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Is This Why Obama Wont Win?

February 28, 2007

Harold Ford’s personal life is being blasted over the net.
This one is for the Congressman who wouldn’t email me back!

Putting aside for the moment whether any of this is true, what’s more important is the sentiments displayed. It parallel’s the consternation over whether Senator Obama is “Black” enough for African-Americans (a drum beat happily echoing through the conservative talk radio chamber).

I don’t think it a stretch that many of the people joining the Black Women Against Harold Ford support group argued that Bill Clinton’s personal life shouldn’t have been a factor in his political life. But Ford’s is?

Though the complexities of racial issues in this country is at issue*, there’s also a more fundamental, less “sexy” issue at play; moderation. Know your role. Don’t step out of societies norms. We give lip service to the idea that these things aren’t important to one’s abilities to lead, be an intelligent legislator, yet in truth the candidate’s personal life, personal background, are treated as tantamount. We’re a gossipy, keyhole peeking nation. We love tabloids and our neighbors tribulations, however, even more we love it when those things befall the powerful.

The thing itself is not so dispiriting. It becomes sad when you imagine the kind of people who are discouraged from seeking political office (or higher office; I’ve no doubt there are old school Democrats who still pour a sip of beer on the dirt for Mario Cuomo’s presidential aspirations, and the same for Republicans and Colin Powell).

So, how important is it, really, whether Obama’s ancestors suffered at the hands of slave masters? No matter how often Glenn Beck fawns over the senator’s alleged Whiteness, people observe him as a person of color anyway, and most are not really asking themselves the question about whether his Father being from Kenya makes him “Black.” Is the question about his background more important than whether or not he can answer a foreign policy question on something other than Iraq? Does it reduce his ability to lead?

*I certainly don’t mean to gloss over the issue, Ford’s Friday night selections and Obama’s biracial, direct African ancestry are tied to each other in the minds of some.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sewere permalink
    March 2, 2007 2:29 pm

    Is it me or did that piece on Harold Ford leave you feeling like you were wading through raw sewage??

    I mean really, I’m completely baffled by the rumours involving Harold Ford Jr… Jayla’s posts on HFJ reads like some sordid novel, “he cheated on a black woman” and ” Oh, did you know he was also bisexual?… If her story is in fact true I’m beginning to think that hell indeed, hath no fury…

    What I find even more discouraging is hearing the likes of Dickerson telling us how Obama (and by extension people like me) isn’t really black… What does that mean? Is it because he was raised by his white mother or his white grandparents? How is that any different from some of the young community leaders who are biracial AND identify as black? What about those of us who are black AND African AND American (or cousins and children who are black, African and African-American)? It’s as if we were never part of the struggles for equality? Are we that politically expendable that we can be counted on for our support of the African-American but when we take on leadership positions our loyalty to the black community is questioned?

    I really am baffled by the destructive discourse that is currently taking place.

  2. Sewere permalink
    March 2, 2007 3:05 pm

    I completely forgot to add two important things…

    Re: Harold Ford Jr. All I know of the guy from his campaign was his claiming that his grandmother was white… which is nothing new when it comes to the way politicians use race as bait and switch… And I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him, but this entire issue of dating a black woman seems so much more about vengance than valid criticism…

    Re:Obama’s “blackness”, did anyone forget Shirley Chisholm? Both her parents were Afro-Caribbean and she was raised in Caribbean (I don’t remember if it was Barbados or Guyana). She was assailed as a black woman but no one questioned her the authenticity of her identity as a black woman…

  3. March 2, 2007 5:09 pm

    Sewere,

    Good points all. People have certainly forgotten Shirley Chisholm (not Biz Markie!), though I wonder, if she was running today would her heritage become an issue?

    I related a story abt a friend of mine from college who was excluded from an organization of Black athletes because of his being biracial, no matter what his experiences in life were, how he self-identified, etc. People really do amaze, don’t they?

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