Monday, July 14, 2008

Afro & Circumstance

Now people may misjudge me for saying it, but there is a concentrated portion of the American populace that is simply not smart. Nuance makes no sense. There is no such thing as gray, only black and white, good and evil. And when it comes to the Obamas, that concentrated number seems to expand. Now here comes The New Yorker with its July 21, 2008 cover (check it out).

The moment I saw it, I understood the cover to be a satirical open handed slap in the face to that aforementioned concentrated portion of the American populace. But it is that same group of folks who will now feel as though they have confirmation for their worst fears about the Obamas: BHO is secretly a terrorist, and Michelle is a holdout of the Black Panther Party (afro included), set to force the Nation of Islam's agenda on the United States. Do we really need to add fuel to the ignorant fire that exists in our country?

Though I think the cover is funny (funny as all get out), too many are simply too touched in the head to get it, find it funny and move on. Lord Jesus, help us.


Margot said...

You better believe this will be on sale at the Republican national convention as a t-shirt.

Anonymous said...

While I recognize the cover as satire, I think all satire is based in some truth. At the risk of you including me with the portion of the American public who are “not smart,” I think there is also truth in this cover. (I think it’s nice that you share your candidate’s condescension for middle-class America—presumably this is white America, since all of black America is supporting him. These are people who haven’t had all of the opportunities that you and Obama have had. White working class folks who probably couldn’t get in to college because of affirmative action.)

Anyway, the image of Obama is actually taken from a real life photograph of him in his national Kenyan dress. If you do an image search on google of “obama kenya dress” it will come up.

The terrorist fist jab, is not really a terrorist gesture, but perhaps worse, is a gesture from gangster rap--an action that he did with his wife in front of millions of viewers. Again, not a paranoid fantasy, but a documented fact. What does it mean about his embrace of gangster rap values? Who knows? He also referred to Hillary Clinton with some rap lyrics about brushing dust of his shoulder in a speech. Will he bring gangster rap values and language into the White House? I think that is a fair question.

Michelle’s dress, and the terrorist theme is again, based on her public comments about her contempt for America and on his cozy association with the Weather Underground terrorists in Chicago and the Black Panther Party.

Finally, the flag in the fireplace is based on his refusal to wear an American flag and his refusal to stand or place his hand over his heart during the national anthem.

What does all this add up to? More questions than answers, I’m afraid.

Anonymous said...

>Will he bring gangster rap values >and language into the White >House? I think that is a fair >question.

I think that is a ridiculous question. About as fair as asking if George W. were to bring Klan values into the White House.

-Cheung Chang

Anonymous said...

For Cheung Chang:

If Bush had embraced the symbols of the Klan (white sheet, burning cross) then it would absolutely be a fair question—he did not. It is undeniable that Obama has embraced the symbols (the fist jab) and the language (employing the reference to the Jay-Z song dirt off my shoulder in his speech—a song whose lyrics can be found here:, and use some pretty offensive language) You may not like the fact that Obama exposed his adherence to these values in front of millions of viewers, and you may not think they will be good for his campaign, but he did do them, and American voters will have to judge him based on his embrace of those gangster rap values.

Anonymous said...

For Anonymous:
Since when is fist bump a "gangster rap" gesture? Is it because you see mostly black folk doing the "fist jab" you assume that it has something to do with gangster rap? Seems to me to be more of an athlete gesture or a Howie Mandel gesture. Under what circumstances do gangster rappers bump fists? Is it after finishing a productive drive-by or laying down some dope rhymes?

I thought the conservatives were claiming it was a 'terrorist gesture'. So which is it - rapper or terrorist?

I'm not offended that Obama has listened to Jay-Z or at least has heard of him or used one of his songs at some rally. It's about as concerning to me (and probably most sensible folk) as Jimmy Carter claiming to have listened to Led Zeppelin.

What's the story with this bit of crap?:
middle-class America—presumably this is white America, since all of black America is supporting him. These are people who haven’t had all of the opportunities that you and Obama have had.
Middle class white Americans don't have opportunity? What are you smoking? Whites run the country and have done so since its inception. I somehow managed to make my way through college despite being part of the impoverished and forgotten white middle class (as have most of my friends)

Anonymous said...

If you read my original post, you’ll note that I specifically say that it is not a “terrorist fist jab,” but a symbol of gangster rap.

I suggest you actually read the lyrics of the Jay-Z song. If you want a President that uses that kind of language to refer to African Americans and women, than that is your right, but I’m guessing that most voters would be offended.

As far as white Americans running everything, I would point out that the last two Secretaries of State were black, and black CEOs have been the head of American Express, Time Warner, and let’s not forget Franklin Raines, the head of Fannie Mae, who helped bring us the sub-prime mess.

Finally, my point on race and opportunity was to simply note that there are poor white people as well as rich black people in the country. I was needling Jeffrey regarding his disdain for “the masses” that seems present in his original post.

Anonymous said...

Did Obama write Jay-Z's Lyrics? I'm surprised that I haven't heard something about this before. My, how multi-talented. I'm sure that's why he's captured the black vote.

Congratulations, you've managed to point out a handful of black people who have made it to the upper echelons of society. Well done. Now why can't all blacks make as good as they did? Oh, maybe it has something to do with the decades of institutionalized racism that held them back. Just a guess.

Didn't realize Free was such an elitist; hadn't seen much evidence to support that over the past 25 years. I'll certainly have to reconsider our decades long friendship (or not).

Anonymous said...

You seem to have a lot of hostility, and you don’t seem interested in having a genuine exchange of ideas, so this will be my last post. If you guys just want to have an Obama love fest, then enjoy, it would seem pretty boring to me. So much for “diversity.”

Obama repeated Jay-Z’s lyrics, nobody said he wrote them, but he used them, and embraced them.

“Now why can't all blacks make as good as they did?” (sic) Are you actually suggesting that ALL blacks should be CEOs and millionaires? 100%? Who/what is responsible for white and Hispanic poverty? Should all whites and Hispanics also be millionaires? What about Asians? The era of seeing racial issues in America through a black/white lens is over. Hispanics are now the largest minority. Are their poverty rates the same as blacks? If not, why not? To me these are interesting questions, venting about past racism doesn’t exactly move the ball forward.

Your question is really about who is to blame for the roughly 30% of blacks below the poverty line (vs. around 12% for whites). You point the finger solely at external causes (racism), I would say it is a combination of external causes and internal causes (destructive behavior). You either don’t acknowledge that internal factors have played a role, or you are not interested in nuance.

I think if you asked Jeffrey, he would acknowledge that he has always had (or is developing) an (often charming) elitist streak. I don’t think this is the worst of sins, and I don’t intend to sever our decades long friendship either. (Again, you seem hysterical rather than thoughtful on this issue.) There is a tension in most thinkers between their affinity for the intelligentsia and for “the people.” His faith in “the people” seems to be receding and I was curious why.

hscfree said...

I think I will actually step into this discussion. First, I am glad to see a discussion, so thanks to everyone who has contributed. Second, I am not about to abandon any friendship with anyone (I think I am beginning to determine with a little more precision the anonymous commenters), so there are no worries there, regardless of one's political position. That is one component of the people I call friend, and it has to date not been enough for me to consider severing ties.

Now, I certainly am capable of flashes of elitism. My undergraduate institution (as my friends know) is awash in it, albeit a conservative/traditional/historical elitism. It usually flashes when I feel that people are not thinking beyond the obvious or the sound bite. For example, dusting one's shoulder as a sign of cleanliness (from the cool/hip perspective) is not a Jay-Z invention; it dates back to the days of the European dandies well beyond a century ago. And it has never been limited to the hip hop community.

With that said, I am sure that someone would attack me because I am a fan of Public Enemy. I didn't appreciate everything the group put out, and I heartily disagreed with the pro-Farrakhan/anti-semetic ideas that the group seemed to evoke. But I loved the beat. Many times, Chuck D's lyrics were on point.

It needs to be said that most black folks from Obama's age down are familiar with or fans of or consider themselves a part of hip hop. I am right in there. Do I like all of it? Hardly. I am a total snob about my hip hop choices. But if I were a politician, then I suppose people will try to attach the worst elements of the hip hop community to me (those are probably to same people who are unfamiliar with artists like Mos Def, Common, Erykah Badu, and the Roots).

Look at the whole picture. It's imprudent to attach the worst of something to a person without knowing if that person supports it. And, as I wipe the dust off my shoulder, I am going to head off to work.

Anonymous said...

Your list of the African American elite seems an attempt ignore the great economic and educational disparity between blacks and whites in the general population. My comments do not imply that all blacks should be millionaires or all whites should be millionaires or all [insert race] should be millionaires; that is jumping to an absurd conclusion.

Oh, was I venting about past racism? I just thought I was addressing the comments you made about how tough it is in America for white people.

Claiming that middle class white Americans don't have opportunities greater than or equal to blacks of lower (or even equal) economic status is absurd. Sounds like rhetoric from a Klan rally. Really.

You also seem to fail to realize, that your 'external' causes have great effect/influence on what you call 'internal' causes for the disparity between black and white economic and educational levels.

It may be difficult to understand that denying a particular group (based on race) the ability to educate themselves (including legally mandating that they could not learn to read and write) might have some lasting effect on the overall attitudes toward education and higher learning of the group as a whole.

So this group, because of external forces, would develop a somewhat different set of values as other groups who were not subjected to the same kinds of restrictions.

Seems that most comments about BHO from the other side are centered around race. So I guess the 'past racism' isn't so much in the past.

As far as a candidate's arrogance goes: I would only hope that a presidential candidate would be smarter than most Americans (and be cognizant of this fact). This doesn't seem to be the case with our current leadership and look where that's gotten us.