sought to issue a statement to coincide with a House of Representatives resolution apologizing for the "fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow" laws or maybe he wanted to elucidate the need for our government to pay reparations to black Americans as a class under the auspices of making amends for slavery.

What is for certain is that reparations are a political minefield. In practice they would be an unfeasible and reprehensible endeavor. David Horowitz skillfully articulated the problems concerning them in the pages of Uncivil Wars. There he put forth numerous arguments against their efficacy, the strongest of which are as follows: no single ethnic group was responsible for the travesty of slavery; no single ethnic group exclusively benefited from it; only a minority of white Americans ever owned slaves while thousands died in the process of freeing them; reparations have already been paid via "trillions of dollars in transfer payments" spent on social programs and preferential government policies; the idea of reparations is separatist as it pits blacks against "the nation that gave them freedom"; and, lastly, most citizens alive today have no relationship with the institution of slavery whatsoever.

Regardless of whether Obama had reparations on his mind, he undeniably demeaned his country's past in the hopes of titillating his principal constituents: disaffected minorities and guilt-ridden Caucasians. What is curious about this tactic is that such an appeal will yield no advantage because that substrata of the population expressed their enduring fidelity to him long ago. Assuredly, such statements will alienate independents, though. This may not have occurred to him as his analysis was a product of his worldview. As most conservatives recognize, the junior senator from Illinois is a devout leftist. Thus, expecting him to purge radicalism from a speech is like asking a monolingual American to dream in Tagalog.