26 August 2012

Fear of a Black President

Living national treasure Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a vitally important meditation on race politics and Obama, Fear of a Black President. It's long, everyone in the US should read it, and I hesitate to quote it because it's a read-the-whole-thing kind of thing. But here's a taste:

Thus, in hard jest, the paradoxes and problems of a theoretical black presidency were given voice. Racism would not allow a black president. Nor would a blackness, forged by America’s democratic double-talk, that was too ghetto and raw for the refinement of the Oval Office. Just beneath the humor lurked a resonant pain, the scars of history, an aching doubt rooted in the belief that “they” would never accept us. And so in our Harlems and Paradise Valleys, we invoked a black presidency the way a legion of 5-foot point guards might invoke the dunk—as evidence of some great cosmic injustice, weighty in its import, out of reach.

And yet Spud Webb lives.

When presidential candidate Barack Obama presented himself to the black community, he was not to be believed. It strained credulity to think that a man sporting the same rigorously managed haircut as Jay-Z, a man who was a hard-core pickup basketball player, and who was married to a dark-skinned black woman from the South Side, could coax large numbers of white voters into the booth.

Go read it.

Bonus: Up With Chris Hayes has a panel discussion about the essay featuring an awesome line-up of panelists: Coates, Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry, W. Kamau Bell, and Jay Smooth.

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