Uh-Obama: Racism, White Voters and the Myth of Color-Blindness
More importantly, to the extent Obama's success has been largely contingent on his studious avoidance of the issue of race--such that he rarely ever mentions discrimination and certainly not in front of white audiences--one has to wonder just how seriously we should take the notion that racism is a thing of the past, at least as supposedly evidenced by his ability to attract white votes? To the extent those whites are rewarding him in large measure for not talking about race, and to the extent they would abandon him in droves were he to begin talking much about racism--for he would be seen at that point as playing the race card, or appealing to "special interests" and suffer the consequences--we should view Obama's success, given what has been required to make it possible, as confirmation of the ongoing salience of race in American life. Were race really something we had moved beyond, whites would be open to hearing a candidate share factual information about housing discrimination, racial profiling, or race-based inequities in health care. But we don't want to be reminded of those things. We prefer to ignore them, and many are glad that Obama has downplayed them too, whether by choice, or necessity.
In other words, American don't want uppity blacks--or Indians. That's precisely why Americans "honor" only Indians who fit comfortable stereotypes. That means Indians of the past: chiefs and "braves" who fought valiantly before they ultimately proved their secondhand status by losing. And all the warriors today--soldiers and sports mascots--who remind us that Indians were savages who had no right to exist in our white Christian culture.
When the president gives a medal to Russell Means, Winona LaDuke, or Leonard Peltier for a lifetime of activism against the interests of the white majority, then we can conclude we're in a post-racist society. Until then, no.