http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/magazine/10politics-t.html?_r=1&sq=matt%20bai&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=all

The above NY Times article is yet another piece about Obama’s candidacy ushering in some ‘post-racial’ period in America’s politics. Its pretty good, as far as articles in that genre go. I feel that pretty much regardless of the author’s intentions, the article is perhaps best understood as forecasting an end to the whole phenomenon of black politicians/celebs serving as spokespersons for black people writ large. I will get to my problem with the article and it’s author and why I feel it does a lot of work to undermine the veracity of his argument in a moment, but let me just say that at the very least it’s an interesting profile of some talented up and coming politicians (and some that are already wielding a fair degree of power) in the US that are worth knowing a bit about and whom those of us who follow this stuff will likely see more of.

Now on to the beef.

Despite the articles merits, the most memorable part of the article for me was the following quote which I found to be infuriating to say the least.
“Obama himself has offered only tepid support for a policy [affirmative action] that surely helped enable him to reach this moment.”

Maybe I am being overly sensitive because, as a black guy attending an Ivy League institution, I’ve heard a lot of this kind of talk. But I don’t think that’s the case. What has always upset me about people assuming that affirmative action got me into Columbia was that they didn’t know me. They didn’t know how good my grades were, they didn’t know my SAT scores or how my interview went, but they assumed the most important thing I had to offer the school was my melanin count. That stung because people unthinkingly embraced their preconceived notions without any exploration into my merits and what I’d gone through to get to this point.

But with Barack it’s different. Here is a man that is widely considered – whether among journalists, politicians, pundists, etc. – to be the most talented political mind in a generation. As a lefty he was president of the conservative Harvard Law review, his first book was a NY Times best seller back when he didn’t wield supernova-like star power, and he defeated the Clinton juggernaut to become the new face of the Democratic party despite the fact that all the smart money said he had no business winning. We all KNOW that he is of unique substance. So why was affirmative action “surely” a factor in his success? In his article about “the end of black politics”, we still find the author clinging unreasonably and probably subconsciously to an old bias that is part of the reason black politics have been needed for so long. How can the end of black politics be in sight if we still can’t wrap our minds around the fact that genius has no colour?

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