The author makes some good points, however, perhaps it should be remembered that not everything said about race is "racist:" for example, saying that Obama's candidacy "transcends race" is simply not the same thing as saying that the candidate has transcended his skin color.
The issue of race arises as a more salient one in this case, because Obama would be the first "African American" (self identified) to hold the office, should he win. Certainly it is not condescending or racist to notice that fact, and too to identify its symbolic importance.
What many have noted is how, in spite of the symbolic significance of race (in this race), a great many Americans of every racial makeup seem ready to talk about the candidate without focusing on race. We argue about Obama's experience, or his focus on process rather than policy, etc.
In this one case, it is argued, we the public have begun to rise above our own fixations on race. You may disagree with the claim, but it is in this sense that Obama's candidacy has been claimed to have "transcended race". I think anyone with as sharp an eye as Patricia Williams', could not help but see that meaning. So, I must ask if there is some other reason for her rejection of that more simple interpretation in favor the more complex, and jaded. I think the answer may lie with charity.
A philosopher's "principle of charity" is said to underpin all reasonable interpretation (knowing what another means requires we assume the speaker speaks at least some truth). And this takes on a double meaning in the case of interpretation under suspicion (we are especially charitable in our application of that principle to those we have reason to suspect of falsity).
The author might have benefited from a more adequate application of both sorts of charity.
It is a good thing to imagine a day when our politics truly "transcend race"; and to the extent a candidate like Obama continues to be judged on his strengths and weaknesses, I am encouraged to believe that day will come.
Feb 16 2007 - 10:48pm