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Racists, Republicans, and Negroes December 30, 2008

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, National Politics, Racism, Republicans.
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courtesy FreakinNews.com
courtesy FreakingNews.com

On September 15, I posted a column entitled “The 800-Pound Elephant” regarding white working class voters and incipient racism.  At the time, I was concerned about Sarah Palin playing to the baser elements of American culture to attract poorer white voters to the Republican party through racist code words and fears.   

 Then we had the election.  The Republican party lost among people of color, among younger voters (for whom race is no big deal), among higher-educated white voters, and among working-class white Catholic voters.  It did manage to win white, southern rural voters and white working-class men.  You would think that after being resoundingly defeated across so many social and ideological lines, the Republican Party would step back and say, “Hey – what just happened here?  Is our message maybe WRONG for today’s America?”  Instead, in a stunning display of hubris, Chip Saltsman decided to run for Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and sent a CD of his favorite “political parodies” out as Christmas presents to friends and supporters.  Included was an ersatz Al Sharpton crooning “Barack the Magic Negro” to the tune of the 60’s children’s classic “Puff the Magic Dragon”.

Of course, a firestorm of controversy has erupted over the “parody”.  Charges of racism are flying fast and furious.  Peter Yarrow, one of the song’s writers,  said in the New York Times, “What might have been wearily accepted as “the way it was” in the campaign, is now unacceptable. Obama is not a candidate. He is the President-Elect, and this song insults the office of the Presidency, the people who voted for him, as well as those who did not — and taking a children’s song and twisting it in such vulgar, mean-spirited way, is a slur to our entire country and our common agreement to move beyond racism.”  Some prudent Republicans have distanced themselves from the debacle.  Newt Gingrich said, “This is so inappropriate that it should disqualify any Republican National Committee candidate who would use it,” and Mike Duncan, the current RNC chairman, says that he is “shocked and appalled”. 

Less circumspect Republicans like Michelle Malkin, however, think that ther’s absolutely nothing wrong with it at all.  They are advising all of us taking umbrage to lighten up a little – after all – the parody was first played on the Rush Limbaugh show ( Do I remember Rush being fired as a football analyst for making racist remarks?).  Malkin cites a 2007 op-ed in the LA Times that explains the “Magic Negro” as a person that white folks use to assuage their collective guilt.  As if the LA Times article were less than racist propaganda.  It amazes me that these prominent talkers and lawmakers are defending this action in light of the staggering problem Republicans have with brown people.

The Republican party has a great challenge ahead of itself.  There are no black Republicans in Congress, and a party spokesman could name only 2 blacks among the 168 members of the national committee.   It will be next to impossible to attract people of color to the party if this is the behavior they want to exhibit.  The party is in danger of becoming a bastion of poorly-educated race-baiters from north and south, but their only real strongholds will be in the South where racism is still perceived as a huge problem.

Michell Malkin has likened this “parody” to the “Bush or Monkey” game on late-night TV.  She says that Progressives are OK with things that they laugh at – but are not OK with what Republicans find funny.  Please.  This is not the same by a long shot.  Can you imagine if a prominent Democrat or Progressive came out with “Bobby the Happy Haji” – a parody about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal?  Say we had the guy that does Apu’s voice on the Simpsons sing it?  How about Adam Sandler in his best rabbi inpresonation singing “Norm the Jolly Jew-boy” about Norm Coleman? 

Holy crap!  I feel scuzzy just writing that.

The problem with the “Magic Negro” parody is that it is not a commentary on Obama’s actual politics or governance.  It is an attack on his culture because of the color of his skin.  That’s what racism IS, folks.  I actually miss the covert Racism of the old days.  Now that we’re supposed to be post-racial in America, people are saying – and singing – the most outrageous things and getting away with it by calling the people they offend “hypersensitive”.

 

 

 

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