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McCain's race problems
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-08-06 08:39:17
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Over the last two months John McCain and his people have said so often that Barack Obama is using the ‘race card’ that I have the feeling that they are the ones who are using it, often making me suspect that they going over the line just to get the support of the racist minority and I sincerely hope that Obama will not use this race card despite the fact that he has every reason to do so, not for any other reason but just to show in the end how racist the situation is.

I have to admit that I don’t really understand this ‘race card’ issue McCain and his people keep talking about and what Obama can do about it? Can he go out and say anything apart from the fact that he is black? Can he do anything else than only with his presence remind people that a few decades ago the black people in USA and especially some states had no right for equal education? Isn’t it true and hasn’t Hollywood glorified it with films awarded with Oscars that the black people in USA were victims of racism and prejudice till lately if not in some cases even today? Does he need to say anything? So I don’t get it, where is this ‘race card’, the man doesn’t need to say or do anything, it is in the conscious of the white America and McCain that does all the work. Or by keep talking about this ‘race card’ McCain and his people try to remind everybody that Obama is black and if that is not racist I honestly don’t know what is.

It doesn’t matter if I agree or not with his policy, I have always liked the former USA Foreign Secretary Colin Powell and one of the reasons I really liked him had to do with an interview he gave to young people prior to the elections for the music channel MTV. A young man from the audience asked him how he feels when he goes abroad and says that he is the first black Foreign Secretary of USA. Colin Powell looked a bit confused and then he said, "When I go abroad I say that I am the Foreign Secretary of the United States and that’s it, the colour of my skin has nothing to do with it. I never thought of saying, 'Hi, I’m the black Foreign Secretary of the USA!'" His answer was not ‘correct’ but truthful. It was the answer of a man who was very aware of what he was representing and I’m sure that when it comes to Obama it happens exactly the same way.

We should never forget that one of the first things Obama said when all this started was that this is not about race or gender, it is about change. And the bitter truth is that change is not coming with McCain talking about the race card all the time. And then I saw the new adverts from McCain’s staff. One of them I have to admit really impressed me; it has clips from Obama’s speeches where there is the name of a state or a city somewhere in the world and then in Spanish subtitles mentions that there is nothing about the Hispanics. Let me see, the next time Vanhanen, the Finnish prime minister will go abroad and will not mention the …Greek origin Finns living in Finland I will get really angry. Is McCain and his staff serious? What did they expect him to do? Go to Berlin and say, hello Berliners and Hispanics of New York? 

I know we old Europeans have problems to understand Americans but, seriously, does McCain believe that USA Hispanics want to be called anything else other than US citizens with equal rights and privileges like any other US citizen? I’m sorry if I don’t understand it but whom does Mr. McCain try to awaken? The Hispanics or to remind another minority that in USA today there are blacks, Asians, Hispanics with the right to elect and elected? From this side of the Atlantic the old Europe that’s how it looks like.

Barack Obama should not raise the ‘race card’ for the simple reason that he has no reason to do so; on the other side McCain should stop talking about the ‘race card’ because in the end he will raise a race flag!

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Emanuel Paparella2008-08-06 15:35:46
Since I have been told publicly that I tend to crowd the comment space and suck the air out of it, I have waited half a day to let others comment on this and then join the genial and concerned conversation, but so far the box remains empty and nobody has commented; so, given the commendable policy of free speech of Ovi, I will take the advice in the box and let it off my chest. In my opinion, the deafening silence can only mean two things: 1) on the other side of the Atlantic this topic of “the race card” is found tedious, or 2) the topic is understood only too well and is found too hot to handle. After all, how many Finns or Norwegians or Swedes, or Danish or for that matter how many European nations, are ready and willing to nominate a Black prime minister, even one with a Finnish, or Swedish, or Norwegian or Danish mother?

And here we come to the core of the issue. Barack Obama is not Black, he is half Black and half White, but in the eyes of all the racists here and abroad, even 1% black blood makes one impure, not a pure Arian belonging to the lily white super race, not a Scandinavian, not an American, as the case may be. In other words once you place a drop of coffee in white milk, you have spoiled milk. You have in effect an Italian cappuccino. Or to change metaphor, the cup is not half full but half empty, never mind that being completely full with black coffee would make it much stronger and authentic. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-06 15:36:24
McCain and his likes know this misguided mode of thinking only too well and therefore I suggest that they are playing, not the race card, there is nothing wrong in discussing race, but the “racist card” which all racists know how to play by innuendos and insinuations, and of course they do it disingenuously like somebody who silently farted in a crowded elevator and to distract attention from himself shouts “who farted here”? To give proper credit, this anal metaphor was first used by a master in the field of poetic defecation: Mr. S. in the context of his objections to typographical mistakes in Ovi, which he also makes, but I suspect that it is not original with him either.

One more relevant comment, if I may. I have said it before and repeat it here. The political help that the Europeans gave to Senator Kerry by way of accolades for Michael Moore of “Fahrenheit 9/11” fame, a film that claimed to be am artistic documentary of sort but was largely ideological propaganda on the part of Moore, was not very productive. What the republicans proceeded to do with those enthusiastic European accolades was to paint Kerry as an extreme leftist in love with European radicals (his wife even dared to speak French, imagine!), somebody who was not 100% American, and unfortunately it worked. When Kerry lost, a famous English newspaper proclaimed “how can 57 million people be so stupid?” thus painting with a wide brush all Americans. Unfortunately, that question, has not helped either in taking European points of view a bit more seriously this time around.

Thanos2008-08-06 16:42:08
Watching all those McCain's promotion videos about the ...'race card' I had exactly the same feeling that they play the 'racist card' and I have to admit that I don't really get this attitude with 'European' things while most of the Americans have European roots that they should be proud of.

During the last US elections to our surprise we saw posters and promotion material in the European streets but they were mostly supporting Bush and not Kerry, at least in Helsinki. Something that made a lot of us wander since it looked like the campaign was coming to Europe but the target of course were the people who could vote in US and not the EU citizens and I'm not sure how many of them live in Helsinki for example to excuse all these expenses.

Regarding the possibility of a black for example candidate in Europe, I have the feeling for most of the European countries it is possible it just haven't been the right candidate yet.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-06 19:17:27
Thanos, thanks for bringing me up-to-date with the European view of things. I had no idea that in Finland they were acclaiming Bush four years ago.

In India they actually went even further in this regard: they were ready to elect an Italian born PM. Be that as it may, in Italy, which I know better than most other European nations, one perceive a nostalgia for fortress Europe, hermetically closed to the so called "extra-communitarians." Considering that Europeans birth-rates have declined dramatically in the last few year, that will mean that within two decades European industries will lack the manpower they need and such a state of affair may bring the per capita income by 50% or more according to the latest studies. That does not seem to bother Mr. Bossi in Italy or the right-wing extremists of other nations such as France and Holland. It's like cutting one's noce to spite one's face, but racists are known to do that kind of thing. Unfortunately that is true on both sides of the Atlantic.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-06 19:21:22
Errata: "noce" above is a typo, it should be spelled "nose."

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-06 21:16:04
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words: see:


AP2008-08-06 21:16:17
The US are a relatively young country. In every not so old country you see that nationalism is high, and an illusion of purity and fidelity are demands. That's, to some extent, inevitable, for those who want to foster cohesion. You find some kind of "external" enemy. Or you think: if he sympathizes with Europe/America, is he really going to defend our interests?, which is very silly, because one who sympathizes with other cultures is actually going to defend better a country's interests, isn't he? Was that the case of Blair by sympathizing with Bush? One can argue about it... so it might not be such a silly fear.

Also the fact that they are both considered "First World" exacerbates competition between the US and Europe. In a not so distant past, they were "colonizer" and "colony". There are still resentments about this, and maybe that's the only sensible topic able to divide the States. But then you need to go further back to remember that european countries were also "colonies" of someone at some point, and you need to face things in a more relative way.

About one thing I'm not so sure: the majority of the europeans, I mean common people, might be ready (although many are not), but elitist european party structures, I think they are not ready yet to have a black person as president. If they have no other better choice it will happen. The problem is that it's very hard for a black person to get there still, at least in Europe. You compare the percentage of black deputies and mayors in Europe and the US and you'll start having a picture.

AP2008-08-06 21:27:30
ps - by "being ready" I mean being "not racist" enough to vote for a black skin person for president. Unfortunatelly, it's hard to see that happening in Europe for the next years and I might be wrong but I see that as an extremely difficult thing to happen in eastern europe, austria, switzerland, germany, sweden or finland in the next few years. there aren't people able enough? of course there are. that's not the reason. black skin people own fear of racist reactions is one of the reasons. the other is that such fear as a reason to be.

AP2008-08-06 21:28:37
"has a reason to exist".

AP2008-08-06 21:32:04
and who says president, says prime-minister.

AP2008-08-06 21:38:44
Knowing Europeans as I do, most still feel comfortable with black skin people as long as they're not in charge. That's still the very unfortunate ruling mentality. Again the colony-colonizer trauma. I sincerely hope it changes fast.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-06 21:57:47
I am afraid that the sister to the slogan "I think therefore I am" is the slogan "I conquer therefore I am." Unfortunately America, having learned precious little from the natives who had no such rationalistic ideas, has also adopted a colonizers' paradigm: this time around it is cultural colonizing. Europe having much practice in colonizing is of course only too happy to join in. But it seems that the natives are not happy campers any more! Perhaps the silver-lining in all this is that we may be approaching a post-colonial global period and the gods are returning...

AP2008-08-06 22:13:19
" Europe has other migrants as well -- Russian Jews have settled in Germany and refugees from the former Yugoslavia have found homes across Western Europe. These people frequently have cultures and racial characteristics similar to those of the people in their new countries, and assimilation has often been relatively smooth.

The story has been different for Africans and Middle Eastern Muslims. While they have taken to Europe's soccer fields and increasingly are helping to define the arts and popular culture, they have remained largely invisible in elective government.

To change that, many minority politicians in Europe say they look for inspiration from the United States, where minorities have a larger presence in national and local elective offices. There are differences in history and electoral systems -- the European systems tend to make it difficult for minority neighborhoods to elect minority representatives -- but many minority politicians say the U.S. experience suggests that taking their place in European government will be a long process."

from here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12396-2005Apr23.html

Thanos2008-08-06 22:19:16
None of us, Europeans or Americans can say that there is not a racist minority between us and most of us who live in foreign countries have often to deal with it. My opinion is that most of this racism –at least the one coming from everyday people - is mainly xenophobia on the limits and when you point it to them they understand it. Of course there are racists and the bed news is their influence to young people.

I think most of European states could have a black president or minister after all a lot of them already have experience of a second generation leader and just look at France, who would dare to say fifty years ago that the president of the French republic would be an immigrant Jew!

For one thing I have my doubts is if Europe as things are now would accept a Muslim leader despite the colour and the fact that a lot of European states have Muslim MPs

Thanos2008-08-06 22:22:08
One last thing, don’t forget how many times the last century black people from US found safe settler in Europe including artist like Nina Simone or Marsalis

AP2008-08-06 22:29:30
The thing is that in a global period countries, at many levels, stop making sense. Still they are there to impose restrictions, close or open their borders, dictate rules that contradict global needs and global feelings. How will such problem be solved? I think the far-future of countries is non-existence. The true global utopia implies that.

AP2008-08-06 22:39:41
Yes, Thanos, but european electoral systems and party lists are a completely different story. They need some changes so that it can happen. And changes will take time.

Of course it could happen and I believe it will happen in the future, what I said is that I don't see it happening in the next few years (3-5, even 7), at least in many european countries. Britain and France are more or less ahead in this, I think.

Of course I sincerely hope I am wrong and I would much appreciate and encourage faster changes, but I don't think they will happen so fast.

AP2008-08-06 22:51:06
A whole new generation of european-born black people must become politically active. First generation immigrants are often too busy... surviving to engage in politics, and their residence status many times doesn't allow them to have political seats. And they are not as often invited as they should either.

A whole work must be done next of european electors and parties to show that the lack of representativity is NOT acceptable. They have done something similar in Britain and it produced a few first encouraging results. But in most european countries, when the time of elections comes, that's not even a worry or discussion topic yet!

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-06 23:35:32
To bring the debate down from the Olympus of idealistic abstractions here are some sobering statistics:

In the first there does not exist in Europe a seizable Black middle class. Not yet.
In Britain only 15 of 646 members of the House of Commons are non-white. In France there is only one lonely minority deputy among the 555 members of the National Assembly although one in five citizens is of minority descent. O the 305 seat Senate, 2 members hail from North Africa. No senators are Black. To his credit President Sarkozy has appointed 3 minority women to his Cabinet but they are minor posts. It is also worth mentioning that neither Great Britain nor France has a significant affirmative action programs. For the French national identity is paramount and its universality conveniently trumps the particularities of race. Race is not counted in teir census. It does not exist. As they say, out of census, out of mind. One has to conclude that while the ideals are there, the practice leaves much to be desired. Maybe Obama's election, if it comes true, will change all that.

AP2008-08-07 14:40:43
For the House of Commons to be truly representative, at least 66 of its members should belong to minorities.
I mentioned France because at the local level of municipalities, it is changing.
In Britain those 15/16 non-white members were elected after an effort was made in campaign to bring awareness to the parties that they should include non-white people in their lists.

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