August 01, 2008

Success to Bring Division?

Politics always has an element of tribalism about it, as Darwin Catholic explains. Many vote for those with an R or a D after their name. Others based on skin color or religion or what have you: Mormons for Romney, blacks for Obama, Rinos for McCain (just jokin').

But current black leaders seem to be envious (that was for Tom of Disputations, who doesn't like it when I use 'jealous' when I mean envious) of Obama, for the understandable reason that he hasn't paid his dues. I expect that from Jesse Jackson but less so from Tavis Smiley for some reason. Unlike Jesse, who is publically supportive of Obama but privately not so, Smiley is publicly skeptical. He's not a go-along-with-the-crowd type. He's ambivalent about the messiahship of Obama -- a regular Doubting Tavis.

Tom Joyner says that the perception was that Smiley was supporting Hillary Clinton but even if not true Smiley seems a bit old-fashioned in that he seems to care more about ideas - i.e. furthering government liberalism and all its misguided works and pomps - than skin color, even though liberalism for Smiley is mostly a vehicle for helping black folks, for whom he feels real passion. (With Jesse Jackson, by contrast, there seems more feeling for poverty wherever it's found.)
The New Yorker has the story:
In quieter moments, Smiley often strikes a note of concern about whether, after the campaign, Obama’s “soul will be intact.” One night, driving through Los Angeles with a friend, the actor Wren T. Brown, Smiley said, in a soft voice, “We are going to have to keep that brother at the top of our prayer list. As the old folk say, ‘Keep that Negro on the altar.’”

Among African-Americans, in particular, an Obama victory in November would probably be celebrated as if it were a national holiday. (Even Smiley says, “If the brother wins, I’m gon’ be on the front line of the electric slide—I’m gon’ be there celebrating, like everybody else.”) But it could also be traumatic for anyone who makes a living talking about or to—or, especially, for—black America. Black leaders who opposed him might find themselves, as Smiley did, dissidents in their own communities. Bitter intra-racial debates over the policies of our first black President could only make the notion of a singular black community seem that much more illusory, emphasizing schisms that many black leaders have been at pains to ignore.

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