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Sunday
May032009

Barack is NOT your "Magic Negro" - Chris "Preach" Smith

I had waited an entire lifetime for this moment. Even enduring a couple of frigid hours traversing the streets among hundreds of people wasn’t going to put a damper on this day. For here, in that crisp chill of a January morning, I stood among two million people who clogged the heart of Washington DC to witness Barack Hussein Obama become the 44th President of the United States. In some ways, it is still a surreal feeling to see a Black man as the leader of the free world, even more so when you consider that more than ten years ago in this same nation, a black man by the name of James Byrd was dragged behind a truck to his death on a dirt road in Texas. And even going back as little as two years ago with the tragedy of Sean Bell in Jamaica, Queens. But this day represented people of color reaching a summit once thought impossible. 


Obama has been elevated to messiah-like status, partially due to the workings of his campaign, but also due to eight years of abject misery under the previous administration. And it is that image which has to be respected but ultimately ignored. Why? Because Barack Obama cannot and should not be tagged with the burden of being the ‘Magic Negro’.

Now you’ve probably heard this term as much as you’ve seen it displayed on television and film. From Huckleberry Finn’s Jim to ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, the ‘Magic Negro’ is an image and an idea that certain cross-sections of America (and to some degree, the world) could still view people of color in a way that was non-threatening and even highly beneficial to them. Provocative and ultimately denigrating, this has been attached to Barack Obama as he has begun his own administration. And as he has finished his first 100 days in office, there are some who feel disenchanted with him now.

A recent example is the absurd sentiment that surrounded the ‘tea parties’ that protested tax measures imposed by the government. It became more pointed at the belief that Obama betrayed them. If you tune into Fox News, it’s as if he has become a source of betrayal for those who haven’t experienced an immediate 360 degree change. 

The bottom line is this: for Obama to be successful ultimately, and for this country to heal and grow, as it should, such a viewpoint needs to be abandoned. If you’re griping that he hasn’t legalized marijuana in California even though he closed Gitanimo Bay and has made other significant strides where he could, then you may need to take your political viewpoints out of the adolescent stages. And let Penn and Teller perform the magic tricks. I heard they’ll be backing up Joseph Lieberman at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

[Photograph: (c) Brennan Linsley/AP]

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