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December 30th, 2009
11:37 AM ET

Obama and Our Post-Modern Race Problem

Shelby Steele
Wall Street Journal

America still has a race problem, though not the one that conventional wisdom would suggest: the racism of whites toward blacks. Old fashioned white racism has lost its legitimacy in the world and become an almost universal disgrace.

The essence of our new "post-modern" race problem can be seen in the parable of the emperor's new clothes. The emperor was told by his swindling tailors that people who could not see his new clothes were stupid and incompetent. So when his new clothes arrived and he could not see them, he put them on anyway so that no one would think him stupid and incompetent. And when he appeared before his people in these new clothes, they too—not wanting to appear stupid and incompetent—exclaimed the beauty of his wardrobe. It was finally a mere child who said, "The emperor has no clothes."

The lie of seeing clothes where there were none amounted to a sophistication—joining oneself to an obvious falsehood in order to achieve social acceptance. In such a sophistication there is an unspoken agreement not to see what one clearly sees—in this case the emperor's flagrant nakedness.

America's primary race problem today is our new "sophistication" around racial matters. Political correctness is a compendium of sophistications in which we join ourselves to obvious falsehoods ("diversity") and refuse to see obvious realities (the irrelevance of diversity to minority development). I would argue further that Barack Obama's election to the presidency of the United States was essentially an American sophistication, a national exercise in seeing what was not there and a refusal to see what was there—all to escape the stigma not of stupidity but of racism.

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soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Mike in NYC

    Being post-racial is like being post-reality.

    There's plenty of "racism" around, and most of it is socially-sanctioned, government-subsidized, legally-enforced and anti-White.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  2. Mike formerly from Syracuse

    This editorial is the single most direct and correct appraisal of the failure that is Obama I've ever read. Bravo for saying it like it is. Too bad you didn't mention the blatant reverse racism that prropelled Obama to office. Or perhaps we shouldn't infer that many of the 95% of blacks (including black conservatives) who voted for Obama didn't do so due to his race. Let's not forget the Congressional Black Caucus which has outright refused to admit whites, even of the raging liberal variety. How about the Professor Gates incident when the black mayor of Cambridge, the black governor of MA, and the black President all sided immediately with Gates against the white police officer, even when the facts weren't known. As radio call transcripts, and the testimony of multiple witnesses and police officers (at least one of whom was black) showed, it was Gates who went off the racial cliff not the cop. Why wasn't he fired from Harvard as any white professor would have been? Yes, there is plenty of racism to go around, and whites don't have a monopoly on it.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The oppressed will inherit the earth and all it's riches. Racism will fall by the wayside, be patient, watch and listen. Don't hate those who hate you because of race, etc., just smile and walk on by, it is they who are in pain.

    December 30, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  4. Mari

    White racism has become "an almost universal disgrace"? Really? Have you not listened to the Tea-baggers? Read their signs? Listened to AM radio? Have you not heard the constant rant by the "birthers" questioning Obama's citizenship? Racism is alive and well. Sadly, in what people call a Christian nation.

    The far-right refuse to see the obvious signs of recovery from the three-year-old Great Recession. Jobs were disappearing at a rate of 715,000 a month last year at this time. Yet the far-right-folks keep blaming Obama for the economy.

    Racism will continue to rear its ugly head until we, Americans, admit there is racism. In all my 56 years of life, I have never seen such hatred towards a president, as I have witness against, Barack Obama.

    December 30, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  5. Tim Gibson

    Obama fails to cast out a line, instead standing in the shadows waiting for the catch. The problem is, after a year of going home with empty sacks people are becoming aware of the empty shelves and the outcome ahead, or is it behind, the massive government spending and involvement in our "free" society, even while failing to secure our national safety.

    When the bail bondsman remains on a never ending 15 minute break, avoiding putting the left or right foot in, the hokie pokie is the only dance tune we will hear. And personal opinion, midterm elections will shake it all about.

    December 30, 2009 at 11:57 am |

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