National Review Online: Black Like Me

National Review Online

Black Like Me

An overload of identity politics.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez

I will see you at the ballot box, or I will see you in Hell. We will talk about how it could have been. We will toast to how it might have been. We will have no excuse. We will look in the mirror. And we will be sorry.

If you think that there is an overload of emotion behind this election, you haven’t read the hip-hop and black magazines yet, because that would be an understatement. This month, Vibemagazine (which, as it happens, is neighbors with National Review World Headquarters — Hi, Guys! — we share a Lexington Avenue building) endorses Barack Obama in an “HISTORIC COLLECTOR’S EDITION.” Editor Danyel Smith says that she was going to end her editor’s note with the “see you in Hell” message, but decides on a calmer but no less emphatic “We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. . . . Let nothing stop you from voting for Obama.” 

Ebony has never endorsed a candidate in its 64 years in print, but has made a exception for Obama. President and CEO Linda Johnson Rice announces in the November issue: “At this critical moment in history, Black America — and much of the nation — are on the verge of realizing a long-awaited dream, a Black man in the White House.” Elsewhere in the magazine,The Secret Life of Bees stars Sophie Okonedo, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Hudson emphasize the point. 

It’s deeply ironic that there was shock and awe last weekend when Rush Limbaugh suggested that Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama had to do with race. After all, a lot of Obamas supporters seem to be putting race in the forefront. The other reasons for voting for him are for a “change.” On change, Obama is, like John McCain, a U.S. senator who is running against Washington. In this way he follows in the footsteps of Mitt Romney. (Yes, Mitt Romney.) He echoes Sean Hannity (yes, the Sean Hannity) who continues to repeat Romney’s “Washington is broken” theme near daily. On this theme, he isn’t all that unlike the maverickyness of Sarah Palin and John McCain. What makes him different? Could it be … race? 

Rush, in short, has a point. I can’t read the mind of Colin Powell, but I know Rush isn’t crazy. I know Powell’s “inclusive”-“ability to inspire” endorsement sure sounded like it had to do with race. And I definitely know what I’m reading in the hip-hop and black mags. This election is about race to a whole lot of people — and I don’t mean the much-talked-about but unknown “Bradley effect” voters. 

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