There's something pathetic and embarrassing about our obsession with Barack Obama's race.
The unspoken agreement to concede the black community to the sway of the pulpit is itself a form of racist condescension. The sickly canonization of Martin Luther King Jr. has led to a crude rewriting of history that obliterates the great black and white secularists—Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther—who actually organized the March on Washington. It has also allowed a free pass to any demagogue who can manage to get the word reverend in front of his name. The white voters who subconsciously make the allowance that black folks sure love to hear their preachers are not only patronizing their black brothers and sisters but also helping to empower white ministers or deacons who make the same pitch, from Jimmy Carter to Mike Huckabee. The Iowa caucuses of 2008 were not the end of our long national nightmare about race, but another stage in our protracted national nightmare of piety, "uplift," and deceptive optimistic windbaggery.
Slate V compares rallies for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, held 24 hours apart at the same high school in New Hampshire:
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.
Photograph of Barack Obama by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.