Is Barack Obama Liberal America’s long awaited Magic Negro?
Senator Joe Biden made headlines recently by referring to "black" presidential hopeful Barack Obama as "clean, articulate," and "nice looking," which for some reason insulted black people. May we presume that any praise from a white guy is anathema to a black politician? Alternately, can we then suppose that if Biden had referred to Barack as a slimy, dirty, grammatically-challenged thug he would have gotten a laurel from Al Sharpton? Can Barack establish his ‘street creds’ by showing up on TV wearing a ball cap backwards and with baggy pants hanging so low as to show the crack of his ass and slaughtering the King's English? It's doubtful that any of that really matters. Barack's pedigree as a viable black with ‘street creds’ is forever ruined; the dude has a snow for a mamma.
But that controversy faded to black (pun intended) with the recent publication of an opinion piece in the LA Times by David don’t-let-the-name-fool-you, he's-black, not-a-Jew Ehrenstein. Mr. Ehrenstein mused aloud that Barack Obama fit the profile of the long-awaited Magic Negro. And what is a Magic Negro? According to that fount of digital information, Wikipedia, the Magic Negro is . . .
. . . a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist . . . "
A Magic Negro is sort of a politically correct Liberal messiah. That is, the MN is essentially an idealized black person who is comprised of the deeply-rooted reactionary collective-guilt-born racial prejudices of liberals.
To truly understand what a Magic Negro is, and his appeal to liberals, we must first look at how "Negroes" are perceived by the different political elements in America.
While reasonable Americans (Neo cons and Libertarians, of course) accept blacks as fully dimensional beings capable of the total range of human achievement and, conversely, the total range of human depravity, liberals have a sense of personal guilt which prevents them from accepting the latter. Therefore, if the Negro does something bad, it is merely a reaction to the way "the man" has treated him historically; if a Negro fails academically due to personal lack of application to study, then the study material is prejudiced and not applicable to his cultural heritage; if a Negro youth is constantly in trouble, has problems with authority, it is because the white man simply doesn't understand how do deal properly with his cultural paradigm; if a Negro doesn't get a hoped for raise or promotion, it is institutional racism at work, and so on ad infinitum. Hence, to a liberal, When things go wrong, the Negro never has personal responsibility for his plight. He is forever a child-like figure, hence incapable of responsibility. (The Magic Negro often expresses this child-like innocence.)
To a liberal, an actual Negro is as mysterious as a Gypsy. Plus, like Gypsies, Negroes can dance and sing the night away and don't seem to have a care in the world – save worrying about neo-con racism – and have a sexual aurora about them. Rooted in the superstitious soil of mother Africa, the Negro has a legacy of dark witchcraft, and is capable of communing with the telluric currents of Gaea, the earth mother. He knows things that are inaccessible to the white man and, whether in the verdant jungles of Africa or an inner city housing project, is able to express his primal feelings through rhythmic executions on the drum.
Therefore, while conservatives accept black people as capable of being presidential advisors, nuclear scientists, doctors, lawyers, taxi cab driver, and janitors – as well as basketball players, thugs, tenured felons, illiterates, welfare leeches, and ho’s – liberals actually hold to the not-often-expressed prejudice that Negroes are children who can only survive with the fiscal support and moral guidance of wise white liberals. Naturally, for the fullest expression of liberal philosophy of the Magic Negro in action, we turn to the arts, specifically, literature and its bastard child, the cinema.
In Hollywood, the black maid, janitor, workmate, or neighbor is a font of information, a beneficent repository of philosophy and spiritual guidance, just waiting to be tapped on the shoulder so they can step in and steer their uptight white acquaintance to the light. Think of Queen Latifah, Whoopie Goldberg, Will Smith, or Sinbad as a source of spiritual guidance who will also counsel you on fashion, hip speech, and how to dance. Listen to them, and you will be much cooler . . . though you still wouldn't want to walk in a housing project after dark. Anyway, it's a sure bet that most liberals wouldn't be found dead in an inner city housing project after dark ( in fact, if they were in the average inner city housing project after dark, they would most likely be found dead) – nor likely to vacation in beautiful downtown Mogadishu.
As Ehrenstein says, the Magic Negro archetype, which is embodied in such films as "The Shining," "Lilies Of The Field," "Seven," " To Sir With Love," and so on (and in too many Stephen King books), serves the purpose of allowing the white liberal to replace the stereotype of the "dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest." Though the Magic Negro is antithetical to the classic "bad nigger," stereotype, it is no less stereotypical.
And this, according to Ehrenstein, is the appeal of Obama: he appears suddenly and, out of the sheer goodness of his heart – which we don't need to understand – is there to help us. Furthermore, "the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes," since if he were real America (white liberal America, that is) would not be able to "project . . . it’s fantasies of curative black benevolence on him."
What are Barack’s top ten qualifications as the Magic Negro?
He’s neat and clean
He has good elocution
He doesn't sing out loud in public
He is capable of endlessly spouting feel-good say-nothing platitudes
He can be called by the alternate (and white-accessible) name of "Barry Obama"
He looks acceptable in a bathing suit – something Snoop Dog could never hope to do
He has never claimed to have spit in white-people's salads as Jesse Jackson did
He appeared from virtually nowhere and without an extensive criminal record
He doesn't have a processed "do" like Al Sharpton
He never appears in public weaning his pants lower than the crack of his ass and never refers to his wife as his ‘bitch’ or ‘ho’ in public