Posted June 26, 2008 – Sen. Barack Obama may be “half African American,” but he’s steering clear of the notion that “Black is beautiful,” or “Black is powerful” because he doesn’t want to send potential White voters scurrying to White Republican Sen. John McCain, Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader said in a shocking statement Wednesday.
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"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American," Nader told Colorado's Rocky Mountain News in comments published Tuesday. "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, at one time a darling of the Democratic Party and perhaps the most respected consumer advocate in America – until he spoiled the presidential aspirations of Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 general election – formally entered the presidential race last spring. He has blasted both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Obama, saying that they are cow-towing to corporate interests. "They are both enthralled to the corporate powers," he told CNN. "They've completely ignored the presidential pattern of illegality and accountability; they've ignored the out-of-control waste-fraud military expenditures; they hardly ever mention the diversion of hundreds of billions of dollars to corporate subsidies, handouts, and giveaways; and they don't talk about a living wage."
Nader, who abandoned the Green Party this time around to run as an Independent, said that Obama’s alleged reticence hurting poor Blacks “especially in the inner cities and the rural areas …” and that he has failed to proffer “a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law.” That’s because Obama doesn’t want to be "another politically threatening African-American politician," Nader said. "He wants to appeal to White guilt. You appeal to White guilt not by coming on as 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."
Black leaders and commentators were quick to respond.
“I don't know how one ‘talks Black or White,’” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in an email sent to members of the press. "There are clearly different styles and speech cadences in every community." He went on to say that Nader’s comments are "beneath the respect many have had for you and more importantly below the level of political discourse we need at this point in history. Those of us that deal with real people in real pain in the Black community every day need real answers and real change, and that is more important than the volume or style in which it is presented."
University of Pennsylvania Professor Michael Eric Dyson, speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television news show this morning, said too that the issue is a “matter of style.” Said Dyson, “The reality is you can’t win for losing.” If Obama were to use “vernacular associated with African-American ghetto-speak,” he’d be criticized, Dyson said. But now that he’s “speaking the queen’s English to the queen’s taste … all of a sudden he’s speaking White.”
Obama, in Chicago Wednesday, said that it is apparent that Nader has never heard his speeches on the campaign trail.
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