Today in Post-Race History: Semantic Antics
(originally posted at mybestfriendgayle.)
(Oh, BHO. You’re so funny!)
I will (try to) be brief: I hate this joke.
Then again, when’s the last time you heard me say that I like what this cat has to say about race?
Why? Put simply, it’s dismissive.
The statement, “I was black before the election,” is carrying an implicit, unspoken claim with it. What BHO seems to be saying is: White people knew I was black and they voted for me anyway. White people supported me and I’m black, so they’re not going to not support me because I’m black. In other words, if they weren’t acting racist then, they’re not acting racist now.
BHO’s quip not only neutralizes President Carter’s (correct) statements about the racism evident in these protests, it dismisses any conversation that thinks critically about the racist motivations of some of the protesters. The joke is an enabler, allowing these folks to continue their antics without confronting the potential core of their inspiration. Clearly, as some of the protest signs show, many of these folks aren’t out marching because they have solidly logical objections to health care reform. So why not seriously consider the very real possibility that racism is alive and well and working overtime during these demonstrations? Well, as I’ve said before, you can’t become–and, I guess, remain–president without making white people feel safe. So instead, BHO lets these white folks off the hook. It’s akin to the “But my black friend said…” defense. You know the kind. Someone says something racist to you, you say it’s racist, and they reply with “But my (other) black friend doesn’t think so.” So it must be all right, right?
Further these kinds of comments diminish and potentially damage other claims by black folks and other PoC in other walks of life about racist behavior. That’s really dangerous. Instead of having a frank conversation, or even giving an honest, thought-provoking follow-up answer, BHO decides to pretend like it’s not happening, like it doesn’t exist. My student loan debt feels like a theoretical construction to me, too. I wonder what would happen if I pretended that it didn’t exist.
Not that I expect much from a guy who agreed to allow his campaign to pretend he wasn’t black African American. If it wasn’t obvious already, that (EPIC FAIL! of a) race speech was a mere political tactic. Change you can believe in?
That is all.
(h/t to Stephanie C. and Fallon for indirectly encouraging me to write this. Thanks, y’all.)