Stuff Certain White People Like

Of course, it will become a proved-to-the-hilt truth that the “bitter” white working class’s lack of enthusiasm for Obama is fueled by their “racism.”

Linguist and columnist John McWhorter, who is black, comments:

…many are wondering whether Mr. Obama’s inability to “close the deal,” as Mrs. Clinton has put it, with less educated whites indicates that they don’t like black people. To conclude that racism is the issue here is, however, reflexive and even lazy.

What we are seeing is that to whites of this stratum, there is nothing especially magic about Mr. Obama. That is, a considerable amount of Mr. Obama’s appeal is based on his charisma, his air of “freshness,” and so on. And yes, a considerable part of that is his color. I have written this before and will write it again: many white voters are stimulated by the idea of voting for a black candidate for president, as a gesture toward getting past America’s racist past.

People isolating that sentence as evidence that I oppose Mr. Obama’s candidacy will be neglecting countless columns I have written supporting him in this space. Nevertheless, anyone who claims that he would be where he is now if he were white is exerting the same kind of mental gymnastics as someone who claims “I don’t see race.” Mr. Obama’s color gave a boost to an interesting and qualified candidate and, well, here we are.

But that boost, it would seem, came mostly from educated, collegetown sorts. To this crowd, attendance to the fact that racism still exists, policing themselves for remnants of it, and taking especial delight in diversity are more important than to most blue-collar, small-town whites. That is, opposition to racism as a high priority is, as the blog has it, “Stuff White People Like,” the idea being white people of a certain demographic.

This does not mean that the whites in Pennsylvania don’t like black people, are “not ready” for a black president, or are evidence of racism “lurking beneath the surface of polite discussion.” It simply means that these people are evaluating Mr. Obama in a neutral way, and find Ms. Clinton more experienced, better prepared to steward a nation at war, and perhaps even having paid her dues in a way that Mr. Obama has not.

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