Saturday, December 27, 2008

GOP split on Magic Negro song about Obama

From the Washington Post via the Houston Chronicle:

Republicans who are vying to lead the national party offered a mix of reactions Saturday to the decision by one candidate for the job to mail out a music CD with the song Barack the Magic Negro.

Chip Saltsman defended his actions, telling the Hill newspaper that the songs on the CD were simply light-hearted parodies. But his rivals in the contest to chair the Republican National Committee said it carried an inaccurate message about what the GOP stands for.


Not all of Saltsman's rivals criticized him. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who would become the first black RNC chairman, defended Saltsman and attacked the media.

"Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-elect Obama being the first African-American elected president," Blackwell said in a statement.

More here.

A few observations.

Such a controversy is bread and butter for the Republicans, who have very consciously played to Southern racist sensibilities since the Nixon era. From time to time, they go beyond such code phrases as "state's rights" or "welfare queens" and are so blatant that they piss people off. I mean, really piss people off--after all, the GOP Southern Strategy, which in addition to being racist also purposely divides the nation, is outrageous in and of itself, but usually they're so coy about it that they can get away with a wink and nudge while denying their obvious racism.

Part of the problem here is the usage of the word "negro" to lampoon President elect Obama. While not offensive by itself, this other n-word is fraught with danger for white Americans. That is, even though this was once the preferred term for African-Americans, fifty years later it reeks of old-timer whites who refuse to pay any attention or credence to the notion that race relations in this country have changed for the better over the years. It insinuates objection to things improving for blacks, a cynical nostalgia for days when white was white and "negroes" were "negroes." Given this context, as well as the fact that it is an attack on a black man, it is impossible to take the song as "light hearted parod[y]."

The standard GOP rhetorical gymnastics toward that which is "politically correct," whining insessantly about how awful p.c. is, while at the same time trying to use it to advance bogus bigotry-toward-whites complaints, comes into play here with their observation that a black essayist used the term to criticize Obama first, which, to race-retards, makes it all okay. Of course, there appears to be no understanding that this previous usage comes out of an entirely different cultural context. That is, an African-American man criticizing another African-American man with a dicey racial term simply does not have the history of white oppression of blacks at its nucleus; I mean, it does, but historically oppressed to historically oppressed isn't the same as historic oppressor to historically oppressed, situationally speaking. Totally different thing. It is also interesting to note another Republican p.c. debate ploy: find a single black conservative to say that everything's okay. Blackwell is a scumbag who may very well have tampered with the Ohio presidential election back in 2004. While this doesn't necessarily disqualify him from having an authoritative opinion on whites using the word "negro," the point is that being black doesn't really qualify him to do that in the first place. You can go out there and find pretty much anybody to say anything you want; a single opinion does not a cultural consensus make.

But really, the bottom line here is that whites have no right to criticize anybody for how they manifest their ethnicity. Except other whites. Maybe. I haven't made up my mind on that yet. But certainly, whites have no business throwing in race when criticizing Obama. I mean, there are a billion things I don't like about our incoming President, but none of them have anything to do with the fact that he's black. The only reason these Republicans would needlessly play such a race card is because they're racist, plain and simple.

On the other hand, I'm loving this because it makes obvious how stupid the GOP is.