Could Obama's rise signal the end of black victimology?
If so, it's not good for Jesse Jackson, but it's great for America.
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Thankfully, another current of thought has emerged among African-Americans that is wholly consistent with the Obama candidacy and all that it implies about the decline of race as a stigmatizing factor in America today. Bill Cosby has become the symbol of this movement, which emphasizes self-help as the principal engine of progress for African-Americans.Skip to next paragraph
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Those who are sympathetic to the victim view of African-Americans should read "Out of America," a stunning book by journalist Keith Richburg. After seeing firsthand the reality of the lives of the vast majority of Africans, he expressed gratitude that his ancestors had come to the United States, even as slaves.
Affirmative action has become a highly significant symbol of the divide on race. For those who see African-Americans chiefly as victims, affirmative action is an indispensable policy of expiation for the sins of slavery, segregation, and all the other forms of racism and discrimination.
But an emerging national consensus that Obama embraces calls for affirmative action, particularly with respect to education, to be shifted from race to class.
That means that all young people, no matter of what race or ethnicity, who come from circumstances of deprivation but show promise, should receive special treatment by college admission officials.
This is a highly favorable development, one that is consistent with our national goals of a color-blind society and upward mobility for all.
In his book, "Two Wands, One Nation," former governor of Colorado Richard Lamm poses a novel way to think about race and progress: "Let me offer you, metaphorically, two magic wands that have sweeping powers to change society. With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettos and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning and ambition."
Which wand would you wave?
Jackson would almost surely wave the first; Obama, like Mr. Lamm, the second. That's the measure of the sea change on race that is taking place in American society, so powerfully symbolized by Obama's candidacy.
• Lawrence E. Harrison directs the Cultural Change Institute at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, in Medford, Mass., where he also teaches. His latest book is "The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself."