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The audacity of arrogance

5/15/2008, 5:08 a.m.

The audacity of arrogance

“I guess we won’t need
 these anymore.”

Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic candidate for president. Hillary Clinton has not yet conceded, but there are no realistic strategies for her to make up the deficiency in her delegate vote count. Still, she insists on continuing to slog on to the bitter end.

Regardless of the final outcome, Obama’s success so far has demonstrated that a sea change in racial attitudes has occurred in America. His campaign was launched with a victory in Iowa, an almost all-white state. While the black vote became important in later primaries, Obama’s success resulted from his ability to inspire and bring together Americans of all races and religions.

Now African Americans have irrefutable evidence that race is not an absolute barrier to attaining the nation’s highest office. While this does not mean that racism has completely disappeared, it is evident that bigotry is no longer powerful enough to deter an African American who is ambitious, well-educated and determined.

Some whites, however, will continue to play the race card when they feel they are losing. When her 14-point loss in North Carolina and a slim victory in Indiana spelled her doom, Clinton decided to invoke old stereotypes. She said in a recent interview in USA Today: “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on … Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again …” This is a naked appeal to white racial solidarity.

With that remark, Clinton lost her credibility as a uniter. In fact, her basic assumption is false. It is likely that most of her white support will stay with the Democratic nominee, just as the black voters who support Obama will likely remain Democrats, just as they have in every past presidential election. It is unconscionable for black superdelegates to remain committed to Clinton after such a divisive racial remark.

A number of prominent blacks committed to Clinton before Obama’s extraordinary qualities were well-known. It is a rule in politics that once you give your word, you keep it. But Clinton’s desperate effort to inspire white racial support certainly dissolves those commitments. Donald Payne, a black congressman from New Jersey, defected from the Clinton camp last Friday. Others should follow.

African Americans, inspired by the Obama saga to seek their own success, should reject politicians who find it acceptable to play the race card.


Toward a universal standard

Exoneration of the police officers responsible for the shooting death of Sean Bell and the wounding of his two friends in Queens, N.Y., has created a political problem. Usually, an incident of alleged police abuse involves black victims and white police officers. In the Sean Bell case, because two of the police officers were black, the issue was exclusively abuse of police power without any racial overtones.

According to a recent New York Times report, the Guardians Association, formed in 1942 as a fraternal association for black police officers, was supportive of Marc Cooper and Gescard F. Isnora, the black detectives acquitted of all charges in Bell’s 50-shot killing. However, the Grand Council of Guardians, which includes police, correction and parole officers, was critical of the outcome of the trial. Another group called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which considers itself a civil rights organization, condemned the judicial decision and was also openly critical of the police’s conduct.

In New York, nearly 6,000 of the roughly 36,000 police officers are black, according to a Guardians Association spokesman. Reactions to the Bell case show how difficult it has become to decide policy questions solely on the basis of race as blacks become a major part of public institutions. It is not possible to exonerate blacks and implicate whites. The only rational approach is to follow where the facts take you.