Alex Massie

Is it ‘cos he is black?

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Like Clive Davis, I don't much mind that Peter Hitchens has some fun with the more extravagant claims being made for an Obama presidency. But then there's this:

I was in Washington DC the night of the election. America’s beautiful capital has a sad secret. It is perhaps the most racially divided city in the world, with 15th Street* – which runs due north from the White House – the unofficial frontier between black and white. But, like so much of America, it also now has a new division, and one which is in many ways much more important. I had attended an election-night party in a smart and liberal white area, but was staying the night less than a mile away on the edge of a suburb where Spanish is spoken as much as English, plus a smattering of tongues from such places as Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan.

As I walked, I crossed another of Washington’s secret frontiers. There had been a few white people blowing car horns and shouting, as the result became clear. But among the Mexicans, Salvadorans and the other Third World nationalities, there was something like ecstasy.

They grasped the real significance of this moment. They knew it meant that America had finally switched sides in a global cultural war. Forget the Cold War, or even the Iraq War. The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world...

And now the US, like Britain before it, has begun the long slow descent into the Third World. How sad. Where now is our last best hope on Earth?

Well! Let's just observe that I doubt Hitchens - Christopher's brother - would have written this dreary, bilious tripe had Barack Obama been white. I suppose we should be happy that the descent into the third world will be "long" and slow."

I wasn't in Washington on election night. Then again I didn't need to be to know that Hitchens is talking rot here. The immigrants - legal and less legal - in my old neighbourhood don't, you know, have any desire to reduce the United States to third world status. What would be the point of leaving the third world, if that were the case? On the contrary, it's precisely the idea of America that draws them from El Salvador, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Albania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Korea and so on. They celebrated Obama's victory because a) they'd Democrats and b) for multi-coloured, polyglot America his election confirms the possibilities of the American Dream.

It's fashionable, of course, to deny the existence of any such dream but the mere fact that not everyone can, even with hard work and good fortune, make it does not invalidate the wider, more general point. After all, the existence of President Barack Hussein Obama rather makes the case for you. So the joyous street parties on U St and in Mount Pleasant were celebrating the idea of America, not saluting its imminent demise. This is not a difficult point to grasp.

Also, one has to admire Mr Hitchens' ability to determine someone's citizenship just by the colour of their skin. Then again, I guess h thinks the only "real" Americans are white and Christian and that Hitchens, like Melanie Phillips, is another casualty of this election season.

*Actually, it's 16th St that runs north from the White House and to the extent that there's a frontier between black and white Washington, it's moved east to 10th St or so now. But why quibble?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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