March 11, 2008

It’s 3 a.m., do you know where your subliminal racism is?

After my extended stay in graduate school, I became inured to racial hysteria dressed up as literary exegesis, so when I opened up the Times this morning, I wasn?t particularly surprised to read this emanating from the Harvard Sociology department:

On first watching Hillary Clinton?s recent ?It?s 3 a.m.? advertisement, I was left with an uneasy feeling that something was not quite right ? something that went beyond my disappointment that she had decided to go negative. Repeated watching of the ad on YouTube increased my unease. I realized that I had only too often in my study of America?s racial history seen images much like these, and the sentiments to which they allude.

And then the kicker?while Professor Orlando Patterson watched on with increasing ?unease,? he ?couldn?t help but think of D. W. Griffith?s ?Birth of a Nation,? the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society.?

I never knew that the image of women in pearls answering telephones at 3 a.m. was one of the great symbols of American racism, apparently right up there with the flaming cross, but then I?ll take Patterson?s word for it. To most of us who haven?t ?spent [our lives] studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery,? Patterson?s critical method seems a lot like illogical free association. 

I?m reluctant to defend the Clintons; however, the allegations that their campaign is engaging in constant ?race-baiting? is becoming rather tiresome.

Academia and the MSM have been diligently searching for signs of unconscious, subliminal, and coded racism in every nock and cranny for years, and it?s natural that the Clinton?s would be next in line to get scrutinized?particularly when they have the gaul to criticize the great race transcender himself! 

It?s also of little surprise that commentators on the right have hopped on the ?Hillary’s race baiting” bandwagon as simply a new variation of their perennial, useless pastime of Clinton hating?the latest being Andrew Sullivan who claims to have found a racial “meme? disseminated by the nefarious pair from Arkansas. 

Let?s look at the Clinton?s alleged wickedness more closely:

1) Obama won in lily-white Iowa; then Clinton won in lily-white New Hampshire. The first marked a great ?transcendence,? the second an instance of the “Bradley Effect” and New Hampshire?s barely repressed racism.

2) Clinton made the entirely incontestable, banal even, historical claim that MLK could not have passed the civil rights acts alone but needed LBJ.  Bob Herbert called this a ?cheap shot at, of all people, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?   

3) When discussing Obama?s victory in South Carolina, Bill Clinton said that ?he ran a good campaign? and referenced Jesse Jackson, who also ?ran a good campaign?  back in 1992. As Marcus pointed out, it seems rather odd to interpret these compliments as “racist.” 

The Clinton?s deserve to be bashed in many areas; however, their race-baiting tactics exist only in the mind of the beholder.

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