After the election we observed that its results exploded a couple of myths about Americans and America. One myth we didn't mention that wilted away during the campaign is the belief, common among the young, that their generation is much less "hung-up" on race than are older generations. Shelby Steele, the author of White Guilt, perhaps the best book written on race in the last decade, points out in an interview with Peter Robinson that, on the contrary, this election shows that much of this country, especially the young, is actually obsessed with race. Watch the video of the interview and note the conversation beginning at about the 3:45 minute mark.
Earlier in the discussion Steele makes another interesting observation about how the Obama candidacy meant different things to whites and blacks. For many whites, voting for Obama was a way of gaining absolution, of proving their non-racist bona fides, of clearing their conscience of the guilt of being a member of the racist, white ruling class. For blacks, on the other hand, it was a way of putting behind them their fears of their own racial inadequacy.
I think there's a lot to this. It's remarkable that many whites were enthusiastic about Obama, notwithstanding their complete lack of knowledge of his past or of his views (See, for example, the Zogby poll linked to here). On the other hand, it's also remarkable that among black Obama supporters criticism of him often seems to be taken personally. It's never said that way, exactly, but one gets the feeling that blacks think whites have no business criticizing Obama, and if they do it's reason to think that the critic is motivated by racial animus. This makes sense, of course, if blacks see the attempt to defeat Obama as more fundamentally an attempt to thwart their own struggle to expunge a perhaps self-imposed stigma of racial inferiority.
The Steele interview packs a lot into six minutes and is worth a look. In fact, the whole series with Steele is worth watching. You can find the other segments here.RLC