Cinque Henderson has an interesting piece in our new issue on the "black case for Obama skepticism." Particularly noteworthy are his comments about Obama's channeling of Malcolm X during the South Carolina primary fight and his criticisms of Obama's handling of the Wright affair. However, he also makes one of the most bizarre assertions I have come across in quite some time.

The section starts with a good point at the expense of Obama supporters like Senator Claire McCaskill:

Add to that another Obama supporter, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, calling Obama the first black politician to "come to the American people not as a victim but rather as a leader." You hear this kind of talk all the time. Never mind the dignified glories of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Colin Powell, Kurt Schmoke, and others. We have arrived at the crux of the matter. So much of the educated white people's love for Barack depends on educated white people's complete ignorance of and distance from the rest of us. Barack is the black person they want the rest of us to be--half-white and loving, or "racially transcendent," as the press loves to call him. And, since picking a candidate makes you allies with his other supporters, why would I want to be allies with educated whites whose glorification of Barack depends in large part on their implicit denigration of the rest of us? [italics mine]

This is well put, but here is what follows:

But, once you stare past the radiant glow surrounding Obama and begin to study the exact reasons for his so-called racial transcendence, you can't help but conclude that it is mostly hokum. Why do black people love Obama? In large part, it's because of the dark-skinned woman on his arm. Black people (especially black women) are nuts for Michelle. Had Barack married a white woman, his candidacy would've never gotten off the ground with black people. And would whites really be so into him if he hadn't had a white mother? Based on U.S. political history, you would have to conclude: not a chance. My suspicion is that people are ultimately comfortable with Obama because a member of his family looks like them--and, if you think about it, that's not terribly transcendent. [italics mine]

Talk about "denigrating" a group of people--and giving them absolutely no credit whatsoever. What can you even say about this assertion? Not only does Henderson supply no evidence for it, but on its face it seems completely ludicrous. And what follows is not much better. Do most voters even know Obama has a white mother? Regardless, we are supposed to believe this is why white people like him?

Definitely read the whole piece, but if Henderson is so concerned about white people "viewing" African-Americans in a certain way, he himself should avoid falling into the same trap.

--Isaac Chotiner