Before the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain last night at Ole Miss, SuperGenius novelist — and Ole Miss Law School graduate, John Grisham — told a television interviewer, when asked why Obama was not doing better against McCain, that a “White candidate” would be “fifteen points ahead of McCain right now.”


The interviewer was taken aback by Grisham’s blunt statement and blurted out something about Obama being behind because he’s Black…

Grisham said America is Racist and skin color matters.

The bewildered interviewer asked Grisham to confirm:  If a candidate with Obama’s schooling and credentials were White, he’d be 15 points ahead of McCain right now?

Grisham nodded and confirmed the only reason a Democrat wasn’t doing better was because people don’t want to vote for a Black man. 

Grisham also confirmed he was a solid, “yellow dog Democrat,” and hinted that he’d be voting for Obama in the Fall — he didn’t want to confirm his Obama vote right then because he was an invited guest of Ole Miss, and wanted to remain impartial during the debate.

The Grisham interview quickly ended and the debate began.

Obama did well during the debate, and he held his cool and made some fine points against McCain’s unseemly contempt for him on stage.

I was left to ponder, and then admire, Grisham’s great guts for confronting — on live television — the monstrosity in the room hanging this election:  Skin color.

You can argue with Obama about Iraq and the budget — but can you discount him, and press him away, just because his skin is darker than yours?

Obama must win the election — if not solely for this one, hard, want:  If he wins, skin color will never again be a memes test for president of the United States. 

It is our job as moral Americans to beat back the Racists with our vested votes and give Obama a landslide victory in November greater than the 15 point discount he’s already forced to pay for a condition he owns, but cannot help or harbor. 

32 Comments

  1. Stop acknowledging skin color.
    It doesn’t matter WHAT is said, When skin color is brought up Racism still wins. Every time, no matter what the cause.

  2. UPDATE:
    The KKK attended the Ole Miss debate last night:

    African Americans now make up about 14% of the students at Ole Miss. Two recent student-body presidents were black, as is this year’s chair of the alumni association. “The KKK, like most racism, is on the way out in Mississippi,” says Brent Caldwell, president of the College Democrats at the university. “If [Klan members] come, both black and white students here at the university will protest,” adds Black Students’ Union president Brittany Smith. “This is not the same Ole Miss as it was 50 or 60 years ago.” College Republicans president Tyler Craft agrees. “Is it perfect? I don’t think so. Obviously it’s not, or else there wouldn’t be some small minority claiming that they’re coming here as the Klan,” he says. “But I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

    http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1844872,00.html
    Was the KKK there for McCain or Obama?

  3. Ah! Andrew Sullivan makes an even finer point about Race in the presidential race:

    The one aspect of these events that many seem to ignore is the racial and gender dynamics. Obama’s style against McCain was much tougher and crisper and more forceful than with Clinton. The reason, I think, is that Obama was canny enough not to fall into the Lazio trap with Clinton – with his only slip-up being the “you’re likable enough” quip. With McCain, he could be more alpha male, as he was. But Obama is also a black man against a white man. So he must also be very careful not to get angry and to stay cool and calm. He has to do that to avoid the “angry black man” trap. But then he cannot afford to seem weak either. You realize how hard a balance that is for ninety minutes?
    Obama has to walk through a racial minefield all the time.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/obama-and-debat.html

  4. I woke up grumpy and typed that out without properly considering other groups of individuals throughout the nation who are still resistant to this kind of disillusionment.
    I guess I’m just frustrated that we as conscious beings have to be so concerned with something as superficial as appearances to consider ourselves or others valid. It’s almost as ridiculous as smear campaigning and this sophomoric, sanctimonious “Jerry Springer-esque” dissension we seem to adopt as a means by which to somehow discern one candidates worth over another.

  5. ks —
    In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois said the greatest problem of the 20th century is the problem of “the color line” — and we’re still struggling with it today. I don’t enjoy talking about Race and skin pigment, but when others use color as a means for exclusion, I prefer to beat down that idea instead of just remaining silently acquiescent.

  6. Dually noted 🙂 My apologies for not thinking my first response through very well. Your site is a credit to humanity and I only wish to contribute positively.

  7. Wow.
    Hats Off to John Grisham! I was a die hard fan of his works, now I became a fan of his character!
    I truely wish Obama wins in November.
    It’s sad when people’s skin color comes first – that too in a presidential election, but it matters no matter how much we pretend to be oblivious.

  8. Hi Katha!
    You have shared with us the perils of your skin color — to the eternal detriment of the grandparent that didn’t consider you “light enough” — and it was truly a moment of open, brutal, honesty, last night with Grisham on TV.
    No one on TV today is talking about what Grisham — I’m certain the topic is much too harsh and painful to bear repeating — but the lesson Grisham shared with us is that we need to confess the obvious and then deal with it. His plain-stated facts hit hard and showed us where we need to go and what we need to do to save Obama from discrimination against his skin color.

  9. Hi David,
    India is strangely obsessed with skin tone. The matrimonial sites are obnoxiously filled up with potential mate’s skin complexion.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/03/AR2008050302146_pf.html
    But it’s also uniquely contradictory, this is the country which saw it’s first woman prime minister, a muslim president and a woman president – successively.
    Sometimes I find the other side of the civilization is – hypocrisy; that’s why noone is talking about Grisham today.

  10. Oh, I love that link, Katha! How fascinating! Yes, it is curious that India seems to celebrate the woman in power positions while then turning her around and boxing her in with skin color and social status and gender! Yes, the Grisham moment is as if it never happened: “Ignore it, and it will go away.”

  11. Yes David, this is the country that created a furore and made the then foriegn-born leader of the Indian Congress party refuse the post of the prime minister because of the controversy regarding her ethnic origin.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3726081.stm
    The poor woman lost her husband, her mother-in-law – both were assasinated and reluctantly entered into the political arena, turned around the team and finally got the blow.
    http://www.indianetzone.com/6/sonia_gandhi.htm
    Pathetic.
    You are right about the ostritch-syndrome, “ignore it and it will go away” – just repulsive.

  12. Hi David,
    Yes, incredible indeed!
    Indian politics observed many women leaders – from prior to independence till date, but I personally respect a few.
    Sonia Gandhi is one of them.
    http://www.soniagandhi.org/
    So was Indira Gandhi – her mother-in-law. It was said there was only one “Man” in the cabinet – it was her.
    http://specials.rediff.com/news/2006/jan/24sld01.htm
    India’s present President is a woman, but I find her slightly dull compared to her former one.
    http://www.nilacharal.com/enter/celeb/PratibhaPatil.asp
    I don’t think she has the “voice”.
    There are a lot more in the arena – but not worth mentioning.

  13. Thanks for the history lesson, Katha! I appreciate reading those find links. It seems there might be a bit of the Goddess/Whore syndrome in Indian politics when it comes to the traditional role of women in the family and in national roles? At home, they are kept and oppressed, but in the light of day, we want them to lead us into greatness.

  14. Hi David,
    Contradiction runs in our blood.
    Today, the middle class and the upper middle class young generation look for their own potential match, some opt for “arranged marriage” out of sheer business sense – there will be parity in every sense of the term – namely, economic and social class. Less idealism/ romanticism, lesser risk – probably.
    Love can come later, no problem even if it doesn’t come – all that matters is peaceful coexistence.
    Politics and Indian household are two different area, some women prefer to be cocooned a safe environment, it’s their choice. Some are not equipped enough to go out and lead a life on their own. Some even do not have any regret for it – it doesn’t even register.
    “Head-spinners” are few!

  15. I’m glad you were able to watch some of the debate video. It was even stranger watching it live on TV using a split screen with McCain having is backed turned to Obama and Obama having his entire body facing McCain. It was a wonderful image of the new trying to touch the old and the old having none of it.
    Yes, Dananjay, I agree that “truth spoken to power” can be a dangerous thing — but when you’re superstar John Grisham, that truth packs an even harder blow to those who can’t see the reality prancing in the shadows.

  16. Well done to John Grisham and to you for reporting more on it – it seems the rest of America is quite happy for such a damning situation to exist.
    There would be uproar if such a situation existed here – there would be lawsuits flying everywhere at the merest hint of discrimination by either the establishment or the electorate.

  17. Nicola!
    I love all the login IDs you’re using — totally fab-o! SMILE!
    I still can’t find anyone in the mainstream media reporting what Grisham said — Race is the center of the election in many ways, and yet — they prefer to tamp down that fact and pretend the truth was never uttered. Shocking!
    There are all sorts of noose makers. Some use hemp. Some use electronics. Some are woven in the moments of unspoken truth.
    I agree Grisham was blunt and tough and he knew what he said would get gasps and silent horror in return. He was right!
    We’ll never move beyond the color line unless and until we all begin the dirty work of scraping it away with our fingernails in public. We have to face our history and the immorality of our now — but it is the only choice that can be made to move us forward.
    I’m so glad the UK is way ahead of the USA on this one — we need a template to imitate — we need a way out by saying, “Oh, look what they did over there. It’s working. Let’s give it a go here.”
    The most chilling part of the debate was the KKK howling in email sent to the local media that they wouldn’t demonstrate, they wouldn’t hold signs, they wouldn’t wear their capes and cones. They were just going to sit there in the audience looking like everyone else… and letting the people around them guess about their Klan membership.

  18. Sorry about the multiple ID’s – So far my LJ one seems to be the most reliable! WP and typepad/typekey are being very uncooperative.
    “The most chilling part of the debate was the KKK howling in email sent to the local media that they wouldn’t demonstrate, they wouldn’t hold signs, they wouldn’t wear their capes and cones. They were just going to sit there in the audience looking like everyone else… and letting the people around them guess about their Klan membership.”
    That is really chilling – it is almost akin to knowing there are pedophiles, rapists and murderers out on license in the community – in your street just waiting.

  19. I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble logging in, Nicola! Are you clicking on the icon of the service you’re using and then filling in your login information? If you need any help or a better solution, let me know.
    Right about the KKK! And can you imagine how Obama must have felt knowing they were out there — just for him — McCain certainly didn’t have to deal with that sort of open, hostile, historic, threat to his life and family. Through it all… Obama remained cool.

  20. Obama to me has that something special about him – a calling to greatness and the necessary charisma and character to go with it.
    He is taking the system by the scruff of its neck and shaking it hard knowing how the odds and the KKK and others are stacked against him from the start.
    I wonder how many times he has already been warned about the risk to his life and his families life.
    I am not calling him a saint – or a prophet – maybe the wake up call that the USA (and the rest of the world) needs.

  21. Nicola!
    Yes, Obama has a great light in him and I think that’s why so many good people are drawn to his purity of spirit. The darker hearts don’t get it — they can’t see his light — and that’s why they mock him as a messiah.
    He asked for, and was given, Secret Service protect really early in his presidential run because of Racist hate mail and death threats made against him. I guess that’s to be expected for any Black politician running for high office in America…
    A couple of guys with high-powered rifles and sharpshooter scopes were arrested in the Denver area during the convention. They claimed they were there to kill Obama “from above” during his outdoor speech at Mile High stadium… until they recanted…
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/us_elections/article4609445.ece