The return of Sidney Poitier

A not insignificant reason why white Americans in the early 1960s supported racial equality was that they inchoately believed that blacks were like Sidney Poitier. Over on the main page of Rasmussen Reports today there is a photo of a handsome, smiling Barack Obama talking to voters, and it struck me: Obama is Sidney Poitier, a nice-looking, friendly, intelligent, nonthreatening, civilized black man with great personal appeal. That is what the white American imagination found to its delight in the early Sixties, then lost, and now has found again—and this time whites don’t just get to see him in a movie, they get to vote for him to be the Democratic presidential nominee.

—end of initial entry—

Here’s an aspect of the Obama situation we cannot afford to forget, from a poster responding to the news that Obama is ahead of Hillary by 39 to 27 in New Hampshire:

Reply 7—Posted by: slickbgone, 1/6/2008 4:13:57 PM

I love witnessing the battering of the beast just as much as the next guy but I’d rather she become the nominee than b. hussein.

If she’s the nominee we have her high negatives in our favor, & her “record” can be attacked. If he’s the nominee we will be running against his “aura”. The press constantly gushing over him is vomit inducing but we aint seen nothing yet. They are a bit reserved in their coverage out of some insane respect for her heinousness but if he becomes the candidate can you imagine how the press will react?

And it’s not just a question of how the media would treat Obama as candidate, but of how they would treat him as president. A Hillary presidency would re-awaken conservative instincts to resist her attempt to socialize the country. An Obama presidency, with his personal appeal and his race, would be much harder to oppose.

- end of initial entry -

Zackary W. writes:

Hate to say it, but I think Sailer beat you to the great Sidney Poitier observation a long time ago.

LA replies:

What set off this blog entry was my seeing a particular photo of Obama on Sunday at the Rasmussen site. I looked at him and it made me think of Sidney Poitier.

Steven H. writes:

I was just listening to WIP sports talk radio station (the number 1 sports talk station in the country) in Philadelphia when the topic of the Democrat debates came up. The talk show host Angelo Cataldi, who is white, started to get all excited about Obama and exclaiming that “HE’S MY MAN!” Immediately after this proclamation a number of white callers began to echo this sentiment and somehow tried to give the impression that this was a “cool” position to take.

I find this interesting because this was coming from people, white males fanatical about sports who, for the most part, know little or nothing about politics or current events other than what they may catch a glimpse of on TV. When I combine this large demographic with the praise for Obama emanating for some so called “conservatives” I become very concerned that this nightmare could and may become reality.

Richard B. writes:

Have you considered that a President Obama just might put an end to white guilt forever? By electing him president, whites would never ever have to feel guilty for any past burdens of racial conscience because they will have made the supreme gesture to the Negro race. A black man will become the leader of white Americans. They will never again have to say (or think) I’m sorry.

Obama will truly be the “magic negro”. And why not? Haven’t blacks been planted in roles of leadership in TV and Movies for the past 30 years? When Hollywood had to include a black in the cast he was a partner, a detective, a police chief, the president. A black man even played GOD! So society has been brainwashed into accepting blacks in authority type positions. So why not President for real? Then white America can say “Jeeez, we elected a black man as President, What more do you want?” without any guilt.

Obama’s being president could be sabotaged by current black leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They may want (jealously) a bit of Obama’s spotlight.

What kind of “change” will that be, then?

LA replies:

First, I think Richard is overstating the guilt motivation. I think white people are drawn to Obama in the first instance primarily because they find him an appealing, fresh, likable, fun figure. White people didn’t like Sidney Poitier out of guilt; they liked him because he was appealing and likeable. They had a genuine desire—not just a desire driven by guilt—to like black people, and Poitier was black and very likeable. It’s the same with Obama. Proof of what I just said is found in the fact that I, who have no white guilt, have an instinctive liking for Obama, even to the point of failing to react against him as strongly as I should have.

I think white conservatives go wrong when they think that white people can only like a black person for indirect, negative reasons, and not for simple, positive reasons, namely that they find him likeable.

I’m not saying that there is not such a thing as white guilt, and that it’s not a factor in the Obama phenomenon. I’m just saying that don’t think it’s the primary fuel of the Obama phenomenon.

Even the racial aspect of the white liking for Obama is not necessarily about guilt. After all, it is a central belief of white people that we should regard all people as our brothers and our equals regardless of racial and other differences. This belief is not driven just by guilt over white discrimination and black backwardness . It’s a sincere belief, emerging from liberal Christianity, secular liberalism, and liberal universalism. But putting that sincere belief into practice is made difficult by the actual negative and dysfunctional qualities of many blacks, including their resentment of whites. Obama does not present those problems that prevent whites from liking actual blacks. This is an example of a white-liberal motivation involved in the white response to Obama which is not about guilt, though guilt is of course an important part of the total picture of white-black relations and therefore is also a part of the Obama phenomenon. In my view, white guilt is driven not by guilt over historic mistreatment of blacks, as most people believe, but by continuing black backwardness and dysfunction. See my article, “Guilty Whites,” where I explain this in detail.

Second, there is no reason to believe that an Obama presidency.would do away with white guilt and the anti-white dynamics of white guilt and black rage. Did white South Africans’ handover of national power to black South Africans end white guilt and black racial resentment? Of course not. It is dangerous naivete to think it would. In fact, for reasons I can’t go into here, the more power blacks have and the better off blacks are, the more guilty whites will seem, and the more vengeful blacks will become toward whites. (Note: in the initial posting of this entry, I said that the above idea is an example of the first law of majority-minority relations. That was incorrect.)

My favorite example of the dynamics of this phenomenon comes from Communist China. In Communist China, decades after all the landlords had been murdered, the state was still producing plays about evil landlords. President Nixon attended such a play when he was in China. The war against evil landlords was the very basis of the regime and could never stop, even after all the landlords were gone.

Mark A writes:

I couldn’t agree more that the more power blacks have the more guilty whites will become. You are correct. So why not elect Obama now? Wouldn’t it be better to wake up white America to what Negro leaders have in store for them while whites are still 2/3 of the nation? Isn’t it better to do this now than when we make up 1/3 of the nation?

LA replies:

The hard choice Mark presents us with makes me think: Being white in advanced liberal society ain’t for sissies.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 06, 2008 08:17 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):