Sometimes, someone says something so blatantly racist that you can’t help but wonder if it was all some kind of joke gone terribly awry. That was my reaction to this CNN article entitled “Why Obama doesn’t dare become the ‘angry black man.'”
In what can only be called a “staggeringly ham-fisted attempt at biting social commentary,” writer John Blake inadvertently stumbles into the very trap he clumsily tries to set. After solemnly declaring that “[m]any white Americans don’t like angry black men,” he spends the bulk of the article bemoaning the fact that Obama couldn’t “go off,” even if he wanted to, because the social pressures of being perceived as an “angry black man” are simply too great to risk.
Unfortunately, Blake does not once stop to critically examine the subject about which he is writing. Why, for instance, should Barack Obama ever be expected to act like Samuel L. Jackson? One of the people quoted, Saladin Ambar, says “that’s just not who Obama is.” True enough. But is Samuel L. Jackson’s personality any more representative of “black people” than anyone else’s? Isn’t simply musing about why Barack Obama, as a black man, can’t act like Samuel L. Jackson (even if he wanted to) implicitly reinforcing the stereotype that black men are supposed to be angry and threatening (“We gotta’ get this $#@!!* oil back in the $#!!* rig!”), and that black men who don’t fit that mold must therefore be under some sort of social (read: racist) pressure to conform to “white” expectations?
Since when did the fictional characters portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson become the standard by which all black men are to be judged? Why should Barack Obama be assumed to have an “inner Samuel L. Jackson,” as the article suggests? Judging by this article, it’s mostly because the sort of people engaged in all this hand-wringing about race said so.
The rest of the article, unfortunately, is no better, trading in all sorts of stereotypes about white people (they wouldn’t have voted for Obama, you see, if he had acted “more black” — that is, “angry”) and deploying a bunch of shopworn victim rhetoric:
“Our commander in chief has many burdens, and among them is our history and culture,” Baick says. “Compared to the weight of that, the current BP crisis and the years of environmental damage and cleanup must seem transient.”
Get it? The “weight” of Obama’s history and culture must be more important than everything else. You know. Because he’s black. Quite a conclusion from an article that started off talking about how Obama has “ushered in a new era in race relations.”
(h/t to John for bringing this article to my attention)