Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A comment on Orlando Patterson in the NYT

In the March 11 edition of the New York Times, Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson interprets the Clinton campaign's "3 a.m." ad as part of a pattern of demonizing black men going back to the days of the Ku Klux Klan.


In his article, Professor Patterson claims disappointment that Senator Clinton has, as he put it, chosen to go negative. Is he also disappointed in Senator Obama's similar moves in that direction? The more I read his words, the more I hear the message "Women have to be extra-nice, all the time, no matter what."

Professor Patterson also expresses concern that two children in the ad appear "vaguely Hispanic" and none seem to be black. But what would he make of an ad that depicted Senator Clinton explicitly watching over black families? Could that not be interpreted as a patronizing attempt to be "the Great White Hope"? Certainly, Professor Patterson does not expect every campaign ad by each candidate to always include blacks and white; and it is a surprise to read him suggesting that including Hispanics is a sign of racial prejudice rather than inclusiveness.

Finally, as Professor Patterson acknowledges, he does not know whether the Clinton ad intended any racial subtext. I wonder, is he also confused as to whether Senator Obama's talk of the "okey-doke", "hoodwinking" and "bamboozling" in South Carolina and Mississippi has a racial subtext?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that a Harvard sociology professor would write what has been called, almost justly, the "dumbest op-ed piece ever written" says more about the state of Harvard, and of sociology, than it says about anything else.

Certainly more than it says about the 3am ad. The bizarre and (literally) paranoid suggestion that the danger is really black men hiding in the dark is--almost by his own admission--the product of his professional obsession with racism and racist images. That is, he admits that his only evidence is his intuition, and that this topic has been the focus of his career. The only thing he doesn't consider is that his obsession might somehow influence his intuition.

That said, I think you mean Ku Klux Klan, or else Pastor Wright would've had to damn the US of KKC-A, which doesn't have the same ring to it.

March 23, 2008 at 4:53 PM  

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