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Evaluating Obama

March 22, 2007

Re " 'Magic Negro' returns," Opinion, March 19

David Ehrenstein doesn't know where literature starts and reality begins. If you go back in American literature and American film, you do come upon the figure he talks about. But Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) drew 10,000 people to a rally in Oakland over the weekend because he speaks to them. If Americans are in the process of deciding what they think about this man, what does a condescending literary critic have to say about it? I think they're evaluating the man for his character and not for the color of his skin. Isn't that what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted? Or was he another "Magic Negro"? Imagine if I spent this letter musing about the character of literature's many "Magic Jews," who often appear in literature to dispense mysterious wisdom, and then wondered if the real Albert Einstein was only beloved because he conformed to that stereotype. I think everyone sane would find the idea offensive, and the same goes for Ehrenstein's obnoxious Op-Ed.




It is my opinion that the goal of an integrated, colorblind society is not a bad thing and that white (and black) people who hope for such a society aren't all looking for a stereotypical magic bullet or "Magic Negro" to solve the racial divide in this country. They're looking for a charismatic leader of any race, color or sex who can help bridge the racial gap.

It appears to me that Obama (whom I oppose politically) simply wants what any other politician wants, and that is to get elected. I don't think he should be denigrated for that.


Issaquah, Wash.


Is Obama really the new "Magic Negro," or is it possible that he simply has a lot of good things to say?

Setting aside the insulting and racist tone of the Ehrenstein piece toward successful blacks, Obama says what a lot of Americans are feeling and yearning for. We share his vision of better healthcare, education and energy policy. We also can imagine America becoming respected once again in the international community. And we share his dream of a nation more united than divided while rejecting the Bush/Rovian politics of division.

We've had a bitter harvest from the blue smoke-and-mirrors of the Bush administration. Getting America back on track won't require more magic. It will require genuine leadership -- thus the interest in Obama.


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