Friday, May 16, 2008

Megan McArdle stands by her men (B. Obama & C.S. Lewis)

This excerpt starts with her quoting of Lewis:

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all of my life--namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.

Things have gotten better, and continue to do so. But even though most blacks and whites do not consider themselves enemies, the two communities often do not consider each other as being part of the same "self". If a white clerk is rude to you, maybe it's racism; if a black clerk does it, she's just having a bad day. If a black kid sells drugs, he's a dangerous felon; if a middle class white kid does it, he's a good kid going through a phase.

The truth, which is hardly original to me, is that we are all racist, in that we still think of race as an important difference. Which of course, it is, if only by virtue of the fact that we all think so. But I don't think that Obama meant to be insulting, and I don't even think he is elitist in the way that his critics believed. The fact is that Obama does know more about race than most of us, because he actually knows what it's like to be inside, and outside, of both communities. That's worth listening to even if it doesn't always come out quite right.

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