Contradictions of Fear of the African-American Influence in a "Post-Racial" America
Friday 08 October 2010
by: Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
President Barack Obama. (Photo: Beth Rankin)
During a recent interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama was asked about his musical preferences, he replied in part, "My iPod now has about 2,000 songs ... There's still a lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Rolling Stones, a lot of R&B, a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.... A lot of classical music.... my rap palate has greatly improved. Jay-Z used to be sort of what predominated, but now I've got a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne and some other stuff, but I would not claim to be an expert ..."
Soul, folk, rock, R&B, jazz, "A lot of classical" and some rap; sounds like a fairly diverse musical palate. This represents the musical tastes of a number of Americans of the president's generation, especially those with school-age children. Diversity is good, unless you are reading the Fox Nation web site. According to The Huffington Post, Fox Nation took this description and briefly posted the headline, "President of the United States Loves Gansta Rap" with photos of tattoo-laden Nas and Lil' Wayne thrown in for "flava."
How does the president's acknowledgment of an appreciation for rap music become a love for "Gansta Rap?" This is not too subtle code language from a conservative media that "deracialized" President Obama has a link to the black community, an affinity to some element of African-American culture, and this is something to fear. Here is another example in a long list of examples of how some elements in the media and politics continue to play to the fears of too many in America by fanning the flames of prejudice and racism.
Since his days as a candidate for the US Senate in Illinois, Barack Obama has talked about equality and one America. During his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention he said that the greatness of this nation can be summed up in the declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ... There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America." In his famous "Race Speech" in 2008, Senator Obama talked about continuing the long march, "of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America."
For too many in this country, this deracialized, race-neutral politics coming from a man of African decent is something to fear. Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo opened the Tea Party convention by calling for a reinstatement of Jim Crow type literacy tests for voters and saying, "This is our country ... Let's take it back." Whose country is it and Tancredo wants to take it back from whom? Recently, in an interview with National Review's Robert Costa, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? ... This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president ..." Again, not so subtle code language playing to the fear of President Obama's Kenyan heritage and to the unfounded rhetoric of the "birther" movement. Actually, anti-colonial behavior is a good thing if you are a victim of colonialism.
According to Rep. Pete King (R-New York), President Barack Obama is "probably the most threatened president ever ..." Most of these threats are not because of health care reform, the stimulus bill or the problems with Israel. There are still too many people in America that refuse to allow him to govern as The President; they will oppose him at every turn because he's an African-American who is The President.
Numerous cartoons have featured President Obama and/or First Lady Michelle as monkeys, terrorists or Muslim suicide bombers. What are they afraid of? President Obama has called for change, not Mau Mau revolution. He is working within the established structure, not working to overthrow it. The president loves gansta' rap? During the Skip Gates arrest in Cambridge, President Obama said that the arresting officers "acted stupidly," not as NWA said, "'F' the Police."
The Fox Nation claim that the "President of the United States Loves Gansta' Rap" is a bit far-fetched and nothing but a scare tactic. It's the latest example in a long line of contradictions that are grounded in a fear of the African-American influence in a fictitious "post-racial" America. Or as Public Enemy would say, "Fear of a Black Planet."
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