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The Trouble With Transcending Race

amberglow's picture

Examination at The Root of the perceptions and personas of Oprah and Obama, and how unrealistic stereotypes and expectations--and meeting them and molding yourself to fit them--provide very fragile and shaky foundations for trust.

"...If some white people are rethinking their feelings for Oprah and Obama, it's because those people's unrealistic expectations of the two have been betrayed. Oprah and Obama were idealized blacks. They were supposed to be above reproach, neutral on all matters of race, unencumbered by the tiresome legacy of American race relations, colorblind in their politics. They were not supposed to associate with people like Jeremiah Wright, let alone consider them friends.

They were supposed to reflect blackness in the way that made white people comfortable, a blackness that lacked any hint of anger, resentment, or dare we say it, "bitterness." They were also supposed to pretend their blackness didn't matter. ..."

It's clear that many whites need to believe certain things about celebrity African-Americans in order to take them to heart and to accept them--and it requires them behaving only in certain, carefully delineated and circumscribed ways--but why is that trust and connection always and so easily broken? Bill Cosby provides a good example--his recent "angry" speeches initially got a lot of press (partly because they were blaming blacks for their own inequality), but people didn't want to see Cosby acting that way--it didn't at all fit with common perceptions of him as one of "the good ones". We demand that people fit themselves into the box, and many comply, yet even those contortions aren't enough to really make all trust them, it seems. Like they're always on probation, and many are waiting for a slipup that would show us their "true self"--the Jekyll and Hyde nonsense recently when Wright flared up again showed it too. (there are also other boxes, just as narrow-- for "bad Blacks"--rappers, fiery preachers and politicians, professorial pundits and authors, etc)

One of the ongoing fascinations of this race for me has been watching the push/pull of Obama fitting himself into the boxes and when he's decided he should break out or not--the Wright stuff might have broken the box entirely tho.

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amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Obama’s ‘Race Neutral’ Strategy Unravels of its Own Contradictions --

"The very premise - that race neutrality is possible in a nation built on white supremacy - demanded the systematic practice of the most profound race-factual denial, which is ultimately indistinguishable from rank dishonesty. From the moment Obama told the 2004 Democratic National Convention that "there is no white America, there is no Black America," it was inevitable that the candidate would one day declare the vast body of Black opinion illegitimate.
Race "neutrality" - an impossibility in the actually existing United States - went out the window as Obama in extremis positioned himself at the political/historical fault line alongside the defenders of the Alamo and American Manifest Destiny. As dictated by the logic of power, Obama furiously maneuvered toward "white space," shamelessly taking cover in a kind of populist white patriotism that has always branded Black grievances as selfish, even dangerous distractions from the larger national mission. ..."

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

"... Race neutrality requires that Barack Obama become a cleanup boy for racists, historically and in the present day. At the same time, Obama is driven to loath most those people and facts that might lead to divisiveness. America's worst enemies are not the racists, but those who point out the facts of racism ..."

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

(i'm used to metafilter, where the link's supposed to speak for itself, and no editorializing)

ok--how's that?

Submitted by lambert on

The link does not speak for itself. Generally, pure links or even pure links plus quotes are discouraged -- though the Fellows get to be lazy, because they've earned it!

I like the idea of racism as a series of boxes one must contort oneself to fit into, though as a WASP, I can't speak for whether the metaphor really works, since I haven't experienced it. This is tricky stuff...

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by lambert on

Well, maybe the peels are bitter.

But Wright isn't a lemon peel for Obama.

He's a banana peel!

NOTE You know, I wondered whether to censor that. No. Fuck it.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.