Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Barack Obama: a transcendent person of color

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | February 07, 2008 8:18 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry, lesser evil, NAFTA, Nativo Lopez, super Tuesday, uprising radio

I certainly wasn't planning on talking about the election, but then I ended up listening to this whole post-primary discussion on Uprising Radio, where Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and executive director of Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana started gushing about Barack Obama. When the host, Sonali Kolhatkar, pointed out that Obama has little to say about race, gender or the prison industrial complex, Lopez implied that Obama shouldn't be held to higher standards regarding race (no mention of gender), and that Obama's appeal lies in the fact that he's a “transcendent person of color” who "talks about race by not talking about race." Lopez added that Obama's appeal among rural and southern voters, and his "50-state campaign," exposes the lie that "only on the coasts do progressives exist."

I'm particularly wary of this doublespeak coming from liberals and progressives. First of all, Kolhatkar never said anything about holding Obama to a higher standard than anyone else, but merely meant to point out that you basically need a magnifying glass to find the differences between Obama and Clinton's political platforms. So, if Hillary Clinton is a Republican with a liberal pedigree, what does that make Obama?

Obama's "transcendent person of color" status is exactly the type of image that plays well, not only with (white) progressives, but with conservative/liberal voters who want so much to believe that racism is over, who cares about the fact that unarmed people of color are routinely gunned down by cops or used by the millions as enslaved labor in US prisons -- if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps you can be anything in God Bless America. This same mythology is what allows George W. Bush to hire a "diverse" cabinet of warmongering thugs, many of them no doubt "transcending" race and class and gender in order to occupy the world and plunder indigenous resources.

Obama's rhetoric around healing the world one empty inspirational speech at a time seeks to camouflage his useless political program of pandering to the status quo -- no meaningful changes in US healthcare, a permanent presence of US troops in Iraq (whether you call it occupation or inspiration), little shift in the military/prison industrial complex. At least Clinton, with her influence-peddling tough-on-terror rhetoric, appears more honest about her goals.

The liberal/progressive mania for delusional thinking at election time reminds me of all that push to "get Bush out" by voting in billionaire John Forbes Kerry, or more “effectively,” Bill Clinton, who dismantled welfare and brought us gems like NAFTA. If progressives want to choose the lesser evil, that's a position to take, but to claim that an insider politician backed by every establishment figure he can get his hands on is going to heal anything besides his own hemorrhoids is dangerous and embarrassing.

Mattilda blogs at

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I, and most of my friends and family, have all said that if Hillary doesnt win the nomination, we are voting for McCain. I dont know why, but something about Obama just doesnt sit right with me. We are all diehard Dem's, but i dont think i can vote for the man. I've never voted Republican before, so this may be a first for me. anyone else feal the same?

ABC News has an interesting post about the adoration of some Obama supporters, too.

If you tell me(or say nothing) I will assume that since you are a man of color you are not a homo/transphobic racist bigot and you are my political saviour. OWW!! I dislocated my rational joint in that stretch. Obama is using appeasement as his platform. Thats fine untill you want him to stand up for gay rights!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 7, 2008 12:05 PM

If progressives want to choose the lesser evil, that's a position to take, but to claim that an insider politician backed by every establishment figure he can get his hands on is going to heal anything besides his own hemorrhoids is dangerous and embarrassing.

Well said!!!

It really stinks that progressives have no choice in this upcoming presidential election.

And HAVE HAD no choice for how long now? WHEN is this country going to stop moving to the right?!

I'd sooner sandpaper my eyeballs than vote for McCain...but that doesn't mean I would support Obama if he is the nominee. Especially since we don't know who McCain's VP will be...and it could be Huckabee.

You see, we need to have more options than two. Participating in a ludicrous duopoly is not something I can willing do. Ignoring / disparaging / not supporting other options is like cutting off your leg stop your foot from bleeding.

Great post, MBS! No one should cease critical analysis in a rush for blind allegiance.

it is obvious that i need to stop procrastinating on blogs and do the work i am supposed to be doing....because my editing in that comment is invisible.


The first paragraph is a mess, but it's clear enough if you squint.

" not something I AM willing to do."

Ignoring...cutting off your leg TO stop your foot..."

Dreadful. My apologies...

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | February 7, 2008 3:45 PM

From now until Election Day we’re going to need hip boots to wade through the silly season crap of hysterical political hacks and candidates. Republican hacks will cry out “Watch out for the GLBT Boogie Man (Boogie Person?)'. Democrat shills will howl that Huckabee’s gonna open the camps and fire up the ovens. Their approach relies on taking advantage of lazy voters, the ones who haven’t done their homework and didn’t pay attention in class. Democrats are not on our side and the Republicans are not fascists.

For the last two years the real Boogie Man in terms of real damage done to the GLBT agenda is the Democratic Party. Billary’s campaign manager Barney Frank gutted ENDA and then dropped it. He and Pelosi sabotaged the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill, and in both cases it was to prevent them becoming campaign issues. Democrats controlled Congress the last two years but pigheadedly refused to repeal Clintons DADT and DOMA and they all stubbornly oppose samesex marriage.

McCain? Isn't that like voting for a tumor?

Steve, you're right -- that is an interesting post! This one's good too:

Kelli, I hope you're rational joint is okay now -- it sounds like it's back in place.

Brynn, good question indeed!

And Patrick, a ludicrous duopoly indeed -- I had no problem understanding the rest once I saw that catchy assessment.

And Bill, I don't necessarily support that particular "GLBT agenda" either, although for different reasons -- but I would definitely say that the Democrats are the ones keeping the war going, even though they got elected to stop it...

It's interesting that people will use the identity of the candidate to talk about how it's a good thing to get someone of that identity in a position of power when they like them, but when they don't they seem to be able to make the distinction between identity and politics.

I don't remember all to many Democrats excited about Condi Rice's nomination to Sec. of State, but make her not-a-Republican and I'm guessing the tone would have been different.

Wait, but who doesn't like Condi Rice?

Just kidding...

Michael Bedwell | February 9, 2008 2:11 PM

Actually, Alex, perhaps the issue was less the party affiliation of Ms. Rice than her gender and the fact that she SCREAMS "Phony" without so much as moving her lips. A former piano major whose switch to international relations was entirely text-book/Hoover Institooties-confined.
The only reason Bush appointed her was to fill two "cards" with one and her obvious thrill everytime he sat on her face. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Gay African-American writer David Ehrenstein wrote an article for the "Los Angeles Times" describing the a priori adoration among many whites of Barack Obama as yet another example of the "Magic Negro" ex machina. Colon [sic] Powell was the previous nominee—a light-skinned, "non-threatening" MAN of color who many in both parties, including liberal/progressive gays were eager to proclaim a modern Messiah—and he, like Condosleazy, is a REPUBLICAN! Of course, he also turned out to be an unapologetic bigot when it came to gays and was last seen with his head up Bush's ass parroting WMD lies and anything else that would sucker Americans into sitting on their hands while we invaded Iraq. In fact, I believe the recent report on the total number of falsehoods uttered or whatever found him Numero Uno.

Lessons to be considered there, mes amis. Lessons to be considered.

My favorite Colin Powell quote was, "I serve at the pleasure of the President."