September 8, 2008

Obama's community organizing

From my Sunday night VDARE column:

At the Republican convention, VP nominee Sarah Palin famously observed:

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

This wisecrack evidently got under the skin of Senator Barack Obama. In Obama Suddenly Riled, [San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2008] Carolyn Lochhead reported:

"Sen. Barack Obama ditched his normal languid cool today, punching back at Gov. Sarah Palin as he spoke with reporters in York, Pa, hotly defending his work as a community organizer… Obama's hackles were clearly raised by Palin's dismissal of his community organizing …"

The Obama message team then told us over and over about the unemployed steelworkers Obama had moved to Chicago to help.

Palin's crack was funny. But it shows that, as I predicted in February, GOP nominee John McCain is choosing to fight the election with one hand tied behind his back. Even his VP candidate isn't allowed to ask why Obama wanted to be a "community organizer". Which "community" did this post-racial transcender of ethnic divisions want to organize?

Like most questions about Obama's life, the answers about his community organizing revolve around a single word: race.

As Obama wrote in his 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance:

"In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer. … That’s what I’ll do, I’ll organize black folks."

The Obama campaign's recurrent “steelworker” shtick is supposed to make you think Obama moved to Chicago to help guys named Kowalski. But the last thing Obama wanted to do in 1985 was help anybody with a Central European name.

Chicago in 1985 was site of the abrasive "Council Wars" between the leader of the white majority among Chicago's aldermen, the Croatian-American Fast Eddie Vrdolyak, and Obama's idol, the black mayor Harold Washington. This was the most blatant white vs. black conflict in the country at the time—which helped make Chicago attractive to the young mixed-race man from ethnically laid-back Hawaii. Obama had long been looking for a more racially hostile environment where he could finally prove he was “black enough”.

Ultimately, he didn't help any steelworkers, black or white. The Southtown Star reported on August 24:

"And none of the laid-off steelworkers Obama talks about in stump speeches, the people he was brought to Chicago to help, could be found for this article, despite repeated requests to the campaign."

So what is an Obama-style "community organizer?"

You're not some local Scoutmaster or the lady who organizes the annual block party or some other local citizen.

It means a radical racial activist who, in Tom Wolfe's immortal phrase, "mau-maus the flak catchers"—intimidates bureaucrats into giving your ethnicity a bigger slice of the pie. It means, more than anything else, that you organize political protests for more handouts from the taxpayers (even though dependence upon those handouts is one reason the community is so disorganized.)

It's kind of like being the neighborhood fence who encourages the local heroin addicts to steal hubcaps so they can shoot more smack.

The famous black University of Chicago sociologist William Julius Wilson published a book on four South Side of Chicago districts, There Goes the Neighborhood, which I reviewed here in February. A key finding of his study: poor, disorganized neighborhoods had no shortage of Obama-like paid organizers. For example, in the Little Village neighborhood, which is mostly Mexican illegal immigrants:

“There was a vast array of paid service providers in the neighborhood. … There was a school for at-risk youth, and clubs … for youth not particularly at risk.”

Wilson goes on to list some of the other taxpayer-supported programs: programs for pregnant women, for parents, for AIDS patients, for people who don’t yet have AIDS, for sick people, for the mentally ill, for gang-prevention, for seniors, for high school graduates, for high school dropouts, and for people who never went to high school and want to learn English so they can vote.

In contrast, Wilson found, Chicago neighborhoods that don't need all this taxpayer and foundation-funded help because they self-organize—with picnics, parades, church festivals, and rapid graffiti clean-up—largely do so in order to keep property values up…and outsiders of other races out. ...

Embarrassing fact: Obama didn't actually live in any of the communities he putatively organized. Instead, he has spent 23 years living in the sliver of the South Side that's so well organized by a rich institution that it has its own private police force. Obama has lived in Hyde Park and South Kenwood, within the privileged residential bubble between 39th St. and 64th St. that is patrolled by the large, well-funded and hard-nosed University of Chicago Police Dept.

A friend wrote:

"You are missing an angle. Obama lives in South Kenwood. That is policed by the University of Chicago police. There is a fierce and drastic difference between neighborhoods within and outside the University of Chicago Police boundary. When I was a student there, it was apparent … they were only dimly aware of things like Miranda or the presumption of innocence (for anyone, that is, other than students, faculty, black women, and black men dressed like Barack Obama—geez, I wonder who that leaves?). The University of Chicago wouldn't last a semester without them."

Ironically, Obama was a civil rights lawyer and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School…

Read the rest here.

By the way, James Taranto published a similarly-themed piece in the Wall Street Journal today.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


nobody said...

I'm a disaffected liberal who has been reading you for a couple of years with great pleasure because of your realism on questiosm of race. However, your partisanship in this election is getting irritating. I know you don't care much what some anonymous poster has to say, but I don't come here for an inverted version of DailyKos. If this keeps up you'll be moving off my bookmarks toolbar until we're well past this election.

Anonymous said...

I went to the University of Chicago, too-but I'm actually from Chicago, so that means I noticed something your friend who talked to you about the U of C cops didn't notice: the majority of them are Chicago cops moonlighting. This probably explains why they are dimly aware of concepts like Miranda and the presumption of innocence, neither of which appear to be of terrible concern to Chicago cops. Just ask Commander John Burge!

Planetary Archon Mouse

Anonymous said...

The Obama campaign's recurrent “steelworker” shtick is supposed to make you think Obama moved to Chicago to help guys named Kowalski. But the last thing Obama wanted to do in 1985 was help anybody with a Central European name.

This fudging was continued in the introductory video just before his acceptance speech in Denver. When the narrator, St. Edward R. Murrow, uh, I mean David Strathairn, gets to the part of the bio about "community organizing", the screen shows stock photos (obviously from this year's campaign but meant to suggest they were much older on account of being B&W and deliberately grainy) of Obama meeting with...mostly white hardhat types and plump midwesterners!

I immediately thought of Steve.

Anonymous said...


Is there something in Steve's column that isn't true? He didn't accuse Obama of anything sensational like baby swapping.

ben g said...

i have no doubt that obama's community organizing was motivated by an attempt to help blacks-- even those steelworkers were black, by the way. i don't see anything inherently wrong with that though, and i don't see it as being at odds with a presidential run.

obama's interest in helping black's isn't enough to warrant a comparison to the mau-mau'ers in wolfe's story. in wolfe's story, they were motivated not by a yearning to help others but rather to help themselves.

Jewish Atheist said...

Seriously, this post is ridiculous. You offer no evidence that Obama did anything wrong. The only criticism directed at him in particular (as opposed to guilt by association) is that he worked with black steelworkers instead of white (would only Polish have been acceptable, or any whites?) ones. Oh, the horrors.

testing99 said...

McCain does not want to let Obama play the race card. It's probably wise -- the media would crucify McCain at every opportunity.

At any rate, the Rev. God Damn America has shown Obama to everyone. I'm sure 527's will be running ads soon.

Robert said...

The overwhelming availability of social service "help" has been a reality for many years. In the '70s I was a food stamp and Medicaid worker in rural Massachusetts. I made home visits to make sure recipients were still eligible. And in every house with any real problems, I would have to schedule my interviews around a host of counselors, social workers, AFDC workers, home health aides, every variety of "community organizer". It was a circus. Being poor in America is a full time job. And the paperwork!

KevinV said...

Steve - I've always thought that USC security would be the subject of a good essay or deeper story. After all, as you well know Steve, here you have the upper middle class and the affluent leaving their 18-year old White daughters in the middle of one of the worst neighborhoods in LA.

I've seen these USC security guys up close and their stories are amazing. Basically, these guys are a law unto themselves and everyone leaves them alone for the very simple, yet unsaid, reason that without them and their tactics, USC would die within 5 years.

Martin said...

"nobody said...


I'm a disaffected liberal who has been reading you for a couple of years with great pleasure because of your realism on questiosm of race. However, your partisanship in this election is getting irritating."

Huh? What partisanship? Are you claiming that Steve is in the tank for John McCain? I don't see how that charge can in any way be supported, given what Steve's written about him.

It seems pretty clear to me that the official choice of the editorial voice of this blog (i.e., Steve's) for our next President is "none of the above".