Deconstructing Obama’s remark, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”

Philip M. writes from England:

No one yet has discussed the way that Obama chose to enter this argument. I think we can safely assume that these remarks were carefully weighed and calibrated before being uttered. On the one hand, America is approaching an election in which Obama is keen to buttress and mobilise his black support, and to silence those in the black community who have been asking “has he done enough for black people?” On the other, he has to approach the subject in a way that seems reasonable, non-threatening and non-overtly racist to whites. If he can pull it off, the reward is that he gets something for nothing—to be perceived as fighting the black cause without having to spend any money or time on new initiatives.

So the choice of words is interesting. We can assume that in the minds of Obama and his advisors this choice of words was deemed to be the most acceptable and least nakedly racial. He does not actually say, “I am fighting for Trayvon because he is black,” but that is exactly how his remarks will be seen by blacks. And of course, they would be right to see this. The remarks are clever and considered, because the family in many ways is a microcosm of race, carrying within it notions of heredity and shared genes; of an increased sense of awareness and care based on genetic relatedness. As someone who has argued about race I know this very well, because these are exactly the kind of arguments I would use to make the white racial cause seem reasonable too. Who wouldn’t have a twinge of sympathy with a victim of crime who reminded them of their own child or parent? Because the family is still acceptable in a way that race is not, by focusing on this tiny microcosm of race Obama is able to make a racial point without opening a can of worms, or causing whites to muse on the racial double standards rife in America—he can plausibly deny the racial aspects of his remarks. This means that Obama uses the tactics and language in defence of his race that a white nationalist would use in defence of his … only without the accompanying media lynch-mob pundits keen to analyse such remarks for their racial meanings.

This is part of the reason I detest white liberals so much. They are capable of teasing out the racial meanings and “implicit whiteness” of a photo of Mitt Romney and his family, or even the white shirtsleeves he is wearing. They can zoom in like an electron microscope on phrases in a Sarah Palin speech and tease apart every supposed dog whistle calls to white America, yet choose not to see the obvious racial implications of Obama’s comments—“if I had a son he’d be black. So I care more about what happens to blacks, because I have shared genetic interests” (and will anyone point out that Obama would only have a hypothetical black son if only he considered breeding within his race—an entirely racist assumption he happens to believe).

What Obama said IS reasonable—for a black man to feel this way is normal and natural. Given that his remarks attracted no opprobrium, obviously they have been accepted as such by almost everyone. So what to make of the fuss that liberals would create if a white person advances such an argument? [LA replies: That black racial consciousness—even in the mouth of the president of the United States—is good, and that white racial consciousness is the most evil thing in the universe.]

Liberals know that what they call “racism” from whites is in fact reasonable, and they know that most Americans will see it is as such when they hear it from anyone other than a white person.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 25, 2012 03:49 PM | Send

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