Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why can’t the white man say “n****”?

I know I wrote about Barack Obama last time, but the media coverage surrounding him is fascinating, and as you’ll see, also a bit saddening.

A little over a week ago, LA Times columnist David Ehrenstein wrote a piece entitled “Obama the ‘Magic Negro.’” It’s a strange and wild bit of writing and it raises questions – not to mention eyebrows – about how Liberals view the issue of race and how they view people of different races.

Here’s the link to Ehrenstein’s column to prove I’m not making this s*** up: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-ehrenstein19mar19,0,5335087.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail.

Ehrenstein begins his column affirming that “every carbon-based life form on this planet” knows that Obama, Senator, D-Ill., is running for President. Ehrenstein posits that Obama is also running for “an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination – the ‘Magic Negro.’”

According to Ehrenstein and Wikipedia (LA Times columnists are quoting Wikipedia now? There’s journalistic integrity for you.), the Magic Negro “is a figure of postmodern folk culture . . . who emerged in the wake of brown vs. Board of Education. . . . to ‘help the white protagonist.’”

Furthermore, explains Ehrenstein, the Magic Negro is there to “assuage white ‘guilt’ (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American History, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.”

Well, if that’s not stereotypical and racist, then I don’t know what is. Apparently it’s ok to be racist towards people who have acted as racists in their past.

But I digress. Ehrenstein argues that the Magic Negro is most prominently portrayed on the Silver Screen by actors such as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith, and, “most recently,” Don Cheadle. “And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is ‘Magic.’”

Ehrenstein writes at length (see above link) about the roles these actors have played in several movies in which they benevolently help in-need white folks. Some of these Magic Negro figures in the films get killed for helping the white protagonists, to which Ehrenstein quips, “See what helping the white man gets you?”

But the example he gives of “David Hampton — a young, personable gay con man who in the 1980s passed himself off as the son of none other than the real Sidney Poitier. . . . Hampton discovered that countless gullible, well-heeled New Yorkers, vulnerable to the Magic Negro myth, were only too eager to believe in his baroque fantasy” in order to obtain entrance to Studio 54. In the very next sentence, though, Ehrenstein notes that one of the few who didn’t fall for Hampton’s tricks was Andy Warhol, who, according to Ehrenstein, “had no need for the accouterment of interracial ‘goodwill.’”

Excuse me? Because Warhol wasn’t conned by a con man means he’s biased against black people? That’s some great logic.

All the above is s**** and giggles compared to what follows. Ehrenstein really shows how highly he holds white Americans with this preposterous proclamation: “But the same can't be said of most white Americans [comparing white Americas to Warhol], whose desire for a noble, healing Negro hasn't faded. That's where Obama comes in: as Poitier's ‘real’ fake son.”

Ehrenstein chalks-up Obama’s political success to his speaking eloquence, his books, and the way his criticisms have “magically” been “waved away.” Writes Ehrenstein, “Obama's fame right now has little to do with his political record or what he's written in his two (count 'em) books, or even what he's actually said in those stem-winders.” No worries, though, because Obama’s “tone is always genial, his voice warm and unthreatening, and he hasn't called his opponents names (despite being baited by the media).”

Ehrenstein wraps-up his racist rant with this paragraph, and I will quote it in full so that all of its absurdity can be appreciated:

Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.

Let me interpret for you: white Americans are racist because their support for Obama is purely racial.

I coach girls’ high school basketball in Loveland, Colo. I’m the C team coach, and the Varsity coach, Jay Klagge, is a liberal democrat from the lakes of Minnesota. Six months ago Jay had already plastered his mini-van with an “Obama ‘08” bumper-sticker. Jay’s a great guy, great coach, and a civics teacher. We don’t agree on anything politically, but I don’t believe for a minute that he is a racist and would support a black presidential candidate to “assuage his white guilt.”

And no, I have no white guilt. Why should I? I never owned slaves. I never called a black man a “n*****.” I never participated in any racial segregation. Heck, the whole northern and western parts of America were bastions of freedom for people of every “color.” “White guilt” is something that the mainstream media and the world of academia try to pour on us poor white folks whenever they get the chance.

The very idea that white Americans are as shallow and as guilt-ridden as Ehrenstein thinks them to be is highly offensive, stupid, and a tad bit racist. No white support for Obama is good enough for Ehrenstein because we obviously can’t like Obama for political reasons because he’s only been in the Senate for two years and doesn’t really say anything anyway he speaks, anyway. To Ehrenstein, the only reason why white people have jumped on the Obama bandwagon is because this “Magic Negro” will save us from our past.

How do you think this piece makes Obama feel? Like those song-and-dance n******? Like an empty, black bucket of pretty rhetoric, only popular because of an entire demographic’s “guilt”? Like nary a politician but very much like a “fake” folk hero? Like a Magic Negro and nothing more?

Still it amazes me that black people – like Ehrenstein (yes, he is black) – can feel no guilt or shame whatsoever by flinging around “n****” or “n*****.” I mean, if it’s wrong for white people to use the word, why is OK for black people to use it? But if that’s the case, only w**** people should be allowed to use the term “w****” in describing themselves. Or, at the very least, a w**** person should be allowed to use “n****” and “n*****” just as freely as the black people do.

In the world of political communication, columns like this send us back a couple hundred years. We’re told over and over again the racial demographics play a large role in elections, but isn’t Ehrenstein going a bit too far?

Isn’t it fascinating that the leaders of academia and the Left almost always seem to point out the differences of people before any other characteristic. No one is ever a “candidate” or “American,” especially in the political arena. There’s always some identity tag that is applied to political figures, whether they’re male, female, black, white, etc, etc. Obama can never only be a presidential candidate – Ehrenstein made that quite clear.

If we as a society are trying to move away from racism and segregation, why do people like Ehrenstein continue to see color and other differences before they see anything else?


  1. Wowza. I am not sure what to say as my lunch is about to come up from being so thoroughly disgusted. This article is a poor example of not only race in politics, but journalism in general.

    It is absurd to think that Obama is popular because he is a "Magic Negro." He, like most every Senator, worked diligently and expertly to assume the characteristics and role of a top politician. You are not a Harvard Law School graduate and president of the Harvard Law Review by sitting around waiting for it.

    I liked much of your response, but I wish you had analyzed why you think Ehrenstein would choose to write such an article.

    Also, Trevor--were the comments about how Obama might feel perhaps a little bold? And exactly where does the rhetoric of n***** and w**** fit in? What does the Left have to do with this? Throw less insults my way and I'll be more open to your ideas.

  2. I definatly feel that racism is still a very large underlying issue that our nation faces. Granted it is not to the extent of Jim Crow days and throughout history, but as a society we still see a color of skin rather than a person. The word n***** however has been deemed acceptable to use in the black community but the minute a white person say it holds and entirely new meaning. It is funny how one letter "R" vs. "A" can make a world of difference

  3. I agree that white people who support Obama because of his are racist. They put far too much into the racial profile. Looking at Obama's record, he is extremely active in Congress and would possibly do great things as the leader of our nation. But the last thing that he would want is for all of us white people to throw him a pity party. Well, unless it got him votes. I think it's ironic that so many black people have disowned him because his family has no roots in slavery. They may have roots in it, but Obama has seen just as much racial profiling as they have. Vote for him if you agree with his issues. Profile him as a candidate for the Democratic party.