I am a consultant specializing in diversity and inclusion. I have also facilitated dialogues on race for over 20 years. I do not use the word racist lightly, but I think that Ralph Nader’s statement that Obama talks “too white,” was extremely racist and patronizing. I know that was not his intention but intention does not always equal impact.
African-American parent groups of K-12 children are forming and working to close the achievement gap between many black and white students and to break the myth that African-American people who excel are “acting white,” as opposed to “acting black.” Now Ralph Nader arrogantly decides he will define who is “black enough,” and who is not.
I think that that thinking amongst some black people is from internalized racism, where they have taken on the stereotypes perpetuated in the media about “what is black,” It is a self-limiting belief. Some people need validation that they are ok where they’re at and think that people from their group who are successful are invalidating them, and are traitors to the group. At different times, other groups have passed that on, which makes the successful person from their group feel isolated and excluded, and then “dumb down” in order to be accepted.
While a diverse group of black people are speaking out and making efforts to dispel that myth, here comes Ralph Nader proclaiming that Obama is “acting white,” because he is successful, highly educated, and can communicate with people from various economic, ethnic, racial and geographic backgrounds.
Every black person has their own black experience, no matter what it is. It doesn’t have to be the same, just like all white people have their own experience being white, and it’s different for everyone.
Since Nader is now the expert on what is “really black,” I wonder why it’s ok for him to be educated and successful but not ok for Barack Obama. I can only wonder what would make Obama acceptable to Nader. Would Obama have to fit Ralph Naders’ stereotype of a black person. As a member of a successful interracial, interfaith family I was appalled by his remarks. I think we need to do all we can to create an inclusive culture in the US and in the world.