Ralph Nader: Racist Remarks or the Truth?

ImageRalph Nader made some controversial comments regarding Barack Obama to the Rocky Mountain News. Nader alleged that only Obama’s race makes him different from any of the recent Democratic presidential candidates. He also said that Obama is talking white to appear to be a less threatening African-American politician, but is it possible that there is some truth in Nader’s comments?

“There’s only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He’s half African-American. Whether that will make any difference, I don’t know. I haven’t heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What’s keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn’t want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We’ll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards,” Nader said.

There is a degree of truth in Nader’s observation. The Obama campaign knows that the one thing that could cost him the election is if he appears to be the “radical black candidate.” Notice how as the primary campaign went along, less was made of Obama the community organizer, also notice how Obama does very few public appearances with black political leaders. The campaign doesn’t want Obama lumped in with the perceived more extreme Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

The out of touch part of Nader’s comments come with his reasoning for why Obama is “talking white,” “He wants to show that he is not a threatening, a political threatening, another politically-threatening African-American politician. He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as a black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he’s coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it’s corporate or whether it’s simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up.”

The reality is that the political parties are controlled by white people, but I don’t think Obama is talking white to try to appease white fears about him. I think the leadership in both parties only care about picking a candidate that can win. They don’t care about race. People who like Nader who remember the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s tend to view race relations within that prism. We saw similar comments from the Clintons during the primary campaign.

I think Nader’s talking white comment demonstrates how out of touch his view of the issue of race is. There has been progress on the issue over the past 40 years. Most importantly most Americans don’t view race the same way that they did back then. Nader’s comments represent an outdated view of race in this country. Racism still exists in the United States, but the Obama campaign should be viewed in the context of 2008, not 1958.

Ralph Nader’s Comments

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9 Replies to “Ralph Nader: Racist Remarks or the Truth?”

  1. “I think Nader’s talking white comment demonstrates how out of touch his view of the issue of race is. There has been progress on the issue over the past 40 years. Most importantly most Americans don’t view race the same way that they did back then. Nader’s comments represent an outdated view of race in this country. Racism still exists in the United States, but the Obama campaign should be viewed in the context of 2008, not 1958.”
    Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans who actually are threatened by a “black-acting” presidential candidate. I live in the southern United States and I can assure you that almost all my white neighbors (young and old) would rather jump off a cliff than vote for anyone comparable to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. Sadly, 1958 is still alive and well in some parts of the country.

  2. I absolutely disagree with any commentary accusing Ralph Nader of being a racist. I don’t think he put it out in the best way – perhaps if he had the financial support that the other candidates have he could afford a better speech writer. What he was saying was that Obama really isn’t any different then any of those who ran against him in the primaries. They like to distinguish themselves when they run against each other with “big ideas”, but the bottom line is that they would all ultimately make the same conservative choices in office. It’s true that Obama gets attention for being Black – both good and bad – but attention nonetheless. Clinton had the same sort of thing going because she is a woman, she just got a little less support in the end. It’s similar to the attention Palin is getting. Personally, I wouldn’t expect much from any of them – or McCain – historically neither party has done much to drastically change the direction of our economy (which is a primary concern for most of us). Every candidate has made plans for big changes, and rarely do they follow those plans once in office. Nader was merely suggesting that a democrat is a democrat is a democrat – as a republican is a republican is a republican. A change in race or gender doesn’t mean a complete overhaul to the structure of a political party. He wants others to have the opportunity to go in office – to have a chance to deliver on the change they are promising. Nader has had so few blunders compared to the other candidates – I don’t think he deserves to have his back jumped on because one comment was taken to mean something which I very much believe he did not intend. I can’t say for sure because I don’t know the man personally, but I really doubt that he is racist. I wont take this one comment as a sign of it – and I hope no one else does.

  3. The problem with your argument is you are not listening. I am a man of 50 years and to say someone is “talking white” suggests that whites are more intelligent than blacks in the context of how Nader said it. And since I write on election day, Nader has used the term “uncle tom” when referring to our very own President Elect. So you are proven to be not accurate. Imagine that. Referring to the President Elect in this manner. I don’t recall anyone referring or comparing Mr. Bush to to a pect of wood on election day.

  4. Whether Ralph Nader’s remark was racist or not, surely Nader is now an irrelevance, at best a footnote, in American politics. His comment is no more newsworthy than if it had been made by my barber.

  5. You have to understand…..wait are you white? I would like you to understand as an african american we have been through a lot and I am not going to justify that to disagree, but “we” know every underlined comment and gesture known to man about being discriminated. It’s amazing how you find another reason to say that he was not being racists. Why? Is it because of his reputation and the knoweledge that he displays on cnn? What would make you think that he is not a racists….by saying “I rather see an uncle sam then an Uncle Tomb” or clearly saying ” He is trying to speak White”. From the comments, how do you not potray him as a racists? Don’t be or act blind…it is not rocket science.

  6. You still don’t get it. Nader is being racists and you are still trying to define and justify the racist remarks that he uttered. Just because you came up with that theory…you do you think that will sway any one from thinking he is not a racist or comes with the mentality of a racists? pick one. Yeah there are slang accents and there people in the south that sound different, but what do you call Eminem? Vanilla Ice? Justin Timberlake? So is this the matter of stereotypes? Can we justify it that way? Pathetic.

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