Monday, May 12, 2008

Let's Talk Race

Obama Does Def Comedy Jam - Watch more free videos

(language content warning)

When I first watched this video I had no intention of posting it. I don't like comedy that is laced with curse words and sterotypes people in general. I certainly don't like women being referred as a b*tch. But I got to thinking about this video and how it illustrates something about Obama.

Everyone is talking about how Hillary said she had the support of white working class voters. Oh how shocking! I wonder where the "race rules" are? Where can we go to find out who gets to say what words when it comes to race?

What came to mind as I watched this video was that if Obama really spoke that way, we wouldn't be talking about Obama at all, would we? So is it really about race or is it about class?

Did 90% of blacks vote for Jesse Jackson when he ran? No. So blacks must have seen something in Obama that they didn't see in Jesse. I know what it was...electability. Whites voting for Obama didn't vote for Jesse either. Why? I think I am beginning to see why the question was asked at the beginning of Obama's campaign, "Is he black enough?" Because he doesn't seem to relatable to the Def Comedy Jam crowd to me. He did seem "white" enough for white supporters who didn't support Jesse Jackson. But was it "white"enough? Or was is simply more charm? Was it more demeanor than color?

Most of us don't want this election to be about race, but it is. You can't wish it away. This is exciting for the black community to have the first black man to possible be the Democratic nominee and possibly the President. It's not wrong to display happiness at that fact.

SNL made fun of Hillary this past week using racism. I think we all know that Hillary is not a racist. What many of us who pay attention Obama? His pastor, in my opinion, certainly is. So many white Democrats wondered for the first time, did Obama shared his pastor's feelings about race and America? This is reflected in the later primaries. I think many whites thought that Obama was going to be above all that. He had so much class, after all. They wondered if they had been scammed somehow. Was there a Def Comedy Jam Obama lurking underneath the surface of the ivy league Obama?

There is nothing wrong with asking that question. Sometimes race brings up strong reactions. We need to be able to discuss it.

As John Hartigan at RCP points out:

Geraldine Ferraro is a good example. Her role in Clinton's campaign ended after she remarked, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." Her assertion is debatable, but it generated little debate, largely because it was quickly repudiated by Clinton herself. However gratifying it may be to see such views denounced, consider the cost. Banishing people from the public sphere satisfies a sense of propriety, but it also makes it more difficult to talk about race. That is because people fear the high price for saying "something wrong," forestalling an open discussion of what was "wrong" about what Ferraro said.

Shock Jocks around the country say inappropriate and outrageous things on a daily basis, but Don Imus crossed the line with his denigration of black women on a basketball team. I was appalled at the line as well, but there are hundreds of lyrics in rap music that say much worse things about black women. Why is that Ok and what Imus said not Ok? Because Imus is white? Why can Dave Chappell use the "n" word freely, but Michael Richards has to do a 12 state apology tour for using the same word? Why can Jesse Jackson call Jews "Hymies" and he still stays on the political stage? But George Allen calls a dark skinned Indian man a "macaca" and he loses an election?

Like I said before, where is the race rulebook?

Here is an idea. What about we hold blacks and whites to the same standards. If you are offended by the "n" word (and I am) then be offended by every rap song that has it. Be offended by every comedian that uses it, be they black or white.

It would suit me just fine if we never mention Obama's race again. Let's focus on issues. Because there is a valley wide and deep on issues when it comes to Obama and McCain.

But the reality is that people have many different feelings about race and that isn't going away. Instead of firing every supporter that mentions it, like Hillary did with Geraldine Ferrero, we need to discuss it and open up the understanding and misunderstandings that we have with each other.

Update: While we are discussing it, we might want to discuss how it is the Democrats throwing around racist language and even destructive behavior.