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Harris is not the second coming of Obama (and that's OK)

Jamie Stiehm on

WASHINGTON -- Conquering his Democratic foes for president, freshman Sen. Barack Obama cast Joe Biden as his No. 2. Obama was a star rookie next to veteran Biden, who spent 35 years in the clubby Senate.

This hard summer, Biden picked Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. He's 77, and she's 55, a Gen Xer. In an inspired rhyme across 12 years of time, the Californian is also a freshman Black senator.

Did Biden feel he owed the winds of history one? Once the chosen, he chose one that echoed the magic of Obama. Obama and Harris are both biracial. But Harris is not the second coming of Obama.

In 2008, Obama won a euphoric victory as the first Black president in American history, a distinction he never dwelled on. There's the rub, in retrospect. Dark stuff festered on social media during his presidency and then surfaced in our burning square in 2016.

The first Black president always acted as if we were a post-racial society, a pleasant fiction. Police brutality in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, did not evoke an outcry from his White House. Obama did not answer the ugly "birther" charges of one Donald Trump for ages, because it was beneath his dignity.

While carving his place in the pantheon, Obama did not directly advance the status of Blacks or voting rights, though in 2015, he joined an annual march in Selma, Alabama, with the champion in Congress, John Lewis. Three months later, he sang "Amazing Grace" in a eulogy at a South Carolina church for nine murdered members, African Americans slain in a mass hate crime.

 

(A song I can't stand, the lyrics by a wretched slave trader.)

Race is at a crossroads: a crisis in America right now, exploding even in heartland states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota. We can't just blame Mississippi.

The crisis calls for a more direct intervention and systematic change in law.

We know that President Donald Trump is running hard on race toward the November election, fueling further racism, unrest, resentment and violence wherever he can find it. In four years, this is what we've become -- not only he but we the people.

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Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

 

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