January 1, 2009

THE MEME PRECEDES THE ONE:

Obama the Magic Negro-Gate (LARRY ELDER, December 31, 2008, IBD)

This is how the whole thing started.

David Ehrenstein, a writer who happens to be black and liberal, wrote an opinion piece in March 2007 in the Los Angeles Times called "Obama the 'Magic Negro.'"

He argued that whites, according to sociologists, stereotype blacks as "dangerous." But whites consider Obama accessible, likeable and "benign." This, according to Ehrenstein, explains Obama's "crossover" appeal.

The article insults a) Obama, by virtually ignoring his effectiveness as a candidate, b) whites, by accusing them of voting for Obama merely to assuage their own guilt, and c) Sidney Poitier, the brilliant, groundbreaking actor, for ascribing his success to whites who find him safe and non-threatening.

The article produced virtually no outcry.


Because: Mr. Obama's benignity and magical patina is his political effectiveness; he'd be a non-starter were he white and so unaccomplished and idealess; and, for all his greatness as an actor, Sidney Poitier's career was built on non-threatening or even magical [African-American] roles--Homer Smith most explicitly. Elections are all about narrative and Mr. Obama just happened to fit the contours of a stock character from our cultural tradition.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 1, 2009 8:51 AM
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