While we await Obama’s speech on race, religion and politics today--sure the make-or-break moment of his campaign, more crucial to his chances than JFK’s speech on his Catholic faith in Dallas in 1960--don’t miss Shelby Steele’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal. Sample:
How to turn one’s blackness to advantage? The answer is that one "bargains." Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer’s race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist.
Obama has a very tiny needle to thread with today’s speech.