Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dems' Race Flap + Obama & Latinos + MDI Car + Living Longer w/ AIDS

I've received and read a lot of emails and posts about the racial (and to a lesser extent gender) imbroglios that the Clinton and Obama camps have been engaging in, all of which end up harming Obama, in my opinion, to Clinton's and ultimately the Republicans' benefit, in that any talk of "race" (as well as "racism") magnifies his blackness (which "race" chiefly signifies in this society) among non-Black voters and allows him to be cast as the too self-consciously "Black" candidate, or "angry Black" man, or or racial "whiner," while also deflecting attention from his opponents issues and problems and from substantive critiques of his positions, policies and record. (The most cynical reading would be that even if the Clintons piss off Black voters, they would assume Blacks have no place to go, beyond voting by not voting, in the general election, and perhaps that's a risk they want to take.) You can argue that Obama's set himself up for this by his careful straddling of the politics of race, offering differing faces to differing crowds, while gliding over racism as an abiding societal issue via a nearly post-identitarian (and post-"issue") discourse, but I think he and his advisors assume that this may be the best or most effective route, and it appears to have worked so far, so we'll see soon how it turns out as things play out. Either way, the emergence of intra-party rifts over identity politics creates dangers that the Republican Party will not hesitate to exploit, so Obama's call for ramping down the rhetoric is a good sign, though he, the Clintons, their surrogates, and the party in general will nevertheless need to address the tensions.

Alongside this mess, there's the broader gantlet that Obama faces, which I've written about before. Today I read that "liberal" columnist Richard Cohen offers the newest volley in the anti-Obama game of religious, racial and ethnic smears by trying to link him to Rev. Louis Farrakhan, via Obama's South Side Chicago church and minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I think the aim here is to scare White people, but particularly Jewish voters. Personally I think Obama could tamp this down immediately by framing the response in crude terms, such as, "What do these people attacking my church and faith have against Christianity, or the Judeo-Christian tradition?" which is the sort of thing I'd expect out of Mike Huckabee's mouth. At the same time, it would probably be very effective. If Obama won't do it, find an ordained surrogate to go that route; isn't that what's been going on so far, with the various comments from Jesse Jackson Jr., Andrew Cuomo, Charlie Rangel, and, of all people, Robert Johnson?

There's the ongoing issue of the Manchurian Muslim email, originally generated by a right-wing nutcase, then furthered by right-wing commentators and eventually people affiliated with the Clinton campaign; it continues to circulate and will probably transmogrify in ways we cannot even imagine if he wins the nomination. (Chris Matthews managed to take things to a new realm of bizarrie when he stated on TV that Obama's mother and maternal grandmother were Muslims.) No matter how often this thing gets debunked, it'll keep surfacing. In light of the last week, I'll just repeat what I've written to anyone discussing Obama's electoral prospects, which is that I hope he and his advisors--like the Clintons, if Hillary gets the nomination, or Edwards--are ready for much, much worse.


And then there's this: today the New York Times, following some weeks after other news organs (Raw Story, for example), is telling us that Obama's going to have problems with Latino voters, because he's Black. While this wasn't the case in his US Senate race in Illinois (either in the Democratic primary or the general election), and while the Latino populations differ by region, reporters Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Steinhauer report that Obama's being Black may cause problems among Latino voters. To quote them:

Mr. Obama confronts a history of often uneasy and competitive relations between blacks and Hispanics, particularly as they have jockeyed for influence in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

“Many Latinos are not ready for a person of color,” Natasha Carrillo, 20, of East Los Angeles, said. “I don’t think many Latinos will vote for Obama. There’s always been tension in the black and Latino communities. There’s still that strong ethnic division. I helped organize citizenship drives, and those who I’ve talked to support Clinton.”

Javier Perez, 30, a former marine, said older Hispanics like his grandmother tended to resist more the notion of supporting an African-American, a trend that he said was changing with younger Hispanics.

“She just became a citizen five years ago,” Mr. Perez said. “Unfortunately, that will play a role in her vote. I do think race will play a part in her decision.”

Interestingly, Carrillo doesn't say, "a Black person," but "a person of color," which could easily include a Latino, like Bill Richardson, which points to broader issues beyond Black-Latino relations (cf. above). For activists like Rev. Al Sharpton, Obama's problem is that he's run a "'race-neutral campaign'," and yet this appears to matter little to those who would foreground his Blackness, no matter how he plays it. Yet the article isn't all doom: on the other hand,

In California, Mr. Obama has won backing from Latino lawmakers, some of whom had supported Mr. Richardson, but winning rank-and-file voters will be hard, said the State Senate majority leader, Gloria Romero, Democrat of East Los Angeles.

“Do we have a long way to go?” she asked. “Absolutely. I think there are some tensions on questions of immigration and jobs. But I believe that we have moved forward in a way that the community will embrace an African-American president.”

She said the solution to overcoming the tensions was discussing economic problems of middle- and lower-class blacks and Hispanics like the mortgage crisis, an issue that first Mrs. Clinton and now Mr. Obama have been raising more frequency.

“I don’t think eating tacos,” is effective, she said with a flick at Mrs. Clinton. “We need to address what unites us. The key is not to raise the wedge issue.”

I wonder how true this will be. Nevada will provide the first test, but I think it's too soon to write off Latino support for Obama everywhere, even if some places (California and Texas, say) prove tougher than others (like New Jersey and Connecticut).


Commentator Biodun's excellent "The Third Rail of Identity Politics in the US" is here.


MDI carGiven how recalcitrant the Detroit automakers are proving to be in terms of raising fuel standards and producing vehicles that compete with the best that Japan, Korea and other countries now offer, and given the overall bleak economic situation in Michigan and other parts of the upper Midwest region, I was thinking that perhaps the autoworkers' unions, or even a group of ambitious workers and concerned citizens and government officials might undertake a fact-finding mission to ensure that this revolutionary product, Frenchman Guy Negre's MDI compressed-air car (photo at left, Maycha.blogspot.com) which Tata, the Indian carmaker, is set to produce in sizable numbers later this year, is also being produced in the backyard (or front yard) of the Big Three.

If the "air car," as it's also being called, takes off globally, promises to upend the current discussion about automobile fuel emissions andefficiency, energy conservation and global warming. Its lightness helps conserve energy, and Negre says that it produces near-zero pollution on city streets and very low emission levels on the highway. The car does require a period electrical charge, and can be fitted with fuel tanks if needed, but for city driving it need not have the latter. Even its assembly would mark a shift from current practices (and back to an earlier mode of production); Negre envisions local factories using local materials, thereby helping to cut down on energy use in manufacturing process. The suggested price is $7000. According to Buzzfeed, it's already in 12 countries, so why not the US too? Talk about a great gift to the people of Detroit--and the US as a whole....


About a week or so ago I posted on the New York City Health Department's report on the rise of HIV seroconversions among young men of color. Keguro and Kai chimed in, and shortly after they did so, I noted the following report, which I've been meaning to post about for days now. It's intimately linked, I think, to the Health department's findings: reporter Jane Gross's "AIDS Patients Face Downside of Living Longer."

It opens

John Holloway received a diagnosis of AIDS nearly two decades ago, when the disease was a speedy death sentence and treatment a distant dream.

Yet at 59 he is alive, thanks to a cocktail of drugs that changed the course of an epidemic. But with longevity has come a host of unexpected medical conditions, which challenge the prevailing view of AIDS as a manageable, chronic disease.

Mr. Holloway, who lives in a housing complex designed for the frail elderly, suffers from complex health problems usually associated with advanced age: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, kidney failure, a bleeding ulcer, severe depression, rectal cancer and the lingering effects of a broken hip.

Those illnesses, more severe than his 84-year-old father's, are not what Mr. Holloway expected when lifesaving antiretroviral drugs became the standard of care in the mid-1990s.

The drugs gave Mr. Holloway back his future.

But at what cost?

That is the question, heretical to some, that is now being voiced by scientists, doctors and patients encountering a constellation of ailments showing up prematurely or in disproportionate numbers among the first wave of AIDS survivors to reach late middle age.

The article goes on to discuss the challenges the various people profiled experience, and given the number of people living with HIV and AIDS today, and living longer, this got me thinking about the notion of AIDS as a "chronic" disease, and, from my perspective, the lack of discussions and narratives, especially in terms of the conventional media's public discourse or popular culture, about the long-term effects of HIV seroposivity and the lives and experiences of long-term PWAs. I understand why; these topics are ones that few people other those involved in HIV education, prevention and treatment, and people living with HIV/AIDS, probably are interested in. But given that the notions that drug cocktails approximate a cure and AIDS is just another chronic, indefinitely manageable illness have taken hold, perhaps that there should be more discussion on what the various challenges of living with HIV and AIDS over a long time-span are now and will be in the future.

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