Thursday, March 20, 2008


There's a Sucker born every minute, and a Jeff Jacoby column to stupify him further. First we have the online version of this viewpoint from The Corner:

White or Rye? [John Derbyshire]

Mark: In response to your skepticism as to the degree of young Paddy O'Bama's toastedness (having up to now been describing the candidate on Radio Derb as "that fine broth of a boy," I guess I shall now have to modify that to "broth with croutons"), let me make the following observation, as carefully as I can. I don't want to come across as a cynical reductionist here — heaven forfend!

When you come to a country from a foreign land as an adult, certain characteristics of the inhabitants are striking to you. A characteristic of white Americans is that they all, to a man and a woman, nurse within themselves a deep despair about what used to be called "the Negro problem." With most of us, the thing is buried deep. The fact that we no longer even have a name for it tells you how many layers of denial and guilt we have smothered it with. It's there, though: an utter hopelessness, sneering in the face of traditional American optimism, that anything can ever really be done about the issue-that-has-no-name. (Maybe today we can call it the Wright Problem — but it's bigger than Wright.)

In observing American racial attitudes and politics, the interest is in the variety of ways white Americans smother their despair. Some, of course, don't. They are the kind of people whose groups you find on the Southern Poverty Law Center's "hate" list, though many of them are not noticably hateful, only, as they would put it, "realistic." Hate is not a synonym for despair. At the other extreme are white liberals, who have piled so many layers of apology, self-loathing and denial on their despair, working your way through the layers is like a geological expedition.

It's always there, though, and in all but the toughest (i.e. most liberal) cases, put me in a room with a white American for a couple of hours and I can work them round to the point where they are telling me about their last mugging, the last time some black DMV clerk insulted them, or whatever. And when you get your white American to that point, the mixture of relief and rage with which it all spills out is like a boil bursting.

At the national level, we hide our despair with an all-American public ethic of meritocracy and optimism, admiring black Americans like Colin Powell and Clarence Thomas, who have the gift, by their demeanor and achievements, of helping us banish our forbidden frustrations. Barack Obama was one of those figures, until last week. Now he's not. That's why he's toast.

And then, after the paper version of this from the bottom of Jeff Jacoby's parrot cage, the very guy who can't seem to find a window at the DMV without an angry black clerk giving him the black power finger while stamping his forms:

Double standard

JACOBY NAILED the race issue in his column. A double standard does exist, but not as Obama sees it.

As Jacoby suggests, it's OK for African-Americans to criticize this country, presumably because of all the suffering they endured. But it's not OK for them to be criticized for doing so.