10 June 2009

Shelby Steele On Sotomayor And Racial Politics

But of course "post-racialism" is not a real idea. It is an impression, a chimera that grows out of a very specific racial manipulation that I have called "bargaining." Here the minority makes a bargain with white society: I will not "guilt" you with America's centuries of racism if you will not hold my minority status against me. Whites love this bargain because it allows them to feel above America's racist past and, therefore, immune to charges of racism. By embracing the bargainer they embrace the impression of a world beyond racial division, a world in which whites are innocent and minorities carry no anger. This is the impression that animates bargainers like Mr. Obama or Oprah Winfrey with an irresistible charisma. Even if post-racialism is an obvious illusion -- a bargainer's trick as it were -- whites are flattered by believing in it.

But the Sotomayor nomination shows that Mr. Obama has no idea what a post-racial society would look like. In selling himself as a candidate to the American public he is a gifted bargainer beautifully turned out in post-racial impressionism. But in the real world of Supreme Court nominations, where there is a chance to actually bring some of that idealism down to earth, he chooses a hardened, divisive and race-focused veteran of the culture wars he claims to transcend.
(h/t Matt L.)

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