Archive for the ‘obama’ Category

The following is taken from a wonderful post by Ankhesen Mie about the tea baggers, edited down to 500 words by me:

Protesters go spitting and hurling racial slurs and surprise, surprise, we’re told not to pay attention. It’s an “isolated incident”. It doesn’t “mean” anything.

Yeah… and we’ve never heard that one before. As blogger Field Negro writes:

Poor James Clayburn, I saw my man on CNN this evening and he still looked scared. He told Wolf Blitzer that he was having flashbacks to those civil rights days. He said that he looked in the eyes of the tea baggers and saw the same hatred he saw back then. Yeah, that kind of hate just doesn’t happen overnight with the passing of a bill, Jim. No sir, that hate has been there all along. It’s just been hiding under the surface and waiting to come out.

In the meantime, I’m having flashbacks of my own.  Flashbacks to teary, screamy temper tantrums in 2008 – you all remember 2008, don’t you? Remember all the “isolated incidents and comments” back then? All that racist bullshit that wasn’t “really racist” and so we weren’t supposed to really talk about it or even show it on TV in-depth? You recall that “tiny, insignificant minority” of white folks we were supposed to simply laugh at and pretend didn’t really exist? Did you really think those people just vanished off the face of the earth?

And white people, I’m just… you know… I’m… *shakes head*… I’m actually quite proud of some of you.

If I go to Google right now and type in “tea party racist”, I will see a lot of white folks calling the Tea Party out. And they’re not talking that “politically incorrect” or “highly inappropriate” shit – they’re calling it racist and not trying to excuse or defend it in any way. And kids, that’s how you deal with racism. You call it out; you name it accurately and you expose it. You denounce it unequivocally and then you fight back.

These are not children, folks; ignoring their bad behavior won’t make it go away.

So from hereon out, white folks, I don’t want to hear any more, “Well, yeah… but you have to understand…” nonsense. Those are not fighting words. Those are roll-over-and-surrender words. So are “isolated incidents”. And “we’re not all like that” – we’re not talking about all of you. We’re talking about your racists, and we’re talking about all of them. So if you’re thinking strictly KKK, Stormfront, and neo-Nazis, you need to quit bullshittin’ and start accepting the unpleasant reality of things.

The Tea Party has revealed one of the ugliest faces of Average White America for all the world to see.

It has confirmed the often derailed testaments of POC about racism in America. It has confirmed every acrimonious observation from other nations about the so-called “Ugly American”. It has aired Average White America’s dirty laundry, flung wide its closet doors and unleashed all its skeletons.

Read the whole post here.

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I saw this on Jack & Jill Politics. It shows President Obama hugging retiring White House butler James Ramsey on January 25th 2010.

Michelle Obama comments:

Mr. Ramsey side note – he’s worked for the White House for 40 years and was supposed to retire when the Bushes left but wanted to extend working at the White House so that he could serve the Obamas as long as he could. I read last year that several of the scheduled retiring usher staff did the same thing because they’ve been treated so well by the Obamas and really don’t want to retire now….I think stamina may be the only factor for them leaving at this point….I’m sure the pace gets difficult over time. Desiree Rogers said last year in the Washington Post that some older staff had tears in their eyes when she was asking for their input, and they told her that no one ever asked that from them before or asked for their opinion.

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The opposition against President Obama is not like what we saw against Clinton and Bush. It comes from a darker, more dangerous place. It expresses itself in a more troubling form.

People disagreed with Bush and Clinton. They questioned their character and intelligence. The Republicans even tried to bring down Clinton by impeaching him. But through it all they continued to respect the office of the presidency – even if they did not like the man holding that office. That is how Americans have been. Not so with Obama. A line is being crossed.


That line was crossed when Congressman Joe Wilson said “You lie!” in the middle of speech by the president to the country, openly disrespecting him.


That line was crossed when Sean Delonas of the New York Post drew a cartoon showing the president being shot dead (as a chimp).

Before Obama no one has doubted the president’s right to be the president, not in living memory.

Bush in 2000 lost the popular vote, winning only through a questionable vote count in a state where his brother was governor.  Yet there was no movement that continued to question his right to hold his office.

Reagan in 1980 won by less than Obama, destroyed the power of the labour unions and pushed through much more extreme policies than Obama’s. Yet you did not hear about people “taking their country back”.

Further, none of these men had their Americanness questioned. None were required to show their hospital birth record because suddenly the one from their state of birth would not do.

The only thing that makes sense of all this is that some have a hard time accepting a black man as president. So they question his right to be president or act towards him like he is not the president.

If so then it is coming from a dark and dangerous place in the American soul, a place of whips and chains and hangings. Dangerous because no one knows how it will end. It could do more than simply take down a president, it could divide the country to a dangerous degree. Already it seems like racism is becoming much more open and naked than it was even six months ago.

Unlike a president’s sex life or bad English, race is one of the few things that can tear the country apart.

lewinskydressThe Republicans hammered Clinton. Even in 1996, two years before Monica Lewinsky and her blue dress, it seemed like Clinton might not make it through another four years. It seemed like sooner or later the Republicans would find something that would stick.

Yet the worse it was ever going to do was to bring down Clinton. It was not going to shape the nature of the country. Its damage would be limited.

If Republican opposition to Obama was based mainly on stuff like ACORN and Tony Rezko, then it would be like what they did to Clinton. But it is not. This is something different.


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Jimmy Carter, a good man who was a bad American president, said this the other day:

Carter: I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African American. … racism still exists and I think it’s bubbled up to the surface, because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South, but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.

Obama disagrees. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said this:

Gibbs on behalf of Obama: The president does not believe that that criticism comes based on the color of his skin. We understand that people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we’ve made and some of the extraordinary actions that had to be undertaken by both this administration and previous administrations to stabilize our financial system, to ensure viability of our domestic auto industry.

Carter is right, though his timing might not be the best. Carter tends to do what he thinks is right, the consequences be damned. So, for example, he pushed for human rights in Iran under the Shah even though it led to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini. Carter acts morally without thinking ahead.

Obama, on the other hand, goes along to get along. To a sickening degree: He agrees with right-wing talking heads that racism has nothing to do with it. Nothing. It was his policies for saving the banks and the car companies.

He cannot possibly believe that.

Yet, I wonder: Is Carter doing Obama’s bidding? Obama, after all, could never say what Carter said. It needed to be said and said by a white man, one whose opinions would be reported and not be dismissed out of hand.

Obama cannot “cry racism” himself. It would put him in an extremely weak position. And it would not even work: white people have built-in defences against that stuff. It is how they live with themselves.

Yet the racist right is not going to go away. Yesterday it was about his hospital birth record, today it is about health care reform and a sudden, overdone concern for state socialism, tomorrow it will be something else. None of it has the ring of mere policy disagreements. It is too angry and too unreasoned. Because the true issue is not his policy but his race.

The country is at that point in its history where it is liberal enough to elect a black man as president but still too racist for many to accept him as their true president. The nearest comparison I can think of is King James II, a Catholic king of a Protestant England. He was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Like Reagan and the labour unions, Obama needs to force a showdown with the racist right. That is how Martin Luther King dealt with them. We call it Selma.

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As busy as the president is he still finds time to take his wife out on a date to be just with her. They went to see the August Wilson play, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”. (Lincoln also took his wife to plays, as we know!)

It is also kind of cool to walk out of your house, get on a Marine helicopter and be flown to New York! When he was a boy of ten his mother saw no future for him in Indonesia and had him flown to America. For some reason that just came to my head.

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Byron York, who used to write for the  National Review, a right-wing opinion magazine, wrote a post the other day called “The Black-White Divide in Obama’s Popularity”. It starts like this:

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.

To which Matthew Yglesias said:

Dave Weigel observes that all Democratic politicians are always much more popular among blacks than among whites, so it’s not clear why York would spin this as a unique attribute of Obama’s. But more to the point, what is York talking about here? How does the fact that much of Obama’s support come from African-Americans mean that he’s not “actually” popular?

Steve Benen puts it more plainly:

For crying out loud, what the hell does that mean, exactly? … The problem, of course, is that damn phrase “than they actually are.” York argues that we can see polls gauging public opinion, but if we want to really understand the popularity of the president’s positions, and not be fooled by “appearances,” then we have to exclude black people.

And Andrew Sullivan adds:

I’m with Benen. What can that last phrase possibly mean, except that African-American opinion does not count as much as everyone else’s? Yglesias and Weigel pile one.

Now it gets even worse:  York replies. First, he does not take the charge of racism seriously:

I suppose if you haven’t been called a racist by the usual suspects on the left, you haven’t been writing for very long.

Next he misses their point while turning the charge of racism against Sullivan:

… Maybe “across-the-board” would have been better than “overall,” but I doubt that would have kept a left-wing activist like Matthew Yglesias, or Andrew Sullivan, who has himself been accused of racism and, quite recently, anti-Semitism, from branding me a racist.

It was not the word “overall” that made him seem racist, it was “actually” – you know, as if blacks are not “actually” Americans but white people are, as if blacks do not count.

This is an example of white gaze, a white way of looking at the world, which sees:

  • People of colour as being at the edges of things.
  • White people as important, as having lives that matter.

And the way he replied to Sullivan and Yglesias is also a common ad-hominem way whites have of answering charges of racism:

  • The “you always cry racism” argument
  • The “you are the racist one” argument

As is completely missing the point. To write for the National Review you have to be good with words and with argument, so I have to assume that York knowingly missed their point.

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Barack Obama on April 7th 2009 greets American troops in Iraq at the end of his overseas trip.

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blackorpheus“Black Orpheus” (1959), also known as “Orfeu Negro”, is a French-made, Portuguese-language film that tells the old Greek love story of Orpheus and Eurydice but set in black Rio at the time of the Carnival. While it does present blacks as childlike, you do get to see Carnival and hear music by bossa nova great Tom Jobim.

The film won a Golden Palm at Cannes, an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Like “Carmen Jones” (1954) it uses an all-black cast and music to tell an old story.

The story (spoiler alert) appears in Ovid, Plato, Rubens, Titian, Monteverdi, Cocteau and even Neil Gaiman. In both the Greek story and the film, Orpheus plays amazing songs on his stringed instrument (lyre, guitar). He falls in love with Eurydice but then she is killed (by a snake, the electric current of a tram line). Orpheus goes to get her back from the dead (Hades, voodoo woman) but he is told that if he looks back at her before he leaves he will lose her forever. He looks back. Orpheus carries her body and is killed by some women who have gone mad.

Eurydice was played by Marpessa Dawn, who is not from Brazil at all but Pittsburgh! Although she is a light-skinned black American woman, in some of the posters she is pictured as a white woman. Not sure how they got away with that. She died in 2008 just 42 days after Breno Mello, who played Orpheus (and is from Brazil).

The film comes up in Barack Obama’s book “Dreams from My Father”. When he was going to Columbia University his mother and sister came to visit. One night “Black Orpheus” was showing. It was an old film that his mother loved, so they went.

His sister thought it was “kind of corny. Just Mom’s style”. Barack could not stand the way it pictured blacks and wanted to leave. He was about to get up and go but then he saw his mother:

But her face, lit by the blue glow of the screen, was set in a wistful gaze. At that moment, I felt as if I were being given a window into her heart, the unreflective heart of her youth. I suddenly realized that the depiction of childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen, the reverse image of Conrad’s dark savages, was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life: warm, sensual, exotic, different.

“Black Orpheus” had come out just before she met his father at the University of Hawaii.

Obama concludes:

The emotion between the races could never be pure, even love was tarnished by the desire to find in the other some element that was missing in ourselves. Whether we sought out our demons or salvation, the other race would always remain just that: menacing, alien, and apart.

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Malia Obama takes a picture of her father on the night of the inauguration.

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Obama InaugurationBarack Obama is now president of the United States of America. It is still hard for me to believe. I saw the inauguration on television. Never have I seen so many people come out to see one man, not even the pope. It was like the crowning of a storybook king. Obama put his hand on Lincoln’s old Bible and said the words and now he is president.

It was not as great a moment of joy and wonder as his election victory was back in November. Instead it was more a moment of relief. Relief that he was not killed (I always think about that), that he made it all the way to the inauguration.

byebyebushAnd relief too in seeing George Bush get on that helicopter and leave Washington.

Bush left a bad taste in my mouth. He goes back to his little town in Texas seeming to be not one bit sad at all the bad he has done to the country and the world.

They asked him about Katrina the other day and he talked about what? Pulling people off of roofs. It seems that he, like his mother, never got what Kanye West was saying. Sorry, but he must be a profound racist not to be troubled or shamed by what he saw on television in those days.

Everyone makes mistakes and have made decisions they later wish they could take back, but for Bush to still talk like this three years later is sad. Very sad.

Obama’s speech
was good, but not great, nothing like the one he gave after he won the election. No phrase rings out from it like Kennedy’s “Ask not”. But time will tell. When Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address no one thought much of it at first, but now it rings down through history.

Even leaving aside the whole first-black-president thing it was still a great moment: never, ever, in all my life has someone won the White House who I felt good about voting for. It has always been the lesser of two evils. You always feel kind of dirty or used after you vote.

A year ago I thought the Democratic Party machine would clank into action and back Hillary Clinton as the “safe” candidate, crushing Obama. Just like all the times before:

  • Humphrey over Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy
  • Mondale over Hart
  • Dukakis over Jackson
  • Bill Clinton over Jerry Brown and even Tsongas
  • Al Gore over Bill Bradley

But Obama could not be crushed. It was wonderful and it was amazing. Not only did he win, he won without taking the low road, without cheap shots and dirty tricks. People saw that, that he was a good man and knew deep down in their hearts that he ought to be president.

In history the wrong side wins so many times that it is such a joy and a comfort to see the right side win for once.


– Abagond, 2009.

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bruce_almighty_fullThe magical Negro has been a stock character in American fiction since at least the late 1950s. It is a Negro, a black person, who comes out of nowhere with strange powers or deep wisdom to help white people, sometimes even giving his life.


  • Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost”
  • Will Smith in “The Legend of Bagger Vance”
  • Michael Clarke Duncan in “The Green Mile”
  • Ruby Dee in “The Stand”
  • Morgan Freeman in “Bruce Almighty”
  • Laurence Fishburne in “The Matrix”
  • Sidney Poitier in “The Defiant Ones”

Magical Negroes are common in the books of  Stephen King.

Will Smith in “Six Degrees of Separation” plays on white people’s seeming need to believe in magical Negroes. It is based on the true story of David Hampton.

Most magical Negroes are not fleshed-out characters that we come to care about – for the most part they are plot devices. They come out of nowhere and often disappear.

Black-skinned people with strange powers is not limited just to American stories in our day. “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is based on an ancient story from India, one where Will Smith’s character was often painted with black skin!

A thousand years ago in China there were stories of black slaves of great strength and secret knowledge, who saved their master’s lovers or found hidden treasure for them. They could cure people with their strange, black skin.

Is the magical Negro a racist character?

Magical Negroes often put black characters in a good light – Morgan Freeman gets to play God and Ruby Dee becomes the wise and good Mother Abigail. It also shows them giving their lives for others – a noble thing.

Their strange powers allow them to escape white stereotypes of blacks as incapable. It allows them to deal with whites on equal terms.

Yet it also shows blacks as being strange and different, as other. The idea that blacks might have some deep power or wisdom comes from viewing them as being closer to animals than whites are and therefore more in tune with nature. It is the same sort of thinking that leads to stereotypes about blacks as being oversexed.

Blacks giving themselves selflessly in the service of whites is something you see in the Mammy stereotype of older Hollywood films. It is an idea that goes back to slave days.

Is Barack Obama a magical Negro?

His blackness makes him a great unknown to many whites. This causes some to fear him because there is no telling what he might do. But it also causes other whites to have unfounded hope in him – because there is no telling what he might do (in a good way, that is). Something that became important after the fall of the Wall Street banks. That is seeing Obama as a magical Negro.

Barack Obama is also a David Hampton character: some whites, because of their hangups about blacks, want to think well of him and, again, have an unfounded confidence in him.

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Barack Obama is black. He is not biracial, much less white.

Some say that in American society you are whatever you say you are. Like Tiger Woods calling himself Cablinasian. If only. But even from that point of view, Obama is still black: he has always called himself either “black” or “African American”, never biracial, never mixed.

Yes, he was brought up by the white side of his family, mostly by his grandparents who grew up in Kansas. Yes, he barely knew his black father from Kenya or any other black people while growing up. That is why Steve Sailer says he is a white man trying to act black – a wigger.

But what makes you black in America is not your upbringing but how you look.

So even during that supposedly wholesome white Kansan upbringing that he had, he had white coaches who passed him over for less able white players. He had few if any girlfriends because only black girls would date him and there were few of them at his private school in Hawaii.

When whites do not accept you because of how you look but blacks do, then you are black. Not just black but “black enough” in all the ways that truly matter.

So Obama is not just black but he is also black enough.

When neither whites nor blacks accept you – you are too black for the whites and too white for the blacks – then you become biracial. That was not Obama’s experience, so he is not biracial – except in the strict sense of the word, a sense that is useless when talking about black Americans since most are part white. Some are even mostly white by blood.

Some seem to think that having a white parent and a black parent is something new, something the 1960s brought in. Hardly. The mixing of the races may have been looked down on (and still is in many quarters), but it has been going on in America a long, long time, almost from the very beginning of the country. There are plenty of light-skinned blacks to prove it. And DNA tests on white Americans show that a tenth of them are mixed with black too.

But then why this urge to see Obama as biracial?

Is it because we are entering a new and better day when the colour line is going away, when the One Drop Rule is becoming something only found in history books? I wish.

Partly it is because biracial people, understandably, want to claim him as one of their own, but mainly it is because many white people do not want to admit we will now have a black president. It is easier for them to see him as biracial or mixed or half-white.

Anything but black.

Calling Obama biracial would not be progress: it would allow whites to hold on to their racist views about blacks. Thank God Michelle Obama will be the first lady.

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Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan (1987-2007), an American soldier. Colin Powell said it well:

Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that [Obama] is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone, and it gave his awards – Purple Heart, Bronze Star – showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the head stone, it didn’t have a Christian cross. It didn’t have a Star of David. It has a crescent and star of the Islamic faith.

And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life.

– Colin Powell

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I saw this one on the Black Snob. It shows Barack and Michelle Obama leaving Spiaggia Restaurant in Chicago. For some reason it seems like such a cool picture to me. I think it has to do with how he seems so ordinary in this picture – a man taking his wife out – and yet knowing that he will be president.

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Malia Obama

obamakidsMalia Obama (1998- ), born on the day that America turned 222 years old, is the older daughter of Barack Obama. She is now ten. If her father serves two full terms, she will be 18 when he leaves office. She will grow up from girl to woman before our eyes.

She and her sister Sasha, three years younger, will be the youngest children in the White House since Amy Carter, who was nine when her father became president in 1977.

The Obamas have been careful to keep their girls out of the public eye, therefore little is known about Malia. As of November 2008 she does not even have a Wikipedia article.

We know that she is looking forward to decorating her new room at the White House and getting her first dog, something her father promised, win or lose, once the campaign was over.

She is a fifth grader at the University of Chicago Lab School. She is like any other fifth grader – who has bodyguards. She is learning piano, dance and plays soccer.

Her bedtime is 8:30 pm. She gets $1 allowance a week for doing her chores. For birthdays, her parents do not give her gifts but instead throw a sleepover birthday party for her and her friends. She says she knows there is a Santa Claus because there is no way her parents would buy her all that stuff.

She likes the Jonas Brothers, a boy band that her father had no idea of until he saw posters of them on her wall. He wondered why she needed so many. She also likes Beyonce and watching “Hannah Montana” on the Disney Channel.

She thinks it is strange how her father shakes her friends’ hands – instead of just waving and saying “hi”. She gives him advice on how to be cool.

Her mother has been very careful to keep her life as ordinary as possible during Barack’s rise to power. Till now Malia has lived in the South Side of Chicago all her life. Instead of moving to Washington, DC when her father became a senator, the family stayed in Chicago with Barack flying back and forth.

Even during most of the 2008 campaign her life did not change much: she stayed at home in Chicago and went to school. The main change was that her grandmother was taking care of her. In the summer she was out on the campaign with her parents.

Because her father is so famous, she got to meet the Jonas Brothers. And see her own mother in People magazine, as if she was important like Angelina Jolie or something.

Malia’s life is about to become very different. A new school, new friends, a new house – and life in a fishbowl.

The White House is a palace. It has its own cinema (complete with popcorn), bowling alley, grand piano, tennis courts, pastry shop, swimming pool, cooks, butlers and servants. She will not have to make her own bed, clear the table, set her alarm clock – or even walk the new dog.

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