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Typical White People

John on March 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Obama has really opened up Pandora’s box here. Listen to him try, unsuccessfully, to backtrack from an earlier remark:

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Here’s the key segment transcribed:

Obama: The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity…she doesn’t. But she is a typical white person who, uh, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, you know there’s a reaction that’s been bred into our experience that don’t go away.

This is such an interesting phrasing. I don’t mean the “typical white person” which is obviously problematic as it assumes there is such a thing. I’m more interested in the rest of that quote. Let’s break this down.

If she “sees somebody on the street.” Here we’re obviously talking about someone black, but he doesn’t say that. Why not? He’s just referred to his own grandmother as a “white person” why not refer to a “black person” on the street. It’s very odd to shy away from that in this context. It’s as if Barack can verbally acknowledge white stereotypes but not black ones.

Then it gets really confusing with, “there’s a reaction that’s been bred into our experience.” What in the world does that mean? If something is a result of experience, we call that judgment or learning. But if something is “bred into” us that would seem to be innate, or prejudicial. It seems to me a reaction can’t be both. It can be innate or learned, predjudice or judgment. Either one obviates the other.

I can only conclude that when he says this reaction is bred into “our experience” he means the experience of the culture at large. In short, he’s returning to the old saw about the media focusing on black crime to the point that all black people begin to look like criminals.

So the suggestion here is that “typical white people” who may be wonderful in many ways, nevertheless have an unfortunate view of blacks which has in some way been foisted upon them contrary to reality. Here’s the problem with that.

Black people commit a great deal more violent street crime per capita than white people.

Not a slight difference, but a large and statistically significant margin. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2004 black males aged 14-24 were 1.2% of the population yet committed 26.1% of the murders in the US. If that figure were attributed to redheads or left-handed people, you bet there’d be a different assessment of those individuals walking down the street.

This is the problem black America faces, or more accurately hasn’t been able yet to face. This is not a PR problem that can be solved with better TV coverage. The problem of black crime (mostly against other blacks) is not one that exists primarily in the imagination of white people. It’s one that exists in the real world.

And yet, over and over, we see responsibility for this being denied, obfuscated and transferred by people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Rev. Wright and now sadly, Barack Obama. The few individuals who do stand up and place the responsibility where it belongs, like Bill Cosby, quickly become pariahs.

So as a “typical white person” in America, I’m all for a national discussion on race. America has a shameful history or racism and the history of black pain at the hands of whites must never be forgotten, just as the holocaust of Jews in WWII must never be forgotten. But at some point, I’d like to see us talk about what’s happening now. And what’s happening now is tragic.

Too many black Americans support and defend a culture that glorifies gangs, drugs, misogyny and violence. And please don’t swat this away with “well its white kids buying that crap.” Sure it is, but the white kids aren’t killing people at anywhere close to the rate black kids are. They aren’t growing up without fathers at anywhere near the same rate either. Bottom line: I don’t care who is buying it, I care who is doing it.

There are all sorts of caveats here. Barack’s grandmother is of a different generation. Maybe she really did have some racial issues that needed to be addressed and corrected. Maybe she was “typical” of a certain time or place. I don’t know. But for people who grew up after the 60s and after Dr. King, the insinuation of a “typical” kind of white racism is tiresome and, generally speaking, false. I know there’s still racism in America, but it’s not typical anymore. It’s not the default position of the average 30 year old white person. Sorry, but things really have changed. They’d have changed even more if the reality of street crime weren’t working so hard against blacks.

What Barack is offering us is an outdated stereotype of whites. It’s going to cost him.

A lot of white Americans believed Barack Obama was past all that. He was a symbol of an America that had moved past the color of someone’s skin to look at the content of their character. After this week, I’d guess quite a few people of all colors are disappointed to discover we’re back to talking about “typical” racial traits. Because, unfortunately, that means Barack is no messiah leading people out of racial ignorance toward a better future.

He’s just typical.

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