Note: It is a great pleasure, as always, to publish an original essay by the accomplished Canadian writer, poet, and critic David Solway.
"Is American Racist?"
Oprah Bravely Names the Hatred Roiling the American Body Politic
by David Solway
The United States, as many informed celebrities, experts and political figures would have us believe, is without doubt an impenitently racist nation. Most recently, for example, the divine Oprah told the BBC that the “disrespect” which many Americans feel for Barack Obama has to do with the fact that he is African American. Of course, Obama is not African American, he is half-white, so he is at least as Caucasian American as anything else that he might conceivably be. But this is a mere triviality—he is, after all, what we have come to call a “racialized person.” The skepticism with which many Americans have come to regard Obama plainly has nothing to do with his incompetence, his frivolity, his bald-face lying, his betrayal of America’s long-time allies, his overriding of Congress, his pro-Islamic politics, his divisive style of governing, his playing of the race card, his undermining of the Constitution, his susceptibility to scandals, his socialist convictions, his appointment of 32 unaccountable “czars,” his counter-productive economic agenda, or the destructive travesty of Obamacare. On the contrary, it is entirely a matter of skin tone. Unlike the country in which Oprah gave her interview, which never so much as entertained the prospect of a black (or brown) head of state, America continues to sink deep into a racial quagmire.
Oprah’s comments should obviously be attended to with the utmost deference and sobriety for she is a woman of enormous insight and acetylene perceptiveness. America must be a racist country since the Oprah Winfrey Show could count on millions of white viewers who clearly idolized her. How else explain her mammoth popularity but as a function of Jim Crowism? America must be a racist country since it has elected her misprized “African American” presidential candidate, not once, mind you, but twice—a sure sign of racial prejudice and epidermal bigotry of the first magnitude. America must be a racist country since its attorney general is, if our eyes do not deceive us, African American. Obama’s current national security advisor is similarly complected—yet more evidence of outrageous racial animus. We need not recall that under the previous administrations of George W. Bush, widely reviled as a redneck bigot, both his secretaries of state were successively African American—once again, proof positive of the vicious race prejudice that saturates the country.
The evidence, then, is massively undeniable. A country with a two-term black president (even if he is only half-black), a black first lady, a black attorney general, and a black national security advisor must indubitably qualify as a racist nation that is beyond the limits of the acceptable, fit for nothing but universal denunciation and infinite sadness. We owe a debt of gratitude to Oprah Winfrey for reminding us of the work that remains to be done to free America from the stigma of racial discrimination and its headlong course toward becoming an apartheid regime on the scale of the former South Africa.
And yet, on further reflection, the issue is far more insidious than might appear on the surface. Indeed, Oprah is right, but in a way that ironically escapes even her intellectual acuity and wisdom. The president, the first lady, the attorney general and the national security advisor have behaved so poorly, so disreputably, so mendaciously, so high-handedly and so contemptuously as to cast a negative pall on the entire African American community, making it difficult or impossible for decent people like Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, Mia Love, Larry Elder and Mychal Massie, among a host of others, to be taken seriously. What else can this be but a white conspiracy plying its discriminatory trade? The whole sordid business was carried out with deceptive simplicity. Merely install someone like Obama—a feckless individual of color trailing dubious antecedents and adept at nothing but “community organizing,” voting “present” and reading teleprompters—in the White House, allow him space and time to govern according to his will and to appoint whomever he wishes to high office—and eventually he will spread discredit far and wide upon his own racial constituency. O, clever whites, to come up with so diabolical and effective a plot! Oprah herself, for all her discernment, could not penetrate to the depths of such crafty malevolence.
Oprah’s conclusion, however, cannot be dismissed or ridiculed; old white people have to die, she affirms in her BBC interview, before racism will disappear.
What a lady! And what a credit to her community and her nation!