Friday, 6 May 2011

"Accedes to their absurd requests one week, and slays their demons the next"

I thought there was some really valuable perspective in this Ta Nehisi Coates post ruminating about how the attempt to question Barack's "American-ness" is really an insult to the millions of families across the country to whom the Obama's don't look especially exotic. He writes:
for those of us who are waging the fight against a crippling cynicism, who are urging our children on, who visit schools and begin our addresses with, "I remember when I just like you," the First Family is perhaps the greatest weapon in our arsenal.

From the perspective of race, we don't object to people trying to defeat Obama. We don't object to Hillary claiming he's soft. We don't object to McCain claiming he's a celebrity. We don't object to the GOP calling him a tax and spend liberal. We don't even object to Mitt Romney aspiring to hang him. (We know what you meant, Mitt.)

But when broad sections of this country foolishly follow a carnival barker in the ugly tradition of attacking black citizenship rights, when pundits shriek that Obama's successes are simply the result of the misguided largess of white people, they undermine our most intimate war. They undermine the notion that someone familiar to that kid on the corner could legitimately reach the highest levels of the country, that someone like that kid's Aunt could be the First Lady. They undermine this country's social contract, and the "hard work pays" message of my parents. And to that we object.

For if they will not take as legitimate a magna cum laude from their highest institutions, if they will not accept a man who tells black kids to cut off the video games and study, who accedes to their absurd requests one week, and slays their demons the next, who will they accept? Who among us would they ever believe?
What fascinates me about this whole phenomenon - in which the right wing attack on Barack and Michelle Obama is the suggestion, subtle and not-so-subtle that they are Not Like Us - has always struck me as incredibly weak. I don't think it's just African American families who look at the Obamas and think that they look like the family down the block - I grew up in a waspy suburb in which there were literally only 2 black kids in my entire high school graduating class of 250 kids.

But the Obama's would have fit in great at our neighborhood barbecue. My mom would totally have bonded with Michelle if they ran into each other at one of my school plays. Barack and my dad would absolutely have backslapped and networked and talked sports if they bumped into each other.

Until not that long ago, in fact, any of those things could have happened! The Obama's lived a pretty middle class life, they got involved in their kids schools. Heck Barack even marched in a goofy St Patrick's day parade, brandishing a toilet plunger. Less than a decade ago.

But the best, most effective attack they can think of to levy against him is that this almost stereotypicallly normal, happy, healthy American family is somehow "not one of us".

By contrast, I recall that the equally deranged lunatic fringe that attacked Bill Clinton during his moment as the Liberal whipping boy for the right wing lynch mob accused him not just of (plausible) sexual misconduct but actual mass murder.

Perversely, I think of this as some sort of progress.

Here's your birth certificate, you freaks. Choke on it.

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