A White President (with fewer mistakes, slightly revised)

The president, by his own actions, managed to get me interested in the birth issue. I wasn’t paying much attention until recently, for several reasons. First, I did not want to know the truth, if any, because of who is in his line of succession. Second, conservatives don’t need that kind of technical victory. We need a clear victory at the polls, one that carries a mandate. A demonstration of a violation of an fairly antiquated part of the Constitution would not carry a mandate. I think it’s antiquated because not many would object much to an amendment allowing a naturalized citizen to become president. Third, I thought, from the campaign onward, that President Obama was an impostor irrespective of the location of his birth. (More on this below.)

The president triggered my interest, of course, by releasing his “long” birth certificate. I was fascinated by the fact that he took this simple action two years late, and then, only when a rich and publicity-savvy man was nipping at his heels. What millions of rank-and-file doubters failed to do, a billionaire with a bouffant hairdo accomplished. How could I fail to become interested? Second, soon after the release of the document, technical analyses appeared on the Internet claiming to demonstrate that it was a fake. The demo I saw on YouTube today, for example, did not allege a subtle, accomplished forgery but a frankly artless fraud. I find it convincing but of course, the demonstration itself could be a forgery. I don’t have the knowledge to judge. I asked a friend of mine who is a good photographer, and a practical Photoshopper and, I suspect, a liberal. He did not have a clear-cut opinion.

Attempts to demonize the president have no traction. He is not the Devil, or even a minor demon, and he is not possessed by any demon. His policies and the lack thereof demonstrate common ignorance. I am familiar with this kind of ignorance because I was a university teacher for thirty years. There are the conventionally good students, 20% of the class if you are lucky. Those more or less do their assignments. Then you have the usually hopeless but sometimes improvisationally brilliant backbenchers. In between there are many students, today, probably a majority, who pretend to be getting an education. They thrive in most universities, even the pricey ones.  It’s been so for along time, certainly since the eighties. Such students will read the first chapter of the book, half of the second chapter and then, most of the last chapter right before the final exam. They come to class sometimes and borrow notes from their friends at other times. They end up less than completely ignorant of the subject matter. I would tell them to their faces, “Some of you are familiar with the tune but you don’t know the lyrics.” They would laugh knowingly and good-naturedly. “Busted but no big deal, right teach?”

Barack Obama is this familiar kind of impostor. He pretends to be President as those kids pretend to be students, with an intellectual baggage that is more than nothing but not enough to pass the exam without much guesswork. And that’s enough to explain his policies and to explain his absence of policies.

I say Barack Obama is an impostor for several reasons. The first reason concerns his African-ness. During the campaign, nearly all liberals, I would guess most centrists, and even quite a few conservatives became tickled like little girls at the prospect of an African-American President. Chris Mathew of MSNBC confessed on-air he had a tingle run down his leg a the thought. Two reasons for this. First, a large number of liberals experience identity envy. They find themselves boring. They would like to be something more interesting. Black, if possible, “part-Indian, “ anything, even “of French heritage” if need be. (I just had a farcical exchange on some else’s Facebook with a stranger who claimed such “French heritage.”) Second, whites in this country have a moral inheritance of shame regarding slavery, and later segregation, they have never dealt with completely. I argue about this with conservatives frequently. One of my friend affirms that hundreds of thousands of white Civil War dead should be enough. I don’t think so. It stopped the problem; it did not repair its consequences. Another essay, some day.

At any rate, there was the illusion that with an African-American in the White House, all would be forgiven, that the burden of collective guilt would vanish. The illusion was so strong that hardly anyone noticed when civil rights leaders and self-appointed African-American spokesmen like the talented extortionist Jessee Jackson muttered under their breath that Obama had no “slave blood” running in his veins. The comment should not be irrelevant for conservatives. We tend to believe in the primacy of the individual. When individuals are actively prevented from being individuals for a couple of centuries, we should not be surprised if the damage lasts in their descendants for more than a century. Recently, I heard someone, a conservative, compare his Irish immigrant ancestors’ plight to that of Africans brought here in chains. That’s stupid, of course, unless you choose not to think about it. African slaves were not immigrants.

Conservatives also typically think that good things -and therefore- bad things – come from families. If a group of people is prevented from forming normal families for several generations, we should not be surprised to find their current families defective. This, with all the devastating behavioral consequences conservative thinking itself would predict. That most African-Americans with slave ancestors are able to form normal families is what needs to be explained. It’s a serious project for the social sciences that has hardly been touched so far because those who should undertake it are wallowing in useless guilt (when they are not pretending to be somewhat black  themselves, or something else almost as interesting. Remember ex-Professor Ward Churchill?)

So, Barack Hussein Obama has no American slave blood in him and therefore, he could never have been a redeemer, even if he had tried. Instead, he is one of about half of Americans with African ancestors who are voluntary immigrants to this country or their descendants, same as General (ret.) Colin Powell, for example. Far from being a carrier of America’s real historical sins, Obama is a living testimony to how desirable, generous, and easy this society is. The miracle is not: “ I, a descendant of slaves could become President.” That’s an untested proposition. It’s that the son of a white hippie who consorted sexually with a drunken foreign exchange student could grow up with enough support to become a successful politician. That’s America’s greatness, worth celebrating.

Yet, Obama the man almost pulled off the imposture. Liberals still pretend not to notice that he is not an African-American, just an American of meaninglessly half-African parentage. Or else, they make themselves believe that the moral burden of American society is made up by half of the centuries of the procession of atrocities that was slavery plus one hundred years of legally enforced segregation, on the one hand, and by of half contemporary racism, on the other hand. That is laughable, of course. What anti-black racism, Barack Obama may have encountered growing up in white-minority Hawaii and in Indonesia, and even later at Harvard was more than compensated by lavish affirmative action programs. In fact, obviously based only on what I know of his life, if I had to bet, I would bet that Barack encountered not a single instance of anti-black racism. Instead, he grew up in a racially neutral world and in a world where institutional anti-racism reigned unchallenged. And that’s one of his problems, an acute personal problem for Barack, the man.

More surprising than the president’s discretion about his birth is the shroud around his undergraduate grades. As I never tire of saying: Who cares what grades he earned or did not earn, when he was twenty? At worst, he was a low-C student. That would have put him in the company of Georges W. Bush and of John Kerry, the Senator, both also graduates of Ivy League schools. It might even earn him the affection of the many former mediocre students among centrists, and even among conservatives: Well, that guy Obama is no elitist jerk. He is one of us. He had fun in college!

What Barack Obama’s grades would show if he ever unlocked them is that he was accepted at Harvard Law School as a pure affirmative action project, no ifs and buts. He was not rescued as an almost-OK applicant who needed a push of twenty or thirty qualifying points like so many other members of minorities. Incidentally, this conservative does not find the practice especially horrible because the admission process in any school of any university is so hap-hazard anyway. It’s not strictly merit-based, as many believe, because those who decide on such things don’t know how to put together a merit system. And yes, it’s possible that some unfamiliarity transpiring from the pages of minority applications trigger an unconscious negative bias in the decision makers that extra points make up for. Those who think the admission system of a particular school can be fair are just under-informed. The best that can be said is that admissions in American institutions of higher learning, considered together, give smart, hard-working people a fair chance. End of digression.

Barack Hussein Obama was admitted to Harvard Law School because of a brace of non-academic qualifications he had to offer. He was “well spoken and without a trace of Negro dialect” as his own Vice-President once famously declared. He was obviously not stupid, whatever his grades. He looked good. (He still does.) Anyone who does not think academics, and worse, academic bureaucrats, are not so frivolous as to take physical appearance under consideration has never eaves-dropped on an ordinary faculty-club conversation, by the way. He must have been interviewed and found to have good manners. (Thanks to his white, bank vice-president grandmother.) Even his exotic second name, “Hussein,” contributed a slight frisson to terminally bored admission officers. So here, was a catch: A handsome young man “of color” w ho could help fill the unspoken quota without the all-too-common disagreeable side-effects of admitting genuine African-Americans from disadvantaged backgrounds. (Slave blood often does not provide good manners.)

Everyone could have kept a discreet silence about what was this tiny non-event for the eighties, the admission to the prestigious Harvard Law School of one Barack Hussein Obama with bad grades. After all, he kept his end of the bargain. He was admitted to practice before the Illinois Supreme Court not long after graduation. (An old friend of mine who is a lawyer and a left-liberal assures me that’s the same as “passing” the bar exam. I take his word for it.) I have little to say about Mr  Obama’s high positions in the student-run Harvard Law Review. Those were elective positions requiring no special talent and where any presentable student with a black face would have made a good candidate. (See above.) The fact is that he published not a single article under his own pen, not even with fellow-students as co-authors, as is the practice.

President Barack Obama’s grades are under lock and key because he is a special kind of impostor. He does not want to end his career as a successful black man helped by silly affirmative action as there are so many (many of whom, like general Powell, are publicly appreciative of the help they received). Mr Obama cannot admit to having been helped to overcome his garden-variety bad grades as an undergraduate through racial preference because he wants to be an upper-class white.

This speculation makes his other concealment, the one that was in the news recently, fall into place. He was indeed born in Hawaii but there is some small thing in his long birth certificate, perhaps a name, perhaps a single initial, perhaps his date of birth, that would help a curious researcher follow the red thread of affirmative action throughout his young life. And then, he couldn’t look in the eye his neighbors in the towns where his family goes on vacation to establish his place as a successful white man: Martha’s Vineyard, Marbella, etc.

If you think about it, this piece probably makes more sense than anything you have heard on the subject. If I say so myself!


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About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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6 Responses to A White President (with fewer mistakes, slightly revised)

  1. Bonnie Larice says:

    Jacques, loved the article. Of course Obama wants to become an upper-class white man.
    Will we ever find out how he could sit in a church every Sunday and not possibly know what the pastor preached?
    And as for “people with slave blood don’t usually have good manners”, maybe that’s why Michelle Obama said she never was proud to be an American before her husband ran for president. She does have slave blood.

  2. Kelly Norman says:

    Hi Jacques. I’m going to leave all the nice stuff at the end of the comment so you don’t think I’m buttering you up just to complain! ;-) Heard your discussion of this last Sunday and when I heard: <blockquote cite = "Conservatives also typically think that good things -and therefore- bad things – come from families. If a group of people is prevented from forming normal families for several generations, we should not be surprised to find their current families defective. This, with all the devastating behavioral consequences conservative thinking itself would predict. That most African-Americans with slave ancestors are able to form normal families is what needs to be explained. It’s a serious project for the social sciences that has hardly been touched so far because those who should undertake it are wallowing in useless guilt"
    The problem is, if one wants to see the world as white/black (which I hate, but sometimes social analysis makes more sense that way) slave descendants kicked white butts in terms of their ability to maintain strong, supportive families and spiritual values right up until the 1950s. Think of Daniel Moynihan’s report in the very early years of the “War on Poverty ” (remember, the one poverty won?) The problem he and his group correctly noted, I think, was that as entitlements got more and more easy to come by, and harder to get off of, the black community was pretty much forced to jettison traditional family mores to survive. If baby daddys stayed home, baby momma didn’t get FDC or Medicaid, so baby daddys became superfluous all of a sudden. No dads, less discipline, especially for boys; less discipline, less success at anything requiring the ability to delay gratification; more success at things that promised immediate gratification and delayed consequences….dropping out of school, drug use, sex to have more babies ….we now have at least 3 generations of many families whose youngest members don’t know anyone who ever went to work for a living. This is a set up, not for the taxpayer, for heaven’s sake, but for the generations of kids.

    You have surprised me before by pointing me towards good research I’m not aware of yet (last month you taught this psychotherapist that mentally ill people now are MORE likely to commit crimes….just before I was going to call yo about that one too! So maybe you know something I don’t about this; if so, please address it.

    Now. I am SO GLAD I can pick you up on the web. One of the main things I miss about Liberty in print are your columns. You are the calm, cool, collected voice of conservative libertarianism, my friend.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Hi, Kelly. I have no quarrel with anything in your comment. Perhaps it was prompted by an erroneous inference that recognizing that descendants of slaves are owed is equivalent to support for welfarism. It’s not and it’s not what I think. One need not have a solution to recognize a problem.

      Thanks for your kind words on my work in Liberty. I am finishing up an essay on French intellectuals for the electronic version. What do you think of it, by the way? And, where do you live? (I may have know and forgotten; sorry.)

  3. Kelly Norman says:

    Hmm, I don’t think I’m inferring such an equivalence. I know that many of those who pushed Johnson’s agenda were in part motivated, benignly, by concern that the nation do a better job in acknowledging how badly slavery affected the future generations of African Americans. My point is just that, despite everything slavery did to them, African Americans managed to, in general, show exemplary ability to remake and keep strong family bonds throughout much of the 20th century. Not sure whether that was due to genetics or a need to prove their ability to survive or a realization that strong family ties proved good tonic to ease some of the problems they faced in a racist world, but the bonds were there. Then, wehn administration after administration courted these communities to accept and enjoy the entitlements they won from Congress, the result was most eloquently stated by Moynihan’s report.

    And no, I don’t think anyone had any racist intentions in starting the war on poverty, except for the occasional self-righteous (white) bureaucrat that may have seen him or herself a savior for blacks. I believe most of the players from JFK and Johnson on down to social workers knocking on inner city doors asking people if they wanted some free money DID know we have never (and maybe can never) payed back the debt we owe the descendants of slaves, and wanted to right some of that.

    It just backfired.
    But my main point is that I disagree with you that slavery made slaves and their descendants susceptible to broken families. If that were true, they would have had broken families all up through Reformation and beyond, but they didn’t. Entitlements did what even slavery couldn’t do to the African American family: destroyed family bonds. I believe we have heaped further insult on the African American community because of this.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Kelly: I would like to quarrel with you but I can’t. I agree with your analysis of the disastrous effects of well-meaning paternalistic welfare policies on black Americans, and on many more white Americans, by the way. I don’t think these policies were compensation for the historical genuine grievance of descendants of slaves. Thank you for reminding us of the Moynihan Report . It had slipped by mind which is a pity because it was one of the last large-scale honest scholarly endeavors by a liberal. I don’t remember that the report included much of a hard scientific nature about the causes of the resiliency of the black family through slavery and segregation. Please, correct me if I am wrong. Some of my readers care. Others even read what I recommend. (That’s why I am very reserved in my reading advice.)

  4. Kelly Norman says:

    Thanks Jacques! By the way I am in Plymouth Michigan, I think you asked me that earlier and I forgot to answer.

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