Oprah’s been campaigning for Obama. I watched them Saturday and got chills! Oprah was visibly nervous. She kept slipping into a Southern accent. I’m not saying she would sound unprofessional; more like a professional black Southerner. Obama didn’t lay out any policy objectives. He didn’t run through specifics on foreign policy or tax reform or what he’d do with FEMA. He did mention raising minimum wage EVERY year to keep up with inflation. That’s an idea I like, especially since those working minimum wage jobs are disproportionately people of color and single mothers. What he DID talk about was campaigning to win as opposed to campaigning not to lose, campaigning scared. He talked about leading from progressive principles and not polls (smack to Clinton, of course.) Even Oprah took a shot at Clinton! I laughed at that. If Oprah is openly dismissing “experience,” you know “experience” can’t be that great.
So, why am I making this post. Yes, I support Obama and will support the Democratic candidate no matter who that becomes. But, I’m getting a little frustrated with this whole notion of who is and who isn’t authentically black.
I understood the question of whether or not Obama is black enough. To be sure, the question was raised by two black neocons (I can find the article naming them if requested to do so), but I understood. The question is about whether he knows that, “It be cold outside,” refers to the winter season, not any one day in particular. It’s not about whether he prefers fried chicken to steamed halibut. The question was really concerning his own sense of relatedness to the black community at large. The black community is not going to support anyone who’s black just because s/he’s black; we want them to self-identify with our common struggles. How, for instance, do you deal with the racism your school child will experience without provoking racism against whites or stoking low self-esteem.
So, essentially, I didn’t have any problems with that question. I took issue with white pundits discussing it amongst themselves as though they can read the minds of black folks (hint, hint Tucker Carlson). But I expected African Americans to be discussing this in beauty and barber shops, church parking lots, family cookouts.. What bothers me is the claim that Bill Clinton is blacker than Barack, that Hillary is blacker than Oprah.
Please!! Bill blacker than Barack, Hill blacker than O? Not in a million years and a day.
So, we have to be honest here about the issue of blackness. Granted, I think Oprah can tend towards elitism at times, but even her occasional elitism harkens back to pre60s racial uplift. I definitely don’t share similarities in musical tastes with Oprah. She likes country, and I can hardly stand it. Neither of us enjoy mainstreamed rap, that’s rap as opposed to hip hop, but that’s a whole nother issue. Suffice it to say, not only does Oprah pass an admittedly subjective measure of blackness; I think she’s being her authentic self. By that I mean, I don’t believe she “acts white” or hides her true self for the sake her career.
Now, that said, black folks and some white folks know full well that if Obama ran as a “brother,” he wouldn’t have a chance. The American majority prides itself on electing presidents that represent all of America, regardless of the actual fact of the matter; and, they WILL NOT stand for someone who’s only president of Black America. Obama can only explicitly say but so much as it concerns race issues. He can talk about improving education; he can’t harp only on urban education. He can talk about raising the minimum wage; he can’t talk about the disproportionately poor black community. He just can’t take that risk. On the other hand, both Clintons can speak explicitly to racial issues. They’re white! No one fears they’ll represent Black America and not the “United” States thereof.
Another issue that concerns me is that polls are showing some class splitting within Black American. Different economic classes hold different values. I will probably explain my position better in a later posting. Suffice it to say that unless and until I’m not catching flack for what others of my sistahs are doing or not doing, we are all in the same boat!
Oprah and Michelle