Saturday, January 02, 2010

Dredging Up The Past

It's the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one, and time for retrospectives. Daily Kos presents "This Year In Science," a takeoff on its "This Week In Science" and Taylor Marsh has "Best to Worst from Decade to Year's End." Open Left goes further, with its "golden oldies" from Matt Stoller, Paul Rosenberg, Daniel Degroot, Mike Lux (2), David Sirota(2), and Chris Bowers (4).

If big-time blogs are looking back, is it illegitimate for a small-time relatively unknown blogger to do the same? In this case, it's a comment on a column written in April by Carrie Sheffield of the conservative daily, The Washington Times.

Sheffield draws a parallel between a remark made by vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and one made by First Lady Michelle Obama. In mid-October, John McCain's choice as running mate boasted at a fund-raiser in North Carolina

We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.

Palin was roundly criticized and sort-of apologized (real apologies from politicians aren't terribly common). Six months later, Mrs. Obama spoke at a girls' school in London while her husband attended the G-20 summit in the English capital and remarked

I was not raised with wealth or resources or any social standing to speak of. I was raised on the South Side of Chicago – that's the real part of Chicago.

To the best of my recollection, the First Lady didn't apologize- nor was she asked what she meant.

Chicago has a history of almost unparalleled segregation and the southside of Chicago has a reputation of being disproportionately black, poor, and crime-ridden. The Southside, expansively defined, actually comprises over half the land area of the city and, according to Wikipedia, is

further divided into a White and Hispanic Southwest Side, a largely Black South Side, and a smaller, more racially diverse Southeast Side.

However, Chicago itself is an extraordinarily diverse city ethnically and is

41.97% white, 36.77% black, 4.35% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.36% Native American, 13.58% from other races, and 2.92% from two or more races. 26.02% of the population were Hispanic of any race. 21.72% of the population was foreign born; of this, 56.29% came from Latin America, 23.13% from Europe, 17.96% from Asia and 2.62% from other parts of the world.

The exact boundaries of Southside Chicago apparently are open to interpretation and there is no way to determine for certainty whether Mrs. Obama was referring to the entire area or the "largely black South Side." She may have been referring to the latter (video below), in which case she was suggesting that the non-black portion of Chicago was not "real;" or the former, a large, fairly diverse area which might be differentiated from the traditionally more affluent north Chicago, in which case the Obamas' $1.6 million Georgian revival home may be seen as an anomaly. (This might have been determined by whether the home is in the traditionally black portion of town, an issue the mainstream media, frightened by racial issues, never chose to explore.) Either way, as Sheffield implies, it is not a comment to be proud of.

The election was held, the Democrat (fortunately) won, and perhaps this is only a matter of theoretical (or no) interest. But, as Sheffield's column inadvertently highlighted, we can, two months after Thanksgiving 2009, be thankful for this: Barack Obama, rather than Sarah Palin or Michelle Obama, holds the reins of power.

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