Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ronald Reagan Never Could Have Gotten Elected if he Hadn't Been White

Okay, just a few thoughts about Romney aid John Sununu's stunningly stupid suggestion that Colin Powell recently endorsed Obama (as he did for years ago) because Powell and Obama are both black.

First:  did Powell's endorsement of Obama have anything to do with the fact that they're both black?

It's possible.

Second:  does a white politician's endorsement of a white candidate have anything to do with the fact that they're both white?

It's possible.

But you never hear about the second, only the first.

So... third:  Why is John Sununu implicitly suggesting that only a black endorsing a black might have something to do with racial solidarity?  Why doesn't it occur to him that when George Bush Sr. endorses Romney -- an example Sununu himself noted in his comments -- there might be some element of racial solidarity at work there, too?  Why is the first possibility worthy of commentary and the second, unworthy?

You know the answer.  In the mind of someone like John Sununu, white is the implicit norm, the invisible baseline.  When someone endorses a white candidate, in the mind of a Sununu there's no race in the equation.  When the candidate, or the endorsing party, is black, something racial must be at work.  White is implicit, invisible, irrelevant; black is radical, racial, and very relevant indeed.

Does this make Sununu a racist?  Certainly race is prominent in his thoughts when he analyzes the political behavior of blacks and absent from his thoughts when he analyzes the political behavior of whites.  I don't know if that kind of outsized, unconscious double standard makes a person a racist -- probably it depends on how central race is in his mind, how he uses his double standard, how often, etc.  I would say that at a minimum someone like Sununu is ignorant and embarrassingly out of touch with his own biases.

How many times have various people observed that Obama couldn't have been elected if he hadn't been black (because, for example, his candidacy galvanized so many blacks to vote for him)?  Yet how many people have observed that not one of Obama's 43 predecessors in the Oval Office could ever have been elected if they hadn't all been white?  Hell, not even George Washington could have been president if he'd been black.  But you never hear someone saying something like, "Ronald Reagan never could have gotten elected if he hadn't been white."

When a phenomenon common, or potentially common, to all people is commented upon only with regard to some people, something's going on.  It might not rise to the level of racism, but it's not logical, intelligent, or illuminating, either.


Randy Johnson said...

Good post. I had some of the same thoughts when I first heard Sununu's statement. That sort of thinking is prominent all over the place. I have a black friend, one of the smartest people I know, and he maintains that racism is whites hating blacks illogically. The opposite view he doesn't consider racism.

Mmartz said...

Sununu should have given an interview to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog!

Pelu Maad said...

I agree with your friend...probably because I'm "black" too....but there's a REAL difference between racism and reactions to racism. Racism is a system of dominance...not just personal biases.

ryan field said...

None of them would have been elected if they'd been openly gay. I know that is off topic, but since no one talked about much in this election I reserve the right to be annoying about it :)

T. B. Back said...

Agree. Please read article below, which brilliantly explained the reason for the extreme right's (or left) blindness to reason.

"How facts backfire" explains why facts contradicting your beliefs tend to lose out to fabrications that support them. Sadly, like Gaga, we're born this way.

Democracy is in dire straits wherever you need to rally people through their faith because they can't be reached by reason.

In this respect, whichever candidate wins won't change the dismal political landscape in the U.S. one bit.