A commenter from my previous post inspired me to do this one. The commenter (not sure whether I should say he or she, because they posted as anonymous) quoted a substantial portion of Shelby Steele's new book about the "O" man, and made it a point to agree with most of what Steele said.
I am going to surprise some people with this statement; but I actually like Shelby Steele's writings, and I think he is one of the better thinkers on the right. His book, "The Content of Our Character" is one of my all time favorites, and should be required reading for all black folks. Unfortunately for Mr. Steele he is wrong on this issue, and here is why:
Steele uses the term "bargainer" to make his point about Obama. "The answer is that one “bargains.” Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer’s race against him. And whites love this bargain" But there is no bargain. A bargain requires to some extent---to use an old contracts 101 reference--a meeting of the minds. A bargain is an "agreement between two parties fixing an obligation that each promises to carry out." That's how the dictionary describes a bargain. Obama and white A-merry-ca are clearly not in sync on this issue. If there was a bargain, white folks wouldn't be ditching the "O" man faster than O.J. memorabilia after he killed his ex wife. There has been no meeting of the minds or agreement to do anything. This is not a bargain, it is a wish. White folks wish that Obama would be all of these things, but he is not. They wish the "O" man could relieve them of their guilt, and make them feel better about the history of the country that they have embraced. So Steele got that right. He is right about how some white A-merry-cans view Obama, but I think he is wrong about how Obama views himself. And there in lies the problem.
"Mr. Obama's run at the presidency is based more on the manipulation of white guilt than on substance..."
Steele's rants about Obama is full of quotes like the one above. But is he really trying to manipulate white folks or does he really believe in what he is trying to sell? It's a tough question, and one that I have been asking myself since the start of the "O" man's campaign.
Steele has lots of reasons not to like the "O" man. He is a poverty pimp of sorts from the right. So if the "O" man's message of change and reconciliation really takes place, Steele, like his opposite numbers on the left, might become irrelevant. Then there is also the matter of ideology. Steele considers himself a right winger, and the "O" man's politics is clearly to the left of his. So Steele is not going to give the "O" man the benefit of the doubt. I will, because his political ideology is closer to mine. Steele argues that Obama can't win because he is "bound" between blacks and whites and can't please both. Steele is wrong, he can please blacks, but not whites, and that is why he won't win the Presidency. The white folks just won't love him now.
But Shelby, there is no bargain, If there was, white A-merry-ca would have understood that the "O" man can't totally embrace them and turn his back on us. Sure he won't let them feel guilt about their racism, but don't expect him not to understand when we feel anger about it. What white A-merry-ca wanted was a total sellout (Oh if Tiger could only run for President), they want the symbols without the substance. You look the part "O" man, and with your mixed heritage, the symbolism is all there. But in the end, you couldn't totally sell out. It just wasn't in you.
I am sure white A-merry-ca is wondering if there is such a Negro. (Oh well, back to the drawing board) I doubt it. Hell, even Colin Powell had a soul. He understood the black condition and this countries' history, and he couldn't totally distance himself from it. The Negroes who are willing to take on the roll such as Ken Blackwell, and Alan Keyes, are buffoons who have become pretty much irrelevant. Besides, a Trojan horse has to at least look like a horse. We (Black A-merry-cans) know a fraud when we see one.
This is why A-merry-ca is so mad at the "O" man, and ultimately, this is why he will lose the presidency. They are disappointed and angry, because he fooled them. And they will take it out on him either in June or November. Black folks don't feel that way. He will get 90% of our vote, because white grandma or not, he is still fam.
Unfortunately for the "O" man though, ninety percent of our vote just ain't enough.