Tuesday, December 27, 2011
What Do They Call a President Who Happens to be Black? If You Are Fox News You Call Him a "Ghetto Crackhead"
Malcolm X famously asked, "what do you call an educated negro with a B.A. or an M.A., with a B.S., or a PhD?" The answer? "You call him a nigger, because that is what the white man calls him, a nigger."
Decades later, his wisdom endures.
Malcolm's observation captures the pain experienced by many African Americans, when during their coming of age moment (either before or after the talk about how not to get shot by the police during a routine traffic stop), they realize that being "young, gifted, and black" is not, all things being equal, sufficient for success in America. Malcolm's words also capture the sentiments felt by any black person whose confidence has been described by their managers or peers as "threatening" or "arrogant."
His wisdom also explains the moment when black professors walk into a room for the first time and their students look at each other in shock, wondering if this teacher is "qualified" to teach them; Malcolm's wit also captures the frustration and insult felt by any black or brown person who has been presumptively assumed to be a janitor, maintenance worker, or mail clerk at their job, when in fact, their titles are actually "manager," "director," or "vice president."
Malcolm's comment on the arrogance of white racism also speaks to collective memory: it conjures up family stories of men and women trained as doctors, engineers, and lawyers, but who had to work as Pullman Car porters, maids, and home health attendants because Jim and Jane Crow America was by definition, a system designed to choke out the social and economic mobility of the African American community. Both then and now, white racism does the work of class inequality.
It is a given that Fox News has no love for President Obama. To point, on the Hannity show last week (and without retraction or apology after the fact), Eric Bolling described President Barack Obama, "as a skinny, ghetto, crackhead."
This moment was an object lesson on the white racial frame in action, and the truth of Brother Malcolm's deep understanding of the pathologies of white racism, where any black person, however accomplished, intelligent, and gifted, is de facto seen as "less than," a "nigger," as a person who is not equal to even the most mediocre and lowest of white people.
Black people and black humanity are forever suspect, under watch, and viewed as less than by many in White America. To the white gaze channeled by Eric Bolling, we are perpetual criminals, deviants, over-sexed, libidinous, dangerous, and pathological. These sentiments are a function of the "wages of whiteness," the psychological investment in white supremacy, and white superiority, spoken to perhaps most famously by W.E.B. DuBois more than a century ago.
My surprise at the claim that President Obama shares anything in common with a "skinny, ghetto, crackhead" is rooted in its absurdity. Obama is human. He is imperfect. I often disagree with his politics. Obama is a man. He is nothing more, nothing less. But a crackhead? Impulsive drug user? A hype? Nope. Not ever. Obama's personhood and habitus, his relaxed and effortless black cool pose (even if some do not possess the cultural framework and lens necessary to perceive it) is obvious--and unapologetic.
The inability by some on the Right to see Obama's full and dignified black humanity, as opposed to a default of black drug use, criminality, and omnipresent, irrepressible "niggerdom," is the source of my hurt. I must ask: If the white conservative imagination can frame a man of Obama's abilities, poise, intelligence, genius, life accomplishments, and talent as a skinny, ghetto, crackhead, how do they see the rest of us?
And we wonder why the colorline persists.
Read the entire article at the link above.