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From Ralph Nader, an offensive lesson on race and politics.

Friday, June 27, 2008

IF YOU didn't know Ralph Nader was running for president, you do now. The man who built a rock-solid reputation agitating for consumer rights and watched his standing diminish after he injected himself into the 2000 presidential contest as an independent candidate reemerged Wednesday with a off-key critique of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

"He's half African American," Nader told the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. "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." He went on to say, "What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white?" When asked to clarify the "talk white" remark, Mr. Nader added, "I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas . . . ." Oh, and then there was this little ditty: "He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful."

Mr. Nader's offensive remarks smack of that ultra-liberal condescension that African Americans should think, talk and behave a certain way -- and that people such as Mr. Nader are equipped to explain this to them. Those who dare to stray from such rigid orthodoxy are belittled at best. Mr. Nader displayed a stunning misunderstanding of the spark behind Mr. Obama's support. When Mr. Obama went before a black church on Father's Day to preach responsibility and the importance of fatherhood, he did not aim his message only at African American men; his positions on education and health care, to name two, are meant to benefit all Americans. Surely, African Americans would stand to benefit from such expansive thinking rather than the stale strategies Mr. Nader believes Mr. Obama should employ.

If Mr. Nader's patronizing comments were meant to attract attention, they succeeded. Unfortunately, they also served to reinforce how out of touch he really is.

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