Monday, January 14, 2008

Send in Negro Number Two

Whether you support Hilary Clinton or not (and I’m not a citizen so ultimately, my opinion doesn’t count) you have to hand it to her for not yet pulling from the Clinton Bag of dirty campaign tricks. I’ve been watching them from the late 80’s when I minored in American politics and even from then, the Clintons (and they are team, not one) always had a knack for ruthlessness that would floor the late Lee Atwater. One reason why they could win races that other democrats could not was they knew how to out-fox Republicans. None of this would make them bad presidents of course; Johnson who’s been much bandied about this week was, until Vietnam one of the most effective presidents in history, in spite and because of his very callousness. But the Clintons have been abnormally reticent with this campaign, quick to clarify themselves whenever a comment gets out of hand, like lawyers who lobby a comment only to withdraw it later after the damage has been done.

But the Clintons are in no position to act dirty. Because everybody expects them to make one, a dirty play would stink of inevitability. The muck on them, from Whitewater to Mark Rich is just too well known to risk being brought up now, especially with the Republicans all but guaranteed to do so later. So with her hands tied, Hilary does the next best thing: let other people do the nasty for her. The first was Bill Clinton, still curiously popular among black voters even though nobody I asked can tell me exactly what he’s done for them other than to launch his book at a Harlem bookstore. You may not like the quality of the people he chose or their morality, but even Dubya had a more racially and ethnically diverse cabinet than any democrat in history. Bill Clinton, who now finds himself backpedaling from his “fairy tale” remark about Obama still chooses to reference only half of Obama’s comments to Meet the Press despite the full comment being a matter of public record. Then Hilary makes the statement about it taking a president to make civil rights happen. There is no question that the president signs papers to make laws, but that’s like saying the Allies didn’t win World War Two until Churchill and FDR signed the treaty. It was such a curious thing to say. Regardless of her motives, surely someone should have told her that black people bristle whenever white people fall into the habit of taking the credit for making black lives better. You’d think it was white people who marched in the Montgomery bus boycott.

Yet the worst was her “Nigger Number two: Electric Boogaloo” act on Sunday, with Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) coming out to support her. We’ve seen this before of course. When you can’t attack Negro number one, because you’re well, white, send in Negro number two to do the job. This is nothing new; Fox news does it every week. Clarence Thomas can always be counted on for the Uncle Tom Perspective, and Johnson who never met a black community he couldn’t exploit is now the latest. Hilary can’t refer to Obama’s past drug use, but Johnson can so of course he did, in a ridiculous attempt to be subtle—this from the man behind the network that made the malevolent 50 Cent a star and is partly the reason why your 9 year old daughter dances like a slut. And what was with him comparing the Obama campaign to “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” saying “this is not the movies Sidney, this is real?”

Far as I know Poitier has always been a man of dignity and grace that has never said a mean thing about Johnson. Poitier, was an exemplary fighter for civil rights on and off-screen who took the hit for people like Johnson. Poitier has never made a cent off the materialistic, self-destructive patterns of black youth but Johnson is counting his cash as we speak. And whatever you may think of the movie now, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was a groundbreaker of seismic proportions when it came out. The strangest thing about this is that Johnson is lashing out at a comment that was never made. Obama is just about the only person who has NOT said anything about Hilary’s civil rights statement, yet Johnson is attacking him as if he had, and the Clintons seem to not be in a rush to correct him. This is what’s truly offensive. The Clintons letting their pet coon yap, yap, yap about all the underhanded things they cannot say themselves.

And there is something far more insidious at work here. There are many black americans who simply cannot and will not get over their "blackness"—black as oppressed minority; victim spoiling for a fight. Many who are so obsessed with overcoming that they refuse to believe that we've already overcome much. Black warriors who spent so much time in the trenches that even if the war were over they'd never know. Call it Negro Shell-Shock. It takes little to spark it (the killing of any black male will do, good or evil makes no difference)and once it flames up, in comes his best friend, not the progressive black but the white liberal ally who learned all the lines to "We shall overcome." This is the topic that dares not speak its name in politics. The fact that Obama, by moving beyond race has become dangerous to both white and black politicians. By distancing himself from the ghetto of racial politics, Obama becomes something unprecedented: a black candidate with genuine presidential potential (Harold Ford tried something similar but was shot down by a very effective "nigger messin around with pure white flesh" ad campaign). It makes sense that the Clintons, in their underhanded way would drag him back into the race argument, because if they can turn him back into a "black" politician then he becomes exactly the kind of politician that undecided whites do not trust, and well meaning whites can then say "we like him but he's unelectable." The terrible precision of the Clinton masterstroke is that she does not have to get in the fray herself: there are scores of black leaders perfectly willing to take him on for her. Blacks who define blackness by how loud you can scream victim. Blacks who realize that if the struggle really is nearly over, they will have nothing to do. Blacks who make you wonder if Joe Biden didn't have a point after all. Because if it's one thing people like Johnson and Former Mayor Andrew Young hate more than whites who stand in the way of the black dream are blacks who are already living it.

I’m not sure if Johnson has the right to speak of anything concerning the uplifting of black people. Maybe I should just chill out and watch some late night TV on BET or take a trip to the Caribbean where I can watch the natives being fleeced out of their money by one Johnson’s many gambling schemes. Where I stand on Obama doesn’t matter because I don’t have a vote. But he seems more and more presidential every day. The man gets attacked for making people dream because supposedly it takes bureaucrats to make government work. This is a typically stupid comment from people who are clearly not leaders. If you really believe that experience as a bureaucrat (or a first lady) really makes you a better leader, you’re probably not a very good one. And if you really believe Hilary is in a better position to win over a republican opponent than Obama, you’re underestimating the intensity of Hilary-Hate. Some people, like Johnson (and Bill Clinton) chastise Obama on his ability to give a good speech. And here I thought leaders were supposed to inspire people, but then again, maybe Johnson and Clinton were the ones shouting “Get to the point,” when Martin Luther King was telling us about this wonderful dream he had. The Clintons definitely need to pick better a class of negro (Andrew Young's comments were appalling and backward). They made a blunder seeking Johnson’s endorsement and the blunder happened even before that Negro put his foot in his mouth.