Is Barack Obama a figurehead Chia Pet for commercial exploitation?  Or is he more substantial than heroin on the street? What is the Obama trope and how does it extend into our lives and flay us from the minority interest and the “Nigger Disconnect?”


Is Obama Black or not? Some hate groups claim he isn’t really black because he has a White mother — and that’s supposedly “good” for Obama because he isn’t seen as too much of a threat to the White Majority because his trained, White, blood will temper his wild, Black, bones.

However, Obama’s skin is creating a recruiting renaissance for some white supremacist groups:

Neo-Nazi David Duke says Obama will be a “visual aid” for angry white Americans and will provoke a backlash among relatively mainstream whites that will “result in a dramatic increase in [the] ranks” of extremists. Many other hate group leaders agree.

That backlash was evident in the aftermath of the election as scores of racially charged incidents – beatings, effigy burnings, racist graffiti, threats and intimidation – were reported across the country.

White supremacist groups boasted of a post-election surge of new members as well as overwhelming traffic to their websites. At least two hate groups – Stormfront and the Council of Conservative Citizens – said their websites crashed because of heavy traffic. Stormfront also claimed to have gained thousands of new members immediately after Obama was elected on Nov. 4. The League of the South, a neo-secessionist group, said it saw a surge in phone calls from potential members and that its web traffic increased sixfold.

Even before the election, racial rage began to break out across the country. Effigies of Obama appeared hanging from nooses on university campuses. And angry supporters of John McCain and Sarah Palin reportedly shouted “Kill him” and “terrorist” at a campaign rally. Racist graffiti targeting Obama abounded.

Andrew Sullivan shares a fascinating Obama story, but I’m not sure if his conclusion is as sunny has he claims:

I know a neighbor in my hood from walking my beagles. She teaches in a local school and is even more aware than the rest of us in this city how challenging it is to teach and rear a self-confident generation of minority kids.

She’s African-American and has long bemoaned the ubiquitous use of the n-word by young black teens. But she pointed out to me months ago that there was one man they never used the n-word to describe. It was Obama. If he can help lift eyes to a larger horizon for more generations of minority children, then surely liberals and conservatives and everyone in between can be glad.

In my experience in the city core, and in teaching minority students, I don’t read the “Obama isn’t a Nigger” story as one that is enlightening or impressive.

My gut replies that those minority kids don’t seem themselves in Obama: He isn’t reflective or reflexive enough to matter to them as a cultural distinction. Obama isn’t seen as “of the street” — even though he is the first president in American history that used public transportation as a daily routine of his childhood life.

I believe Sullivan’s story examples a dismaying “Nigger Disconnect” where the desperate kids stuck in the minority core don’t cotton to Obama as one of them and in that cleaving, we are left with an ongoing desperation and alienation that we’re all assuming Obama automatically heals just because of the one-drop theory.  Our wrongness masks our own percolating and assumptive Racism.

We see the “Nigger Disconnect” more brightly drawn and explicitly expressed in the Black Designers condemnation of Michelle Obama for not picking a “Black” designer for her First Lady of the United State’s (FLOTUS) dresses.

The Black Artists Association is chiding FLOTUS for not choosing any African-American designers. They will send a letter to FLOTUS’s office and appeal to her to include items from black designers in her wardrobe. BAA Cofounder Amnau Eele, who was a former runway model told Women’s Wear Daily:

“It’s fine and good if you want to be all ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘We Are the World’ by representing all different countries. But if you are going to have Isabel Toledo do the inauguration dress, and Jason Wu do the evening gown, why not have Kevan Hall, B Michael, Stephen Burrows or any of the other black designers do something too?”

If you dare to share a private wink in a public moment with Obama, you’re suspended and punished:

Drum Major John Coleman offered a quick nod, a fleeting wave and what looked like a wink — all while keeping stride — as he marched the Cleveland Firefighter’s Memorial Pipes & Drums past President Barack Obama last week.

Some might call it a heartwarming moment of patriotism during the inaugural parade.

The band’s leader calls it a violation of the rules, captured by CNN. Coleman has been suspended as drum major for six months.

Then we have the unproven — yet curious and the uncomfortable — “Obama Effect” on Black test takers:

Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.

The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results.

Again, I don’t see great value or hope in this “Obama Effect” because it speaks to an inbred and non-dissoluble Racism in the test takers:

“As long as my skin color is in power, I’ll try harder. If not, then I’ll let the world run me over and claim it’s because of an unfair, institutional, Racism that I will propagate to explain my failures — until, that is, “we’re” in power again and I decide to try again.”

Our hope must be that the “Obama Trope” is colorblind and non-binding with racial stereotypes when it comes to the power of the “Nigger Disconnect” — but to even believe in that hope means you must abide by the old Racist memes that brought us here in the first place.

8 Comments

  1. I agree with you David, this is a dangerous stereotype to follow.
    Can we just focus on how good will Obama be in making things happen rather than his skin color?

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  2. Just the notion that there is so much hatred for our President merely on the basis of his being black – and the entire thing with the dress; couldn’t it have been that they were choosing dresses based on their own merit and not on the race of the designer?

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  3. It seems, Katha, that Obama is being judged by his skin — and I agree it is a difficult thing to overcome because it cannot be ignored, but it must not matter. It’s a conundrum that dangerously seethes beneath the skin of his presidency.

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  4. That’s it, Gordon. He will never escape the color of his skin because some people will never forgive him for the terms of his birth. Having that sort of settled-in, comfortable, cultural, hatred is dangerous to every single one of us.
    When the Black designers attacked Michelle for being unfaithful to her skin — I thought it was the perfect counterpoint to the young Blacks that don’t see themselves in Obama — a sad, awful thing from every angle, but incredibly revealing for tactics and tone of the verbal and silent opposition from within.

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