Wrangling Racism: What's Wrong With Endorsing Obama Because He's Black?
When it comes to wrangling racism, the language police thing can get old. Recently, everyone was up in arms about John Sununu’s shiftless remarks about Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama’s bid for reelection. On the Piers Morgan show Thursday night, Sununu said: “Frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.”
Uh-huh. OK. After Morgan asks what those reasons might be (shooting a big fat fish in a very small bucket), Sununu responds, "I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him."
First of all, what’s the point in pretending that Colin Powell doesn’t support Obama in part because he is the first black president? It’s epic, people. EPIC. Especially for black America. There’s no shame in feeling pride over the country’s first black president. I feel pretty good about it myself. I also, as I’m sure Colin Powell does, feel pretty good about the fact that President Obama knows where Syria is.
And so what if one of the reasons Powell chose to endorse Obama (for the second time) is because he is black? It's often overlooked that black culture in America still exists because we have supported one another, leaned on one another, lifted each other up, and lifted ourselves up. That’s an extraordinary thing. Both Powell and Obama know this to be true more than most, and they are leaders on behalf of black America because of it. But more importantly, they are leaders of America as a whole. As Obama has famously said, “Rising tides lift all boats.” They are both black men, but they are also two men with different opinions, ideas, political party affiliations, and individual DNA.
And so, sure, as a black woman who came of age with this guy as governor of my home state, I do think Sununu’s comments were racist. They indicated a clear sense of privilege and superiority, while laying claim to the assumption that racial differences dictate behavior, character, and decision-making. But I’m not really worried about Sununu—I’m more concerned that Mitt Romney looks at me and sees part of the 47 percent instead of a living, breathing person.
So, if I've got a slightly different reason for preferring Obama, there it is.
Image via Wikimedia Commons