The difference racism makes?

From TalkLeft, which says this is circulating among lawyers:

How Racism Works:

What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said ‘I do’ to? What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization? What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama were a member of the Keating-5? What if McCain were a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

You are The Boss… which team would you hire?

With America facing historic debt, 2 wars, stumbling health care, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures, etc.

Educational Background:

Columbia University – B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard – Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

University of Delaware – B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law – Juris Doctor (J.D.)


McCain: United States Naval Academy – Class rank: 894 of 899

Palin: Hawaii Pacific University – 1 semester
North Idaho College – 2 semesters – general study
University of Idaho – 2 semesters – journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College – 1 semester
University of Idaho – 3 semesters – B.A. in Journalism

Now, which team are you going to hire ?

Pretty powerful, but is it way too simple?  WHAT DO YOU THINK?

21 thoughts on “The difference racism makes?

  1. It has never been clear to me that voters much care about candidates’ education or academic accomplishments, whatever their race.

  2. I agree with Barca. This would be extremely simplistic even if performance in college played a prominent role in how people typically evaluate politicians–and it doesn’t. (Whether it should is not entirely certain, either.)

    And that’s not just true of politics, but of jobs and job qualifications in general. In the scheme of things, only an extremely small portion of jobs care about things like class rank or Latin honors. I’m sure there’s a pretty good chance that if I told my boss that I graduated summa cum laude, he wouldn’t know what I meant.

    I’m also leery of what seems to me a suggestion that Palin’s education must have been poor simply because she transferred several times. This whole thing savors of elitism.

  3. This whole thing savors of elitism.

    I don’t think the whole thing is elitist. Just the `Educational Background’ section. Which, I’d add, doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what’s above it. I suspect that someone added everything after `You are The Boss’ to an earlier version of the chain, thinking they were being helpful.

  4. Yes, this is simple. No, voters might not care about the fine print of the CV. But if the roles were reversed, the so-called “conversation” about the candidates would be very different. What is and is not “an issue” would be very different. A recent concrete example from the campaign: Obama was lashed during the primaries for not wearing a lapel flag pin (ugh) on one or two occasions, so he has worn one pretty much ever since. McCain didn’t wear his flag pin during the debate last week, but no big deal. Because his patriotism is not “an issue”. McCain’s education is not “an issue”, but as the post suggests, Obama’s education would be “an issue” for Obama if he had McCain’s transcript. Etc.
    I agree that this is one of the many things that racism does. I liked what the Guardian columnist Gary Younge said about race and the U.S. after talking to people who acknowledged there was still racism but that they themselves were not. In the United States, there is racism but no racists.

  5. Since I asked “What do you think?” I don’t really want to barge in (yet), but I have to say that I’m puzzled by the idea that there’s something objectionably elitist about wanting a president who has had a first class education that he or she valued enough to work hard at. Thinking it’s enough to have just social smarts and a gut sense means one’s failed to learn from George Bush.

    Woodward’s latest book opens one’s eye to the fact that we need a president who can critically evaluate input and come to reasoned conclusions that may involve changing one’s mind. The thing that stands out about Bush is that he can’t do that. While his generals had learned from Viet Nam that enemy body counts don’t give one the effective goal in local wars, Bush couldn’t or wouldn’t take it in, still less change his mind. And that’s just the war.

    That’s not to say that people who didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton can’t reason critically, just as you don’t need to train at the best ballet school to be a great ballerina. Nonetheless, such an education changes the odds.

  6. Most voters don’t care about these things and I am one of them. I think it smacks of elitism because many of us care about a lot of things, including our families and even our loyalty to the part-time or full-time jobs we have when we are in school and so don’t have the traditional single minded ambition. My experience living in The college town of the US is that an Ivy league education does not indicate the ability to think outside box, to articulate, to care, to be a hard worker or to analyze any more than education at several public institutions.
    I don’t think people trust that academia has real world knowledge. Bush’s advisers very ideological right? Aren’t Obama’s?
    That said, if Obama had McCain’s background, and certainly if Michelle Obama had Cindy McCains background these would be bigger issues.
    Is this an issue of race and class?

  7. Without a control it’s hard to say how worthwhile these ideas are. With the still ongoing Republican corruption problem, for instance, I don’t see any reason to think McCain’s whiteness is somehow trumping his Keating-Fiveness. He was cleared of wrongdoing and that’s about all one can say.

    Still.. my racist sensibilities were tingling a bit after the first two bits (I had previously known none of those facts, so the hypotheticals were pretty effective). Obama’s status is lowered with the idea that he graduated 894th by virtue of doing what Blacks are expected to do, while our expectations for the White senator (especially qua war hero) are much more in line with what Obama has actually accomplished.

    Pretty interesting, if not very useful argumentatively.

  8. I’m struck as I think about some of this that I heard a very great deal about how incredibly intelligent Bill Clinton is when he was running and when he was president. And I heard a lot this time around about Hilary’s intelligence. I’ve heard much, much less about the Obama’s.

    Let me just clarify my remarks about education. I started with the idea of someone who worked hard to get an excellent education at a first class educational institution. It’s pretty clear that it is possible to go to such an institution and kiss-off the education. From what I’ve heard, Bush did just that. Also, obviously, the list of first rate institutions may well include some public institutions. You can get a great education at the Naval Academy; McCain kissed-off that opportunity.

    Equally, nothing says that a dedication to getting a first class education means one has good values generally, a good character, and/or an understanding of what challenges working-class parents face, for example.

  9. I’ll agree that going to a first-class educational institution isn’t everything *but* having gone to one such college and now being in a graduate program at yet another university, I have to say that there is a minimum bar at which you have to perform to go there. I would hope that the public could actually appreciate that concept. And surely it can smack of elitism but there are those of us (such as myself) who come from very average middle class families who have to work our way through. I work full time as a consultant to be able to afford a first-class graduate degree. And I kill myself to be able to keep up with the work. So for the general public to assume that just because Obama attended an elite private institution means that he doesn’t know what troubles the working-class face are rather narrow minded. Perhaps one should actually look into his background, like the fact that he came from a middle class family. It’s funny because I don’t believe anyone ever accused George W Bush of being elitist with that fake southern accent of his but he surely didn’t get into Harvard or Yale by virtue of his intelligence. Nor did he survive after that by virtue of his own ability to mark out a career path for himself. I think that comparison would be more apt to get a response than comparing McCain’s mediocre performance with Obama’s.

  10. Elitism isn’t always class elitism. A high level of performance and dedication is required for many positions. I don’t think its a matter of not considering it a measure of success but not considering it a tried and true measure of leadership ability or other necessary presidential traits. And if it is, is it the best or only measure? Also people don’t admire academics as much as they wish to be admired. I would try to understand why not and instead of taking it personally. I checked the page that the blogger here took it from and many people had the reaction that is being expressed here. It’s a false comparison being made above; is this partly BECAUSE OF the education of the writer?

  11. I guess the focus on the education part of the issue could be reflecting the background of many readers: teachers and students. I think this overtook the part about race, and the fact that some mitigating comments brought up class is interesting, in a way I personally find welcome.

    Still, in that case the contrast was originally about race and racism, at least according to the title, and this thread has been mostly avoiding that particular issue. That could by itself be a most interesting piece of data, but I wouldn’t make much out of comments to a blog post in that case.

  12. Counterfnord, good observations. I think the original post – in making assumptions about what was good or not-so-good – invited some of the distractions. But #5 above, by Captiver, seems to me to get to the central point.

  13. I get the idea that the people against Obama want to make him appear elite. I have seen anti-Obama email spams that suggest that he cannot understand every day life because he went to private and prestigious schools. I have heard little on who paid for his education. It just seems that Obama is criticized for not being elitist or not being white enough or not being black enough or not being patriotic enough. It hurts to feel the racism at work. Somehow they have turned the community reinvestment act as something that should work against Obama, when this law struck down all the financial instiutions that treated people differently because of the color of their skin. I think that it has become almost impossible to listen to the campaign talk without hearing someone say something racist, as if it is ok? Why can’t we talk about Obama’s qualification, his skill and the way he relates to others? Why can’t we just talk about what he might contribute simply because he is biracial, which can be mroe cahllenging to an individual than being of a single race? Why do they want to make Obama seem elitist when i don’t recall anyone saying anyone from the Bush family was elitist. The Clinton’s went to find schools and I don’t recall anyone saying they were elitist? I hope that every person angered in this race becomes motivated to vote against the racially intolerant.

  14. k, your comment is worrying because it hasn’t seemed that bad to me, and of course I’m wondering if I’m missing stuff. Would you mind giving some examples of what you have in mind?

    It is interesting that Obama’s being biracial doesn’t seem much discussed, and I’m wondering if that’s because he would traditionally be said to be black – that is, according to the way terms at least were used. I think you are right that it means discussions are missing out on a lot of what he can bring.

  15. I’m hoping that we might mainly be sorting through the negative comments slightly differently. I certainly agree that “uppity” is racist and alarming; it has the contemptuous hostility that has led to attacks on blacks.

    Some of the other negativity I’m less sure is racist. You might remember that post about Denis Prager and his view that all liberals are completely out of touch with how ordinary people think ( Those charges of elitism & being different from ordinary people have been very common tropes in conservative discussions of liberals for some time.

    It may be, though, that the Ayers comments gets some bite from the idea that Obama is somehow dangerous in the way black men can be portrayed as dangerous more generally. Still, I’ve heard tons of right wingers insist for some time that the liberals are out to destroy the country. “They want us to lose the war” etc.

    The idea that maybe he really is a muslim may be doing duty for racist thoughts.

    I think I did take from K the fact that there isn’t more positive said about Obama might well be racist.

  16. Here’s a few more “what if’s”…

    What if McCain’s wife had called the US a downright mean country that she is just now proud of for the first time in her adult life?

    What if McCain’s pastor had said G.D. America and spouted hate from the pulpit while McCain sat there for 20 years?

    What if McCain had of launched his political career in the home of a unrepentant domestic terrorist?

    What if McCain had of worked for and his campaign donated $800k to an organization that has been found to have committed voter fraud?

    What if McCain’s claim to fame was to have been a community organizer working with people like Tony Rezko who bilked the taxpayers out of millions of dollars to line their own pockets and build housing that is now either condemned or torn down?

    What if McCain had the most conservative voting record in the senate?

    What if McCain was promising to cut 95% of American’s taxes, while really increasing taxes on American businesses that will cost us jobs and raise prices on nearly everything we buy, essentially raising taxes on 100% of Americans?

    Here is one answer, you certainly would be hearing more about it in the mainstream press.

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