You did a great job explaining how such compliments are nothing more than soft bigotry. Thank you for the mention. The examples were great and clearly highlight how easy it is to make comparisons or give compliments based on the standards of Whiteness.
Now, I think I’m able to add a little more context for those seeking insight on how to compliment a Black candidate without it being a meaningless, superficial racist offense.
As it relates to politics (which was the focus of my essay), if a particular speech impressed you, speak about the words or speech itself, not the fact the person of color is “articulate” (which is perceived by people of color as racist).
Talk about the things that matter, like his or her policies are good (or terrible because X X X).
If the person is a crook or bad, then specify the bad things (i.e. they voted against lowering drug costs because they receive donations from big pharma).
Don’t say a candidate of color is a crook — because that’s perceived as racist (thank the Southern Strategy) or gives the appearance the candidate of color is a criminal (we don’t need anymore false labels). Be specific in all of your critiques when describing people of color.
If you truly believe you can’t trust a candidate of color (White people say this all the time, progressives and conservatives), then be specific as to why, and examine your own biases to make sure you aren’t saying you don’t trust the candidate because they are dark-skinned, look evil, seem scary, talks different, intimidates, doesn’t wear his/her hair in a manner pleasing to Whiteness, etc.
Trust should be directly linked to a metric any candidate would also be judged on. Say instead “I don’t trust them because they embezzled money from the bank.” That’s legit.
Thank you for addressing this difficult topic once more. As the season goes on and covert and overt racism is exposed, I’m sure we will have plenty more discussions. I’m happy to engage in dialogues with people willing to examine subtle bigotries that impact people of color. Language is a huge one.
I hope these suggestions planted some seeds.