The R’s Managing Editor Arturo García and I confabbed last week about his adventures at the Democratic National Convention. He regaled me with some blogger star-gazing and gossip, meeting Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, the voting implications of The Tumblr Generation and the Occupy Movement, and the panties-throwing during former POTUS Bill Clinton’s speech. And KerryWashington.
I have to agree: in my big-screen movie, I’d cast Washington as Helen of Troy or Cleopatra, not only because she looks good (a vital attribute of you’re going to cast someone as two legends of human pulchritude, just as you’d cast a beautiful someone as Adonis) but also because she is good–and her work on Scandal and in real-life politics are why.
This year’s political convention season, says MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, got complicated. Although she is in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention this week, she missed going to Tampa, FL, last week for its Republican counterpart because real life got in the way. Hurricane Isaac’s path, which initially threatened the convention before tearing through New Orleans, meant the Tulane University professor and her family had to evacuate their home, which they subsequently lost.
“In a certain way, the personal drama, set against the backdrop of the convention, helps to remind us that the personal is political,” she told Raw Story Wednesday. “On the one hand, we were having our own personal issues about wind and rain and a hurricane, but the fact is, levees are political, and disasters–whether or not aid is going to come to your community–has to do with who is making those choices from a political position. And so, certainly it’s been hard, but it’s helped to crystallize why elections really do matter.” Read the Post 5 Questions For: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, On Political Diversity And Being “Better Off” [#DNC2012]
In “Fear of a Black President,” which appeared this past week in The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the entirety of President Barack Obama’s approach to racial matters during his tenure. Or, as Coates defines it, his lack of an approach.
Confronted by the thoroughly racialized backlash to Obama’s presidency, a stranger to American politics might conclude that Obama provoked the response by relentlessly pushing an agenda of radical racial reform. Hardly. Daniel Gillion, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies race and politics, examined the Public Papers of the Presidents, a compilation of nearly all public presidential utterances—proclamations, news-conference remarks, executive orders—and found that in his first two years as president, Obama talked less about race than any other Democratic president since 1961. Obama’s racial strategy has been, if anything, the opposite of radical: he declines to use his bully pulpit to address racism, using it instead to engage in the time-honored tradition of black self-hectoring, railing against the perceived failings of black culture.
His approach is not new. It is the approach of Booker T. Washington, who, amid a sea of white terrorists during the era of Jim Crow, endorsed segregation and proclaimed the South to be a land of black opportunity. It is the approach of L. Douglas Wilder, who, in 1986, not long before he became Virginia’s first black governor, kept his distance from Jesse Jackson and told an NAACP audience: “Yes, dear Brutus, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves … Some blacks don’t particularly care for me to say these things, to speak to values … Somebody’s got to. We’ve been too excusing.” It was even, at times, the approach of Jesse Jackson himself, who railed against “the rising use of drugs, and babies making babies, and violence … cutting away our opportunity.”
At the same time, though, he takes issue with Obama’s remarks following the killing of Trayvon Martin, saying his weighing in with empathy toward the Martin family and recognition that, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, took the case “out of its national-mourning phase and lapsed into something darker and more familiar—racialized political fodder. The illusion of consensus crumbled.”
As I’m still wading through the piece, I do feel the need to point out that, had Obama not said anything–or offered only encouragement that justice be served–that illusion would have crumbled anyway, from any direction. It’s not like Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, or the conservative hate machine around them were waiting for that particular moment to bring out the torches; they would’ve just changed the vitriol to focus on some supposed callousness on his part.
“Trayvoning,” a meme too disgusting to dignify with a link, didn’t come about because of Obama’s remarks–it happened because there are thousands of people too insensitive and too emboldened by relative anonymity who can’t resist making jackasses of themselves online. No speech could have prevented it. As MacDaffy put it yesterday at The Daily Kos, “President Obama’s blackness does not ‘irradiate everything he touches.’ Racism does.” Read the Post Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates Discusses Fear Of A Black President
With the Latino electorate emerging more and more as a key constituency, the dust-up over this commercial highlights the tightrope both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will have to walk in engaging with not only this diverse array of voters, but the media outlets they follow.
In the ad, Univision News anchor Jorge Ramos is shown saying, “Close to 46 million Americans do not have health insurance.” The ad–not Ramos himself–goes on to tout Obama’s Healthcare Reform Bill. The commercial is part of the opening salvo in a $4 million advertising campaign pitched toward Spanish-speaking households.
On Monday, Ramos, the host of Univision’s Al Punto, closed the program denouncing the Obama campaign for using his image in the ad. Courtesy of Mediaite, here’s Ramos’ commentary:
And here’s the English translation:
A few hours ago the Obama reelection campaign aired an ad using my image and that of Noticias Univisión. I want to make clear that I reject the use of my likeness and that of Noticias Univisión in any election campaign. We have let the Obama campaign and the White House know, and we want to leave a public notice of our disagreement. We have always defended our journalistic integrity and will always continue to do so.
By Guest Contributor Theresa Celebran Jones, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine
A few weeks ago, a scandal erupted on the web thanks to an unfortunate misquote regarding Manny Pacquiao’s stance on gay marriage, made in response to President Obama’s public extension of support for it. Essentially, Manny Pacquiao tells a reporter, “God’s words first.” The reporter then quotes Leviticus 20:13; an L.A. Weekly blog post quotes that piece and uses the headline “Manny Pacquiao Says Gay Men Should Be Put To Death”; and the misquoted story goes viral. About a day later, the whole thing had been researched and debunked. As it turns out, although Pacquiao’s still against gay marriage, he said nothing about wanting gay people dead–but the damage was done. His image was already tarnished, my conservative family members were already blabbering on about the biased liberal media, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. had already jumped on the opportunity to support gay marriage publicly.
It’s hard to keep track of the layers of f*ckery in this story. There are so many questions we could (and should) ask: Would this issue have gone viral and would Pacquiao have been misquoted in the first place if he were white and American instead of brown and foreign? Could our leap to conclusions have hurt the gay community in the eyes of people who don’t yet consider themselves allies? Did nobody realize that Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s coming out in support of gay marriage because it was a more popular political move was actually a pretty big deal–given his history of homophobic rants–even though it was clearly opportunistic on his part?
But then, I’m hung up on my experience as a Filipino American growing up around some gay Filipino American folks, and that’s where the story hits me.
It’s a question President Obama has undoubtedly been asked before. It’s almost a universal African American experience, except this time it was asked under different circumstances and for a different reason.
“Can I touch your hair?”
The photo of this moment, three-years-old at this point, is making the rounds again. You’ve seen it in your inbox and on social networking sites—President Obama, bent at his waist while a five-year-old African American boy wearing a tie and dress pants touches his hair. It seems innocuous enough—meriting a few awwws certainly—but leaving some to wonder what all the fuss is about. Cute, sure. But is this news? Absolutely. Read the Post Feeling Is Believing: Why Obama’s Hair Matters