January 23, 2009


The 'Magic Negro' (Dawn Mendez, 01.23.09, Forbes)

Intrigued by the term, I investigated further and discovered the phrase has been used to describe the stereotype of a saintly, nonthreatening black person who has no other interest in life--and serves no other literary purpose--than to further the happiness of whites by guiding them gently toward the light: true love, economic or personal fulfillment, whatever.

These transformations are accomplished, apparently, as result of his blackness or status as "the other." And the "magic Negro" wills these changes in his companion purely through self-effacing goodness and the absence of any personal life or defining characteristics. [...]

Watching Barack Obama take the oath of office on Tuesday, all too aware of the grave challenges ahead, I wondered whether the entire country--not only whites--now feel this man can magically bring about extraordinary change. (Why, exactly, were 200,000 Berliners driven to explosive delight last summer?)

To be sure, I consider Obama an exceptional person, intellectually gifted, but he's not perfect. I think he has few concrete accomplishments under his belt and even lacks true, defined political passions.

While I admire his oratorical skills, I do believe the praise he receives is out of proportion to his talent partly because, I feel, black politicians are expected to be great speakers. But in spite of all this, since his stunning upset victory in Iowa last January, he has been hailed--largely by the media--for his superhero-like status.

And now that he has ascended to the stratosphere, everybody, to a certain degree, believes in his magical powers.

...and you're a fool if you don't exploit the pre-existing ones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2009 8:28 PM
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