Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why the ?black? question?


It's a curious question for a country that supposedly has outgrown its awful racial bigotry.

"Is America ready for a black president?"

This is oblique prejudice, an inference that black Americans lack gray matter to occupy such an august position in the 21st century. It's a stealth slur I might've heard from aging legatees of the Confederacy on benches outside the Central of Georgia station watching the afternoon freight slow through mill town Barnesville, Ga., where I went to school in the 1940s and where the KKK still flourished in the race-baiting Peach State politics of the Talmadge era.

Bigots haven't been paying attention. In World War II, for example, black Tuskegee Air Corps fighter pilots defied white insinuations of ineptness and set new records in air combat. In 2001, according to the most recent statistics of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, 9,101 blacks occupied elective local, state and federal offices. The U.S. secretary of state is black. Massachusetts has a new governor, black. The U.S. Supreme Court has a black justice. A U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1977), Andrew Young, is black. The chairman of the giant Times-Warner media conglomerate is black. Too numerous to mention are thousands of astronauts, military generals and admirals, physicians, college presidents and educators, professional athletes, theatrical greats, serious musicians, business CEOs, scientists, diplomats, airline pilots and others who're black.

So, skin color hardly diminishes success or competence where it counts in a predominantly non-black nation.

The "black" question has popped up because of the rock star impact of black U.S. Sen. Barack Obama on the 2008 presidential race. Instead of asking about skin color, however, Americans should be asked whether they're ready for an effervescent young visionary who defies the mold of cheap, flip-flopping politician and whose intellectual prowess towers over many of his white peers.

The Oval Office has had too many white males who've disgraced the presidency and the nation, despite their campaign boasts of presidential abilities.

The current, pitiable occupant has shown thorough incompetence as well as a shortage of honesty and paucity of intellect. His lack of language skills is a national embarrassment. More than 60 percent of Americans have rejected him as blundering in his job. Presidential historians have ranked him as one of the five worst presidents in the country's history.

The Bush legacy of an unwinnable and bankrupting war, a plundered treasury, rape of the environment and cronyism in billions of dollars in government contracts hardly is a testament to "white" supremacy over blacks in presidential qualities.

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