Barack Obama and the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations
Ann Althouse notes with some fascination Slate‘s new “The Obama Messiah Watch” feature “which will periodically highlight gratuitously adoring biographical details that appear in newspaper, television, and magazine profiles of this otherworldly presence in our midst.”
Althouse makes directly a point I’ve made obliquely a couple of times: “What accounts for amazement to the point of adoration at the fact that a man possesses excellent skill at something like note taking? Is it not that he can do it and he’s black?”
There is undoubtedly an element of the soft bigotry of low expectations at work. I’ve often made the comparison between Obama 2007 and Colin Powel circa 2000: non-threatening black men with the ability to express themselves extremely well and without the baggage of having taken a lot of public stances on controversial issues. Another comparison, though, is illustrated by an old Chris Rock joke: “People say Colin Powell speaks so well. What’d they expect him to say? ‘Ahmma drop me a bomb’?” There’s something incredibly condescending to think of saying that a man who has risen to the ranks of 4-star general or United States Senator is “articulate,” but it’s always meant as a compliment. In reality, though, it’s a backhanded one.
Obama is more than “articulate,” of course; he’s a truly gifted orator. And he was editor of the Harvard Law Review and otherwise has some mighty impressive credentials. It does seem, though, that the bar is set much lower for Obama than most men who would be president.