Obama: ‘no sudden moves’ when talking to whites
Judith A. Klinghofer cites a passage from Barack Obama’s first autobiography to remember when listening to his speech today:
On p. 94-95 he describes an effective tactic to deal with White people:It was usually an effective tactic, another one of those tricks I had learned: People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied; they were relieved – such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn’t seem angry all the time.
On the evidence of his career, Obama has learned well how to reassure white people that he is not a grievance-mongering racialist with a chip on his shoulder. But Pastor Wright’s obvious contrast with this approach, combined with the self-proclaimed importance of the Reeverend to his life, suggests manipulativeness may well be at work.
So expect no sudden moves in The Speech, but watch for smooth ones.
Hat tip: Susan L.
Update: Shelby Steele calls this sort of behavior “bargaining” in his best-selling book White Guilt, and this morning in the Wall Street Journal.
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 — and feel affection for the bargainer — because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.This is how Mr. Obama has turned his blackness into his great political advantage, and also into a kind of personal charisma. Bargainers are conduits of white innocence, and they are as popular as the need for white innocence is strong. Mr. Obama’s extraordinary dash to the forefront of American politics is less a measure of the man than of the hunger in white America for racial innocence. [….]
He was driven by insecurity, by a need to “be black” despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn’t this hatred more rhetorical than real?But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one’s blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America’s television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.