One of the early responders to the Obama speech praised it by saying that the senator appeals to the "winners and losers" of the American experience. This is a common case of a mainstream figure tripping over the fatal flaw in the American Left's narrative, hitting his head and taking the ensuing flash of white for enlightenment.
The idea that minorities, women, the poor, even (in comic, oblivious self-contradiction) immigrants, legal or not, are "losers" in their exchange with modern American society and thereby entitled to redress, is the great unexamined absurdity that buttresses liberal convention and Senator Obama's appeal. It is the reason why ultimately the convention is demagoguery and Senator Obama, however earnest his personal belief and pure his inent, a demagogue. But the plain truth is this: those officially recognized as "underprivileged" or "underrepresented" are those who gain most in their exchange with society and the state, by way of the legal premium assigned their status. Obama's dirty little secret is this: no one is more fortunate to be an American than a black American. No black population in history has had this level of power and opportunity; none has benefited as much by its participation in a nation as this one. This is as plainly obvious as it is rigorously denied. No matter; Senator Obama insists that an absolute equality in wealth and representation across every profession, such has never occurred in any society (and this includes under-representation of the majority population in many social sectors), is the only possible result to come of freedom of opportunity. A patent, widely unexamined absurdity.
Disparities in wealth are taken as de facto proof of white (or male) mendacity, if the disparities favor whites or men; disparities that do not favor them, and the attendant refutations of the grand narrative, are happily ignored.
We are conditioned to believe that it's profoundly immoral to even wonder if material inequality reflects racial and sexual disparities in abilities and inclinations; we are so very conditioned that we cannot even allow ourselves to recognize these disparities are also the aggregate of individuals making choices, thankfully beyond our control. This is how collective guilt assaults the individual, and grinds away at that precious and delicate conceit we've somehow come to take for granted, individuality.
Of course Obama's racial collectivist ideology (in spite of the supposedly "unifying" nature of his mixed parentage--more irony) is a natural enemy of individualism, and must assault it always. If liberty or the law intrude, they catch some too. You see there's always a bottom near; for all of Obama's back and forth, skillful playing of the middle against the end in words, in practice he must come down, repeatedly and consistently, on one side or the other of this question he thinks we can will away--will the law recognize the individual as such, or will it recognize him as a member of a tribe, a class, a sex? All of these, assigned as premiums and penalties of various values, perhaps? Is he answering for his father--strike that, because it must be put at its crudest--is he answering for his race? Yes, we've heard the history, we dare even assert we know it as well as you and the rest of the self-appointed.
Still, there is a powerless and innocent man standing before the irresistable authority of the state at this moment, somewhere. How I do wish he could be brought before you, Senator Obama, to be lectured on his historical, genetic guilt. To be regaled with anecdotes from your tortured, troubled life as a Black Man in America.
Despite the senator's insistence again tonight that it need not be this way, it can only be thus: the worldview he artfully presents is one of divisions consecrated by law. One might even say he offers us a hierarchy of divisions, with that between black and white at its summit. It is precisely the opposite of the "unity" he thinks he's offering. He does not know this.
He does not propose we move beyond race but rather codify its significance through a system of enhanced citizenship consecrated by, among other things, affirmative action, civil rights litigation and censorship. The senator rightly decries his former pastor's vision of a "static" America wherein the racial order is forever one step removed from slavery, but at the same time offers an analysis that is indistinguishable. Implicitly Obama does not promise to "transcend" race, but to settle the question of it once and for all. Needless to say this is fantastical, and the senator recognizes as much where it is politically advantageous.
No matter how much and mightily Obama attempts to shoe-horn this demagogy into that vessel, it cannot be escaped: the Democrats and their brightest political star remain committed to a model of citizenship and legal standing enhanced and ordered by ethnicity and sex, founded on a social construct of collective historical guilt that can never be absolved. If whites are not to be "second-class citizens" they are to carry with them always a conditional asterisk. At this point my argument is met with the litany of outrages: the plight of the urban poor, the historical record, racial disparities in wealth, the "legacy" of slavery (not to be confused with the legacy of being born in America rather than Angola--no, that would be "racist"). All valid concerns, all in need of address. That address may in fact be the continuation in perpetuity of the current "racial spoils" system. I'm open to the argument, if only someone were to dare make it, consequences and all.
In his speech today Obama brilliantly (and with admiring candor) recognized the legitimacy of working class white opposition to his candidacy. If you're well-off racial set-asides, affirmative action and Chicago-style ward politics with a hard racial edge all seem like noble trade-offs. If you cannot escape these things, that is you can't afford to move at will and pretend that "white flight" is irrational, then Senator Obama's rhetoric is easily recognizable as the ill-informed affront that it is. Leftists in America used to express confidence in the voter's awareness of self-interest. Now the realities of democratic (note--small D) racial factionalization compel them to argue against its existence.
The humiliating fact that Senator Obama would recognize if political opportunity did not draw him with the inexorable force of a black hole into rhetorical and logical obscurity, if he were allowed honesty, is that by all measures liberal convention and the senator repeatedly equate with "social justice"--wealth, health, education, political and social power, opportunity--there is likely no better place than America in which a black person can choose to be born, and if there is one better, it's probably Canada. If he's born in Africa? Well, here it gets even dicier, with that inconveniently wealthy southern cape drawing immigrants in from across Africa even during apartheid, notably the parents of Nelson Mandela himself.
The inequity between white and black is a problem with no solution. It can only be mitigated by a degradation of, ironically, equal opportunity and liberty (in fact does involve this). Senator Obama may be right, after all, about the need for affirmative action, racial set-asides, wealth redistribution and the various other compromises of our classic liberal heritage, but he cannot name it for what it is, a regression into a nation of competing ethno-nationalist factions that will eventually, finally, render the republic and its constitution meaningless.
If you're still with me I do not offer wealth and material progress as excuses for apartheid, slavery or the economic exploitation of native peoples. But, having no status or position in this society to protect, I am allowed to openly consider if their absence from history wouldn't leave most of the world to primitive squalor and ignorance.
Because you have already intuited, as the senator no doubt does, that one cannot separate the constellation of sins about European colonialism from the mass that is its invaluable gift to humanity. Obama wants you to feel guilty, oh so guilty, for being white (no matter how poor or penitent you are), but he will not allow you a moment's pride in it. That would be "racist." This is how the social construct of collective guilt, a legally and religiously sanctioned double standard, is made into a bludgeon.
Someone I respect greatly recently ended a column on another subject by noting that "America is a profoundly racist country." The sort of remark that is still widely accepted, if in a weary and desultory manner these dark, disillusioned days. But this is a phrase without meaning because its proper context is censored with a religious severity. The phrase, "America is racist", means nothing because it's not allowed contextual coherence: as opposed to what other country?
Obama answers that question, flattering whites with, no other country; reassuring blacks with the qualifier, and it will never be good enough.
He is probably right. There is no greater testament to that fact than his success. Obama is no more a master of this universe than you or I. Unable to see the forest for the trees he cannot know the indifferent historical forces of which he is an instrument. But he is a progression of sorts, for a nation that knows but will not allow itself to say aloud that legal equality and human equality are contradictory.