Forget Post-Racial Politics: NAACP Election Flyer Incites the Base
Obama’s election was supposed to herald a brave new era of post-racial politics in America. We probably should have known better. The president tried his best to be a uniter (remember the “beer summit” with Henry Louis Gates and the Cambridge Cop?), but it’s just not happening.
How’s this for evidence: Last week, here in my tree-shaded, amicably integrated corner of Philadelphia, I found a flyer from the NAACP curled up in my mailbox. It was a rousing call to bring out the black vote, boldly headlined “OUR PRESIDENT IS UNDER ATTACK.”
The message continued on the flip side: “TIME TO FIGHT BACK… President Obama stood up for change and we stood with him. Now he is under attack. He needs our help to create jobs and move our community forward.”
So far, so good: Obama is under attack. And here was an assertive, legitimate call to the faithful during the home stretch of the 2010 campaign season. Now for the next paragraph:
“SHOW OUR STRENGTH. By voting, we can stand up to the people who want to stop our progress and tear us down.”
Say what? Who exactly are these people who want to shift the black community into “reverse”? Republicans? White folks in general? Even the Tea Partiers have been squeaky-clean on matters racial… they point proudly to their black co-religionists and appear to be above reproach.
So what goes on here? The venerable NAACP, nervous about potential Republican victories on Election Day, simply resorted to an equally venerable bit of cultural shtick: that white people want to keep black people down.
Does this archaic argument still hold water in 2010? Of course not. Nobody wants to keep black people down; if anything, all decent Americans want blacks to thrive in school, go on to college, find remunerative jobs and join the middle class. But never underestimate the power of old resentments to move minds.
The NAACP hasn’t forgotten. It’s an old institution, after all (the CP in NAACP stands for “Colored People”). It has a long memory of lynchings, segregation, blatant prejudice and institutional injustice. But those days are history. You’d think the politics of racial resentment would be history, too.