"Barack Obama's rise in the top tier of the Democrat presidential race has been fueled by the voter's belief that he is a candid, forthright politician. 'Hard truths could be the slogan for the restarted Obama campaign,' says the current New Yorker magazine, in a laudatory article. In The Washington Post's poll last week of Iowa caucus voters, Obama's biggest lead came when voters were rating candidates as honest and trustworthy.
And now comes Shelby Steele, the Hoover Institution scholar, with an essay arguing that Obama's public stance is essentially synthetic. In 'A Bound Man,' Steele makes the case that Obama has adopted a mask familiar to many other African-Americans, designed to appease white America's fear of being thought racist by offering them the opportunity to embrace a nonthreatening Black.
Steele writes that 'the Sixties stigmatized white Americans with the racial sins of the past -- with the bigotry and hypocrisy that countenanced slavery, segregation and white supremacy. Now, to win back moral authority, whites -- especially American institutions -- must prove the negative: that they are not racist. In other words, white America has become a keen market for racial innocence.'
Steele likens Obama's success to the fame and fortune won by Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. But Obama is the first to carry the 'masking' technique of the 'Iconic Negro' into the realm of politics."
David Broder, The Washington Post.