Tag Archives: race relations

Powell's Obama vs. McCain's Obama

If you haven’t seen this clip of Powell endorsing Obama, I highly recommend. It is a great example of the type of statesmanship and class the American political system is capable of (and yet so often does not achieve). I’m wrestling to think of a similar moment when a former Canadian political figure has been as eloquent and purposeful as Powell is in this clip. But then, it seems we generally put our old political figures out to pasture.

Money line – “All villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values.” (take that Palin)

In contrast, below is perfect caricature of how McCain wants Americans to see Obama. His sleaze campaign – the one that helped cost him Powell’s endorsement – is working hard to create this image. Black rage? McCain wishes… if anything has defined this election its been McCain’s rage. (clip from Chasing Amy by Kevin Smith, it may not be for everyone).

Primary (racial) colours conflict on CNN

First off, I did not see this one coming. The editorial page of the NYT endorsed Clinton and so this piece is a serious slap on the wrist.

CNN’s pro-Clinton coverage continued in full steam last night. What is most interesting however is how the coverage broke down racially.

Below are statements from a piece called “The Clinton campaign: What’s Next?” and “The Obama Campaign: What’s next?” I haven’t included all the comments but two of the commentators included below are white, and two are African-American. Can you guess who made which statements?

“At some point, facts are stubborn things. Sen. Obama has extraordinary talent. He took 35,000 people to a rally in a primary. He spent $11 million on advertising. That’s 9,950 ads… ad he lost… he ran against a candidate who has been hammered and pounded and yet she won. I think these things do matter, and they may matter to superdelegates.”

“I think its’ been a key test for Barack Obama to not only withstand these attacks, but to weather the storm. And clearly tonight, if you look at the margin, he’s weathered the storm. He’s weathered the attacks on his former pastor. He’s weathered the storm on the statements he made in San Francisco.”

“He was closing in on Clinton in Pennsylvania. he was getting down to three, four, five points in some of the polls… I think what [Clinton’s larger win] suggests is that as he was closing, not only did he stall, but he actually ot hirt in the white community by these controversies.”

“If you look at the numbers, the question is, how can she expand her base? She can’t. So in order to go after [Obama], you’ve got to cut him up. You got to cut him down, drive up his negatives. They don’t care if her negatives go even higher. They have to win.”

Indeed, was what fascinating was how much the racial divide was reflected in the coverage last night. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the CNN studio after the camera’s are shut off, I’m wondering how much of all this is show, and how much of it is getting very personal on the CNN stage.

Canada's racial stalemate

Calvin Helin author of Dances with DependencyThe other week – as virtually everybody is now aware – Obama gave his much celebrated speech on the racial stalemate in America.

Here in Canada we have a stalemate as well. It is discussed less frequently (if at all) then the American stalemate Obama spoke of, and it does not fall along clearly delineated racial lines. I am speaking of the stalemate between First Nations and the rest of Canada. On page 157 0f his book “Dances with Dependency: Indigenous Success through Self-Reliance” (if you don’t have a copy I highly recommend picking one up), aboriginal rights activist Calvin Helin writes a paragraph that parallels the sentiment of Obama’s speech.

When chronicling and discussing the very real problem of abuses of power, mismanagement, nepotism and corruption found on some First Nation band councils, Helin notes:

Aboriginal people are reluctant to speak publicly about these issues because they do not wish to provide grist for the political right in Canada who many feel are racist, and have no real interest in actually trying to make the situation better (though often there is a sizable, but silent contingent that supports the publication of such issues in what might be considered right-of-centre publications, because they are regarded as only telling the truth and trying to make things better for the ordinary Aboriginal folks). Generally, non-aboriginal observers have been reluctant to raise this issue as well because, in the current climate of political correctness, they might automatically be labelled as racists. Even the many Chiefs and Councils that are running honest governments in the best interests of their members feel compelled to defend against such reported abuses, because they fear their activities may become tarred with a brush that does not apply in their particular circumstances. Usually when this matter is raised publicly, there are entrenched positions on both sides of the debate and little communications as to how to solve these problems. (my own italics)

While this hardly captures the entire dynamic, it highlights an important dimension of Canada’s racial stalemate.  That anger and guilt in both communities – aboriginals and non-aboriginals – can sometime build narratives about the other that reinforce their mutual distrust and preventing us from reaching out and finding a way to address what is our country’s most important challenges.

I suspect this stalemate will not last. A new force could be about to completely alter this debate. A new generation – a demographic tsunami in fact – of smart, educated, and motivated young First Nation is about to crest over this country (While Calvin Helin is an excellent example, he is much older than the cohort I’m thinking of). I’m not sure that non-aboriginal leaders – and, to be frank, current aboriginal leaders – are even aware of what is about to hit them. Gauging from those I have met and befriended, this cohort is frustrated, but motivated, organized and very pragmatic. But perhaps, most importantly, they increasingly urban and, not as tied to the power structures of the reserves or chiefs. In this regard they transcend the discussion, living in, and comfortable in, both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal domain. One way or another they are will redefine this debate.