Eugene Cho

ferraro, clinton, obama and race

I’m sorry for the invitation to two intense dialogue in one day but I’m eager to hear what others have to say about the controversy surrounding Geraldine Ferraro’s remarks about Barack Obama’s race and subsequent resignation from her honorary post in Hilary Clinton’s campaign.

Geraldine Ferraro stepped down Wednesday from an honorary post in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign amid a controversy regarding her comments that Barack Obama wouldn’t be succeeding in the race for the White House if he weren’t black… [cnn via associated press]

The controversy began when the national media picked up on comments Ferraro made in an interview last week with the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, Calif.  What do you think about these thoughts from Ferraro:

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

My thoughts:

Ferraro is being refreshingly honest but couple of her comments are off the wall.  I agree with her – in part – that race plays a role in this election.   Why?  Because Obama is a black man but he is not ONLY defined by the color of his skin.  [Gender plays a role because Hilary Clinton is a woman.] But what she fails to acknowledge or convey is that race has played a significant part in every election before this.  American leadership, politics, and power structures have been dominated by White Americans and in particular by White Men.  Isn’t that problematic? 

“Lucky to be who he is” = “Lucky to be black.”  = Did I read that correctly?  I never thought I’d hear someone say a person is lucky to be black.

What do you think about this quote?: 

“Obama is a black man.  Previously, he would never have been in this position.  Previously, if he was white, he might have in this position.  The country was caught up in the concept known as White Power and Privilege.  But we are all lucky to be in this unique time in our history where both a woman and an African-American are being considered for the President of the United States.”

Your turn. What do you think?

Related Previous Entries: Faith and Politics | The Next President?

Filed under: politics, , , ,

23 Responses

  1. Dennis says:

    What pisses me off is that she is completely unapologetic. Okay, Obama is Black! Duh. We get that but her comments completely minimizes his qualities as a U.S. Senator and potential next President of the United States.

  2. Esther says:

    Ferraro said this:

    “Why is his candidacy historic? Can you give me another reason why it is an historic campaign? Why are we afraid to say this? I am absolutely stunned by this whole thing. I’m not saying he isn’t qualified, never did I say that. He is very smart. He has experience issues, but if George Bush can learn to run the country, so can this guy.”

    She certainly shoots from the hip!

  3. uenomurakami says:

    I think Ferraro should have been a bit smarter. Regardless of her personal feelings, or on-the-record feelings, she should have been smarter. She is right that this an election that will redefine election history. The media have been covering every angle of these elections, and this is only the primary season. Can you imagine what they have in store for the General Election?

    Upon further review, her comments roll off me like water off a ducks back. She has the right to say what she wants. But something Obama commented on while talking with the media on his campaign jet emphasizes the media coverage of this process, and why Ferraro should have been more careful with her words. (I paraphrase) He said he was really surprised that the media picked up on a passing comment he had made earlier, and that he never thought it was something for the media to run with. But they did and he was amazed. I reiterate, Ferraro has been around this game a lot longer than Barack. She should have known that. She knows the game.

    So, I think she did it to stoke various fires and get the smoke going. Hillary and Bill couldn’t have done this themselves. And this way they can disavow what Ferraro said. Perfect for them. Easy collateral damage.


  4. jasdye says:

    let’s put it this way: it is because obama is a black male that he has the experience that he does – that has helped to make him into the person that he is, and in his case, would make him a truly great candidate.

    but, let’s take another spin at this, eh? if he were white and still came across the way he does now, still have the ambition, charisma, intelligence, talents, and dreams that he does? that’d still be historic and he’d most likely have less opposition and less people nipping at his heels. this election would be a rollover and my guess is that clinton would ask to be his running mate.

  5. I run a blog that is aimed at the urban crowd and as a black man I’d like to go on record saying I don’t think Geraldine Ferraro is racist at all. At least not in the way we generally think of a racist. She see Barack being black as an advantage and not a disadvantage. In a way she is right. His race does get him noticed but in all honesty it is not going to help him get elected at all. One of the other writers over at Highbrid Nation says Geraldine Ferraro is evil not racist, lol. He might not be too far off.

  6. It’s worth pointing out that she was the vice presidential candidate in the 1984 general election. So this isn’t her first rodeo. It’s unlikely that her message is coming at this key time by accident. It’s far more likely that this “white woman versus black man” dialogue is one of the most effective of the (quickly dwindling) options available to the Clinton campaign.

    Several bloggers have pointed out that this is like a dog whistle. It seems like nonsense to most people but resonates perfectly with a certain (unfortunately large) group: non-blacks who believe blacks are overprivileged.

  7. jasdye: I think you’re right. White Obama =~ JFK

  8. Matt K says:

    The Clintons are shameless… this race gets uglier by the day. Ferraro did exactly what Hill and Bill wanted. Ferraro plants the seeds and takes the fall while Clinton reaps the benefits.

  9. Ben C says:

    I like your take on it.

    Race has always been an issue in politics and in life, period. Issue not being defined as neither negative or positive here. So Ferraro’s comments are rather harmless to my ears. Now to speak publicly about this via the int’l media… the messaging falls on a lot of undereducated, provincial ears which I feel is the plurality of the United States population. They’ll immediately take to it in a negative light.

    But it comes down to destiny and the holism.

    If Hillary wasn’t married to an ex-POTUS, she wouldn’t be in the position she is in today. If Obama decided to go into the private sector, would be be where he is today?

    C’mon. It is what it has become. Go Obama!

  10. me says:

    “David Paterson would not be Governor of New York today if he was not a black, blind man.

    If he was a black man, he would not be in this position today. And if he was a blind man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, of any color, he would not be in this position today.”

    If he was a black woman, who’d lost sight in only one eye, he wouldn’t. If he was a half-black, half-white woman, who had sight in both eyes, but had lost an arm, he would not be governor. If he was anorexic, or bulimic, he would not have that job.

    Muslim? Nope. Blind Jew? Certainly not.

    Let me be perfectly clear — David Paterson is lucky to be a black, blind man. The people of New York are looking for a black, blind man, and they are simply caught up in the moment.

    Now, I now many of the commenters here on the blog are going to accuse me of being racist for saying this. The reality is, anytime you try and talk about how lucky black, blind men are, you’re accused of racism.

    Well, I think it’s YOU who are being racist. Reverse racism. I really think you’re attacking me because I am white.

    How’s that?

  11. Joseon says:

    I’m glad Ferraro wasn’t elected in ’84. What is up with the politicians in the NY/NJ area? Nobody’s normal here anymore.

  12. Jason Dye says:


    funny how i forget that you post as ‘me’ on your own blog. so, i’ll direct that to you.

    funny, pastor eugene.

  13. JB says:

    You could say this about every US president in history:

    “If [Washington, Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan, etc.} was NOT a white man, he would not be in this position.

    Not one of those guys would have been elected had he been black, brown, or a she.

    Ferraro and The Clintons are shameless.

  14. elderj says:

    Eh… I agree with her; and I suspect that lots of others do too in the privacy of their homes and hearts. Being Black, especially the kind of non-scary semi-exotic, fair skinned Black that Obama is, is sometimes very advantageous The disadvantages that most Black people face in this country have much to do with historic racism and structures which have denied them the kinds of opportunity that Obama had by virtue of his white parentage. That doesn’t make him any less Black, but he’s just as White. Take away the tan, and he’s a well educated White liberal with an ivy league education and elite background.

  15. Something I wonder in all this recent conversation about race is, “Can the American public have multiple historic conversations going on at the same time and focus on all of them?”

    Race is a historic conversation, and one that needs to be carried out in churches, restaurants, and in political forums.

    We also have war, which is also historic. I commented to a friend of mine that Iraq is our generations Vietnam War, and Afghanistan could be this generations Korean War.

    To top off all these wonderful topics of discussion we have the stalling economy (don’t want to go Great Depression, but I’ll throw it out there for sake of argument).

    Oops, I forgot global warming. Caused by a history of not paying attention to our most valuable resource, the environment.

    Throw in the “side notes” of education, health care, crime, etc. and there is a lot to talk about. Can we focus on all these things?

  16. Sue Lee says:

    I would be interested in knowing your take on Obama’s pastor Wright’s message on anti-Americanism and cursing America (d*** America) … and how someone can justify sitting through 20 years of sermons where such profanity, anger, hatred and language is spewed out (esp. if one is Christian) and align it with Christ’s world view.

    Can one truly justify being a member of such a congregation for 20 years, simply by saying Pastor Wright has done good works in the community? How can we as Christians, when hearing such messages from the pulpit have the where-with-all to know and understand when it is lacking sound theology and it is going on political rhetoric?

    Personally, as a Christian, I feel that no one man can save a nation or world by politics. If God planned to save the nation through a single man, in a man made system of politics and power… he would have done so when Jesus Christ came on the earth. So as a Christian, I can’t help but be really skeptical when I find the Obama campaign touts that Obama can save the nation, heal the wounds, and unite. To me, there is only one Savior, one uniter and one healer.. and that is God. To expect a human to do so, is to put politics on the pedestal of idolatry.

    All political parties have flaws and strong suits. Democrats/Liberals tend to be very good in the arena of social justice but fail miserably in the arena of moral justice. The Republicans/Conservaties are strong in the pursuit of moral justice, but fail miserably in the areas of social justice.

    As a Christian, we are called to be both just and moral in our walk with God. One can’t simply justify one political party over another. Is one sin greater than another? Can we truly say homosexuality and abortion is less of a cause, and less of a sin, compared to perhaps looking after the poor?

    In the same tack… I have always enjoyed reading your blog and your insights. However, lately, when I notice the pro-Obama messages coming out from your posts… I can’t help but feel that you are using your pulpit and station of authority (pastor) in the same way to influence people to vote a certain, as Oprah used her celebrity status to influence people to vote for Obama. So I am disappointed to a certain degree to find such an overwhelmingly biased view towards a party member and party in your posts.

    One can justify supporting Clinton, or even McCain, based on their Christian faith value system. And I also think the Obama campaign has come out with some rather unsavory remarks and has not “stayed above the fray” as he so claims he does… so the reality is that no one – no one particular nominee, or party is perfect. Nor can one say that by voting for one party, or one candidate, one is going against biblical values and theology either.

    So I would find it refreshing if you could put a more of a deep theological spin on your posting related to politics. Perhaps giving us insight into how we as Christians will strive to be salt and light of this world… but not to expect God to bring about world healing and salvation through politics and to not put politics on a pedestal of idolatry would be though provoking. Stumping for a particular party and candidate, in a biased view of world politics… is not the most edifying or enlightening for me (although clearly your other readers do agree Obama is the better candidate… you should pause and reflect what your role as Pastor/mentor/adviser is in your reader’s/congregant member’s life in regards to politics).

    Should you, in your Pastoral role… can you truly justify stumping for one single candidate/party and use your pulpit to tell your congregation members to vote for a certain person, because you endorse him/her? To point out one single candidate stands more for unity and peace? How does that differ from Pastor Wright’s using his pulpit and position of authority to stump for a candidate? Is your blog truly separated from your pulpit – such that congregation members are truly unaware of your thoughts on the blogosphere? Or can a church member of your church easily know and find your political endorsement… and thinking Pastor knows best… chose whomever you choose?
    We should all know better that there is truly only one person who will bring peace on earth… and that is Jesus Christ. No man, no politician, no matter how eloquent they are, will be able to achieve that.

    I know when I was in high school and university, I was very impressionable, and probably would have been highly swayed by the stance of my Pastor in their political ideology to consider voting as my Pastor did. I think you should be careful of your position of authority to stump so profoundly and obviously for a candidate.

    As Christians, we should vote… and we should be politically active… but to think God will change this nation through one person… is sheer idolatry of politics… and idealism. That type of idealism is sure to make anyone miserable.

  17. me says:


    Hmmm. Good thoughts. I have personally voted for numerous parties. I have no party affiliation and while I’m particularly intriqued by the presence of a woman and an African-American in the presidential election, I have yet to decide who I will personally vote for in the elections. I have neither endorsed a Party or a particular candidate and I will not reveal who I will vote for. At this point, I don’t intend [in the future] to reveal who I will have voted for and asides from telling people I have voted for candidates in all respective parties, have no divulged the specific candidate I have supported in elections past. I am surprised that you think I have so “profoundly and obviously for a candidate.”

    And you are right in saying that no one MAN or WOMAN can save the world. I don’t think I have conveyed that it any particular manner.

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. I’ll copy and paste some thoughts I wrote in an earlier entry:

    When it comes to politics, I wrestle with how I handle my “influence” as the lead pastor of a church. While I will discuss topics and issues, I decided elections ago not to not directly endorse a specific candidate – especially behind the pulpit on a Sunday. But even through conversations, emails, questions, and through this blog, I still hold in tension that very question. This is the reason why – while I’ve made up the bulk of my decision – I have tried to maintain a level of mystery. And plus, I like to do my due diligence.

    I think many at Quest have personally wrestled through their decisions and wouldn’t at all be influenced by my thought processes. Others, however, have personally asked for my feedback. Rather than give a direct endorsement of one candidate, I have tried to encourage them to wrestle through the issues that are important to them and through other issues that not as readily discussed [see below].

    Seattle, as you may guess, is a bit more [insert your own word] progressive. Quest is heavy on the 20s/30s demographic. Last year, our surveys indicated that the average age was 26 for men and 24 for women. About 78% [I think] were single. While our demographics have changed much this year…You can put 1 + 1 together and it’s safe to assume that Quest – politically – is a little more [insert your own word here] progressive than Provo, Utah or Lubbock, Texas. This is one of the reasons why I have tried to be careful: Discuss issues through a biblical/cultural hermeneutic and trajectory rather than endorsing a specific candidate. Because the majority at Quest are probably more politically progressive or “Democratic,” couple of the “Republicans” at Quest have contacted me personally expressing their feelings of marginalization at Quest. That’s the last thing that I want as one of the pastors of our church.

    But nevertheless, dialogue is important. And engaging the culture and serving the city is important. This is why the church has served as a voting center in years past; hosted Republicans groups to meet at Q Cafe; and why one of the Democratic precincts will be meeting at Q Cafe for their caucus this upcoming Saturday. This is not – in any way, shape, or form – the church, cafe, or its leadership endorsing one party or another – but a commitment to serve the larger city and not be afraid to engage. [Psst. Psst.] I’m already behind on emails and I’m hoping we won’t get too much flak for hosting a Democratic caucus at the cafe.

    There is definitely a different “feel” about this election… I am encouraged by the many who “casted” their votes in yesterday’s post about “the next president.” As I’ve alluded to this in conversation with folks, let me share some basic simple thoughts:

    1 Vote. It is truly a privilege and a gift we should exercise. I especially enjoyed what “Rick from Texas” shared in his comment yesterday:

    “I thought about not voting in November, but was reminded by a respected friend that I have this right to vote which has been paid for by the blood of patriots…”

    2 Be informed. My exposition of Obama’s hope as fluffy wasn’t an indictment about him but more about what I perceived to be people’s lack of understanding where their respective candidates stand on the larger issues. Hope can be beautiful…and also painful.

    3 Beyond ONE issue. Especially as people of faith in Christ, we must be people that are beyond the “single issue.” When we become single issue voters, we will be used and manipulated by those that know the game. While the issue of abortion – the sanctity of life – must always be a hugely important issue, we must juxtapose that with other issues that are also very important. Why is the sanctity of life an issue for pro-choice but not as much with the death penalty?

    4 Politics is not the answer. Rather, it is not THE answer. Politics is a process, structure and medium by which we can do much good as a society rather than much harm but many, I believe, can fall astray in thinking that politics, policies, and politicians can provide the salvation for the nations. It certainly has its purpose and must be used accordingly and wisely.

    Lastly [if you’ve read this far], I am a fan of conversation. People need to talk. Sadly – deep, rich, meaningful conversation – talking, listening, sharing – doesn’t always take place in the the church. How does our faith and love for Christ go beyond a compartmentalized worldview. Surely, faith is more than a 90 minute service. So, may your faith continue its process of renewal and transformation – heart, body, mind, and soul.

    Follow your convictions. Vote. Live out your faith in high definition.

  18. Sue Lee says:

    In regards to your question, whether I agree with Geraldine Ferraro… I think her comment was stupid. In a racially charged atmosphere of the democratic race — it was a stupid comment to make. BTW: the Obama campaign is also fanning the flames of crying wolf and the race card, whenever they can.

    Regardless, does a stupid comment mean it is also not true? No. Stupidity and truthfulness are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I think there is some truth to her words – no matter how stupidly stated.

    If she meant that that
    1. Barack Obama used affirmative action (being African American) to gain entrance to ivy league law school? probably yes.
    2. Did Michelle Obama use affirmative action policies to gain entrance to ivy league schools? probably yes.
    3. Using affirmative action policies help in the Obama’s standing out and achieving prominent, elite, worldly success? It probably didn’t make it more difficult.
    4. Is the media and other competitors in this election campaign extra sensitive to racial issues, and afraid to make even insinuations (other than Ferraro) remotely tied to race and Obama? Yes. He and his wife are often given a free pass by the media when they make racially charged comments.

    For instance – Michelle Obama said in an interview, African Americans are not voting for Barack Obama because they think in an oppressive mindset, and because he is precisely black, they have trouble supporting him. (Implication: African Americans are not voting in a black man and supporting him, not because of race and color. It can’t be because they think he is not qualified, or the best candidate.. it has to do with race. Racially charged and racist comment? YES. Free pass from the press and media? YES. Why? hmmm… what if the Clintons said anything about African Americans voting pattern and Obama support? Would they get a free pass? NO. Oh yeah… Bill Clinton made a remark didn’t he about this, and wasn’t he crucified by the press for weeks and months on end?).

    2nd example: There are numerous blogs and news reports (including one done by Cooper Anderson) stating that Asian Americans are not voting for Barack Obama because he is black, and could it be because we are racist? So again. The implication is … Asian minority in America is choosing not to support a particular candidate because of his skin color, and racist tendancies. Hmmm… racially accusatory allegations.

    Implications: people are not supporting Obama because he is black… not perhaps because he is not qualified or experienced.

    Obama’s camp plays up these ideas to the hilt. Cry wolf, and complain when there is anything remotely tied to colour, or islam (i.e. using his middle name Hussein — which is part of his given name.), or any references to his color. Yet his camp can use the color/race card to their benefit – even if it is a racially charged accusation with little evidence or validity (ie. African Americans don’t support Obama because they are afraid)

    So is Ferraro’s comments true? I think there is a grain of truth there…. no matter how offensive it may be.

    To me, Obama is a privileged, elite private school kid, who is essentially parading as a poor, underprivileged black man who pulled himself up by the bootstraps. Was he called the “N” word as a kid? Perhaps. But Hawaii is the most multicultural place in the world to grow up, and amazing to be a biracial kid. Did he grow up poor? No – he was given the best private education that money could buy (private school in Hawaii).

    Did he have a typical, south side Chicago hard knock life like a typical poor African American? Absolutely not. He had the best of both worlds. The advantages of affirmative action by outward appearance, and the support of his maternal grandparents that raised him in a multicultural state, attending the best private schools available. Not much to cry about.

  19. Sue,

    It is interesting the media’s take on so many issues. I think they take things and run with them. I remember Barack saying he was surprised the media had picked up on a passing comment he made while talking on his campaign jet. Everything is being looked at. I don’t think the Obama’s are getting a pass. The thing is the Clintons are established and known and they know when and how to drum up the heat. We’ve seen from this campaign that Obama and his cronies are not nearly the spin doctors the Clintons are. When Obama tries to spin something it looks exactly like what it is, he gets called on it, and he apologizes for being stupid. The Clintons don’t apologize, or even admit that something they said was stupid. They say it was taken out of context, and that’s not what they mean, and this and that. They get a lot of free press out of it. Smart tactic, but it does have consequences.

    I remember that Michelle Obama interview and comment, but a comment by a black woman about a black situation has far less race-hate punch than, a white woman making a comment about a black man and his status in history. That is race in America. I don’t think there are too many instances where you are seeing major players in the Obama campaign say something against the other parties candidate that reflects some negative racial feeling. A retort is different than the initiation. In this area the Obama campaign has just been smarter than the Clintons, sometimes getting caught in the game, but usually moving forward without scars.

    I hate to see it, and blame the Obama campaign for lending in to it, but you can’t really let anything like this pass by without a comment or two. And if that ignites more press coverage so be it. Any free press time is a plus when it comes to campaign politics.

    I personally believe Ferraro made those comments specifically to cause a stir. I could most definitely be wrong, but she just seems too smart and too experienced not to understand this election atmosphere. I don’t think she is racist. She just made a racist comment. You can make a racist comment without being a racist, as you described above.

    You are right that each campaign has not been able to stay above the fray, which is where I wish they could stay. This campaign battle is full of very new things, and very old things. Hopefully each candidate can put forth the best of both the old and the new.


  20. DK says:


    Your posts are somewhat funny. Leaders, pastors, and influential figures are always endorsing people. Why wouldn’t Oprah want to endorse someone? In typical ways, pastors have been using their pulpits to vigorously encourage their churches to vote Republicans for years!

    Is it because Oprah endorsed a candidate you clearly don’t like?

  21. RK says:

    While I believe we have two strong candidates in the Democratic Party, I think one is clearly demonstrating more integrity and decency in the nomination process.

    Whatever race, whatever gender, whatever political party he/she is, does not diminish the accomplishments of Obama’s grassroots campaign. This is historical for many reasons. Whoever you favor, I think, you can still appreciate this kind of approach of politics.

    Obviously no one is perfect and no one will “save us”, but I think a wise person will look at the current situation and opt for a person who shows he/she has integrity, can stay level-headed under fire/stress and make wise choices, can lead and accomplish what he/she sets out to do while bringing in the support of the citizens.

    Sue, I love God, too, but this doesn’t exempt God-fearing and loving people from making responsible political choices and working with non-religious organizations to bring about responsible actions. Christians ought to work for political justice as well as social justic. Jesus certainly did.

    There are no perfect choices, but there are better choices and each of us have to come to that choice him/herself. I believe that amost people make that choice in good conscience, whether or not it agrees with our own choice. In the least, let’s try to respect our often differing choices, while we may not always understand them.


  22. Sue:

    Regarding the message of Pastor Wright, what do you think of this pastor?:
    “Damn you rich! You already have your compensation.
    Damn you who are well-fed! You will know hunger.
    Damn you who laugh now! You will weep and grieve.
    Damn you when everybody speaks well of you!”

    That’s the Scholar’s Translation of Luke 6:24-26 Sometimes a sermon is good even if it’s full of anger and heated words.

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