Racial Flap in 2008 Was Vintage Ferraro

Joan Walsh: Her tactless remarks on Obama served a purpose
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2011 3:44 PM CDT
Geraldine Ferraro Deserves Better Than to Be Remembered for 2008 Racial Comments
Former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in a 2008 file photo.   (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

News of Geraldine Ferraro's death has inevitably called attention to the flap she caused in 2008 when she said this of then-candidate Barack Obama: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is." At Salon, Joan Walsh writes that Ferraro "deserves better than to be remembered mostly for her pained and divisive comments," but adds that, "in some way, they defined her, good and bad." Walsh points out that other political observers suggested pretty much the same thing, but in more tactful ways.

Ferraro—who refused to back down from the comments and insisted they weren't racist, just political reality—got into trouble because of her tone of "white grievance." Remember that Ferraro is "the product of working class white ethnic Queens," and she stayed with the Democratic party in the 1960s and '70s when many from that same background abandoned it in the civil rights push. "She deserves credit for hanging on, for sticking with her party, and maybe even for surfacing subterranean currents of white resentment that most people are too polite—or chicken—to talk about," writes Walsh. At least she provided the chance for a needed conversation on race. "As Jesse Jackson might put it, God wasn't finished with her yet, and She gave Ferraro one last role the Democrat might not have chosen for herself." Full column here. (More Geraldine Ferraro stories.)

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