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“Black and Right”: Conservative Variation’s On High School

So much of politics can be described as an elaborate game of “I know you are, but what am I?” One side makes an attack, and the other side tries to mirror or echo it. For a prime example of this, look no further than yesterday’s attempt by conservative bloggers to turn a five-year-old Barack Obama speech into a campaign scandal, following the “47 percent” video that has inflicted huge damage on Mitt Romney’s campaign.

In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama spoke to students at Hampton University, where he discussed the alienation felt by lower-income African Americans and others in inner cities. He critiqued the federal government for its poor response during Hurricane Katrina, while also emphasizing ways in which the black community could improve itself. For Obama, this was boilerplate. The thing that made it interesting—for the right’s purposes, at least—was the fact that Obama slipped into an African American accent during the speech. If you pay attention to politicians at all, you know this isn’t unusual. When George W. Bush talked to Southern Evangelicals, he dropped his “g’s” and added a little twang to his voice. Likewise, when Hillary Clinton spoke to black audiences during the 2008 primaries, she sometimes began to mimic a preacher’s cadence. It happens, and it usually becomes an occasion for good-natured ribbing.

For Matt Drudge, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity & Associates, however, Obama’s accent was evidence of his racial “divisiveness” and contempt for ordinary Americans. Here’s how Carlson saw the speech: “He’s saying: ‘They don’t like you’ because they are black. That is the theme of the speech from front to back, from beginning to end: ‘They don’t like you because of your skin color.’ And that is a shockingly— that’s a nasty thing to say. It’s a divisive thing to say. It’s a demagogic thing to say.”

Anyone who has watched or listened to the speech will tell you that this is the opposite of what Obama said. The dominant tone, in fact, sounded like this: “We can diminish poverty if we approach it in two ways: by taking mutual responsibility for each other as a society, and also by asking for some more individual responsibility to strengthen our families.”

To many on the right, it seems, there’s no way that a black person can talk to other black people without being “divisive.” It’s as if they’re angry at the fact that sometimes, African Americans say things to each other, for each other. If the political world is a variation on high school, then conservatives are the people asking—every day—”Why are the black kids all sitting together at lunch?”

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, October 3, 2012

October 4, 2012 - Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , ,

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