Culture, Politics

McCain? Post-Racial? Get Real

In today’s New York Times, reporter Susan Dominus profiles a rising star from the embattled community of Crown Heights who is rising to notariety not only because of his uncommon background, but also because of his positive voice of peace and unity amidst an increasingly polarized cacophony screaming for the opposite. Yosef Abrahamson, a black frum Lubavitcher teen, made his media debut in the Daily News last week after his essay won the NYPD’s essay competition, and his story of transition from Omaha to Brooklyn left Ms. Dominus asking herself the same type of questions many reporters tend to after meeting frum Jews of color:

If Yosef, who attends the yeshiva Darchai Menachem in Crown Heights, ever finds himself writing a college application essay, his advisers would have a hard time choosing which of his compelling story lines would most dazzle those college admissions officers: The story of growing up in the only Hasidic family in Omaha? Or the story of being the only student of color in his yeshiva? Or maybe the story of being the only Hasidic person of color in Omaha’s competitive ice skating circuit?

Kol ha’kavod to Yosef Abrahamson, for increasing black frum visibility. Had the article ended here, dayenu, this would have been a fantastic profile about a family with a heartwarming story of bridge-building and a message relevant to all of our communities.
Unfortunately, it continued.

Except that the Abrahamsons consider themselves “post-racial, for real,” said Ms. Abrahamson, a Republican delegate in Nebraska who is not a fan of Mr. Obama. To the contrary, the whole family strongly supports John McCain, and Yosef will be a page at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities in September.

What was the purpose of saying this? To say that John McCain is “post-racial”, or that John McCain is the candidate for the “post-racial” American? When Alex Castellanos is running his ad campaigns? The same Alex Castellanos who did the infamous “White Hands” campaign for Jesse Helms in 1990, which one reporter called “the most race-baiting campaign spot of the modern era”? McCain’s communication director on his 2000 failed presidential run called Castellanos a man “who you don’t run a presidential campaign without” — yet, in Ohio, he produced the only gubernatorial ad ever to be cited by the state Election Commission for lying. The Alex Castellanos — who said some women “are named [‘bitch’] because it’s accurate” on CNN in May and worked on the “Willie Horton” campaign in 1988 for the elder President Bush? This is the man who is designing advertising for a post-racial candidate?
There is nothing “post-racial” about a man — even if he is Latino and supported a black Republican candidate for Senate — who designs ads for a campaign like the Fordice gubernatorial campaign of 1987 in Mississippi which called “for prison reform via returning inmates to the ‘cotton fields’.” (And McCain advisor Charlie Black’s resume and infamous client list speak for themselves.) I would strongly suggest Yosef check himself and his candidate’s ties before he shleps one post-It for these people — people who McCain has known of for years — who McCain not only does not distance himself from, but hires.
Was this just an unfortunate piece of extraneous spin on the part of the Times? I have long contended that the alliance between the GOP and the frum community is perplexing at best considering the incongruence of GOP platforms and Torah, but this takes the cake on numerous levels. The GOP-frum alliance, when a black man named Obama is the opponent, can only be exacerbated by any extant frum racism, and it is to this fact that I would hope Mrs. Abrahamson is not wholly oblivious. The gentile of color and the Jew of color were not made distinct in Mr. Castellanos’ past publicity, and it is unlikely he would make such a distinction in this campaign.
I know that in my own life, I am never afforded the opportunity to itemize my identities: I am never any more black than Jewish or vice versa, and one is never afforded the privilege of divorcing himself from either portion of his afro-Semitic identity. No amount of “support for Israel” would be able to undo, at least in my mind, the effect of seeing an ad advocating prison inmates’ returning to cotton fields. If black America is villified in the upcoming months, Mrs. Abrahamson will find herself having supported (and Yosef will have found himself working for) one of its most prolific and creative detractors.
Maybe it’s min ha’Shamayim that the RNC occurs so close to Yom Kippur.

10 thoughts on “McCain? Post-Racial? Get Real

  1. Thank you for the post. I too wonder why there is so much vitriol towards Obama from the frum community, especially in the Jewish blogosphere. For example, I used to enjoy reading Robert Avrech’s blog until he started launching screed after screed with twisted “facts” about Obama and the dems
    I’m also disappointed by Joe Lieberman leaving his Democratic roots and actively campaigning for Mccain and against Obama.

  2. I don’t get what the confusion is here. The Abrahamson said that they–i.e. the Abrahamsons–consider themselves “post racial”. They didn’t say that John McCain is post-racial but rather that they themselves are. What is not clear? Is one’s claim to post-racialism only valid if one simultaneously endorses a specific politician?

  3. notoriety- The quality or condition of being notorious; ill fame
    the article never claimed mccain was post racial. secondly i think its normal for the nyt to bring a political slant into things. as to your question about frum and republican its because they are for issues which are closer to a religious jews views: vouchers, pro life and limited govt. the sad thing is that the democrats would nominate someone, anyone who sat in a church for 20 years which if u changed it to a white church the pastor would be wearing white robes and have david duke be a guest. furthermore blk america as u call it has been vilified the past 6 months by the clinton campaign and by pastors such as rev wright. enough of this blame game of saying everything bad said abt blacks is from the republican side when the most damage is from the democrats

  4. The article never claimed that McCain was “post-racial.” It says that the Abrahamsons consider themselves “post-racial,” and that the upcoming election has been described as the “first post-racial presidential campaign” (really? where? why?). But that doesn’t translate, as you’ve written it, to John McCain is “post-racial”, or that John McCain is the candidate for the “post-racial” American.
    All of that said, thanks for drawing my attention to the article in the Daily News. I can’t remember the last time I tagged so many comments as offensive.

  5. They may consider themselves post-racial, but they seem to have missed the point that MCain isn’t going to do them any good in the long run. Except for the voucher matter, I don’t really understand how frum Jews got on the anti-abortion bandwagon. Our tradition, while not necessarily allowing abortion as freely as the lefty position, surely doens’t at all mesh up with that of the right, which wants to outlaw it for everyone all the time, and by the wya, include birth control while they’re at it: those positions are contrary to Jewish law, which requires abortion in the case of trauma to the woman (and goes pretty far with it, in fact, the talmud advocates inducing abortion to avoid embarrassment in the case of a woman who is condemned to death. That’s a pretty liberal position, IMO.
    But more importantly, McCain ultimately won’t do good for Jews of any stripe: fighting poverty is a major Jewish value, and McCain will just be more Bush – and not helping the poor.
    And those poor Abramsons. They can consider themselves as post-racial as they like; just wait until they discover that much of the world hasn’t caught up with them…
    Y: Good to see you posting again.

  6. I (tentatively) support Obama, but there is nothing “post-racial” about him either. He just came out for affirmative action, condemning even when states themselves vote it down.
    “Everyone gang up on whitey” isn’t post-racial. It is militant diversity. And it’s a good way to lose an election.
    If I were Obama, I would have dumped it, and dumped it hard. We have bigger fish to fry. I am disappointed that race is so very important to Obama, perhaps even more than winning the presidency.

  7. So then why even juxtapose the two things? That’s what I’m asking — why say “oh we’re post racial for real” as a quote in front of an endorsement for John McCain? To say that people who are “post racial for real” are endorsing John McCain? And if so, why? To say that John McCain is the preferred candidate for “post racial, for real” people?
    This is a political slant for sure (expected, though?), but it’s tied to being “post-racial” and I, for one, would like to know what’s up with that.

  8. Y-Love, I don’t think the Abrahamsons were claiming McCain was “post-racial.” but rather, that they, the Abrahamsons, are post-racial, as opposed to the Obamas. That is the contrast, not McCain or his camp. Essentially, they are saying they didn’t let race affect their decision-making process, and came to the (unfortunate) conclusion to support McCain based on other criteria.

  9. I think the Abrahamsons are juxtaposing the issue for the same reasons that whites get so excited about the idea of voting for somebody who’s black. The Obama campaign introduced the notion of being “post racial” into the election and implied that the way to “prove” your post racialism is to vote for Obama. (Obviously this can only apply to whites. In any event Obama has something like 90% of the black vote.)
    So the converse would logically apply to blacks: the way to “prove” that you’re post racial is to vote for the candidate who’s not a member of your race. This is fairly logical and seems to actually work from the Abrahamson’s point of view: They’re bucking the majority of blacks who support Obama and choosing their preferred candidate on the basis of values and without respect to race.
    (Obama’s got a great deal going though: he’s both black and white simultaneously! Though he obviously has a strong preference for the black side of his heritage over the white one. Again his racial preference appears to be irrelevant to the Abrahamsons.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.