Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Healing divides

The claim goes that Obama's election helps heal racial divides in this country. It'd be wonderful if it did. But there's a political industry based on exacerbating wounds, and a musical industry that thrives on the same, and (although probably less relevantly) an academic industry that lives to define victims. Raking up old injuries and magnifying new ones brings in their bread and butter. I don't think Jesse Jackson is going to give up the shakedown business just because Obama was elected. I'd guess that within two months we'll start hearing that he's "not black enough" or that because his father was Kenyan he "doesn't really understand" ghetto life. It'll be just a whisper at first: there's too much elation right now for anything harsh.

I suspect most of the "healing" will be with blacks who don't follow the demagogues anyway. Maybe a second-generation effect?

The flip side is an interesting question: Will this heal racial division on the "white" side? How much division is based on "white" attitudes?

The academics tell me that "privilege" is "racism." Some say that white racism appears in structural asymmetries. Others say historical differences have to be righted before racism will vanish. Their obvious solution to the problem of racism as they define it is to remove privilege. For which you obviously need a special privileged class to manage the forced equalization. That doesn't seem very healing.

Other people say that what appears to be racism is merely a logical approach to objective differences in probability: a young black man is many times more likely to be a criminal than a young white woman. (I've read that this number is nearly 30) So far as this is true, and not merely a perception of differences, I don't think Obama will change much.

Some whites are clearly racists. I've met a few. I don't think Obama is going to have much impact on them.

That leaves whites who aren't particularly biased as the target group for "healing," as their perceptions change. I don't know how extensive a population this is, but I can't think of a white racial demagogue with the same stature and following as Al Sharpton.

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