The "De-Blackification" of Barack and Michelle Obama

I've been noticing a disturbing trend since Barack Obama locked up the nomination for President from the Democratic Party. I was trying not to read too much into it, but it's getting to the point now where I can't ignore it.

Before he was officially the "presumptive nominee" he would pretty regularly go on black radio stations to garner support from his "base." Since he has become the nominee, I have heard nothing but excitement about it from Tom Joyner and the people that call IN to Tom Joyner, but Obama has not made an appearance. Before someone says "but he's busy, and he's not running to be the President of Black America, he's running to be the President of the "United States Of America"" I know all that, and I was one of the first to bring up that point when Black people were upset that he wasn't going to Black events. At that time he was in a highly contested primary, and I believed he needed to get out and campaign so people could get to know him better.

But the primaries are over, have been for almost 2 weeks now.

Since he's locked up the nomination, he's done all sorts of townhalls, given all sorts of speeches, done "exclusive interviews" on the nightly news programs, but he has not found the time to call in to the TJMS.

Then there's Michelle, who is now getting her own personal war room, and going on shows like "The View" to "soften her image." The thing I loved about Michelle was that she wasn't necessarily a PC wife, she said what she really felt. This new Michelle isn't like the fiery Michelle I've seen before. Now you have so called "reputable" news organizations (well, FOX) calling her things like "Obama's Baby Mama" and an "angry Black woman" who "hates her country." I fully understand the need to combat these things, but I feel like her voice is going to be muted from now on. Even yesterday on The View, I didn't feel like it was the fiery Michelle that I loved even a couple of weeks ago. I understand the crowd she was trying to appeal to, and I'm not saying she wasn't being genuine, but something just felt different.

Today is Juneteenth, the African American version of Independence Day. I haven't heard anything on the subject from Barack Obama.

Sure, he went to a Black church on Sunday and gave a speech, which is largely being haled as a call to Black Men to be more involved in their children's lives. I agree totally with his message, but maybe he should have done a better job of making it clear that he wasn't only talking about BLACK men (even though it's a huge problem in the African American community). People are calling it his "sistah souljah" moment. Yes, I realize he's given the speech before, I've heard him say similar things before, but it just felt different. Again, I don't disagree with what he said, but considering he knew cameras were going to be there hanging on to his every word, he should have made the message seem more universal than it did.

And now he's released his first general election ad, and as I watched the ad the first time I noticed I was seeing a lot of white people. I didn't think I saw any Black people other than Obama, so I went back and watched the Ad again. This time I counted two Black people, but I had to search pretty hard to find them. Thinking my eyes were deceiving me I watched a THIRD time, and discovered they weren't. So the candidate that is all about diversity, and "one America" doesn't have any Black people in his ad, not in focus anyway. This, the day after the news "broke" that his campaign volunteers were telling Muslim women wearing their traditional headgear that they couldn't be seen on camera with Obama during the Gore endorsement. Of course the Obama "campaign" quickly apologized and then released a picture of him posing with a Muslim woman wearing traditional headgear, but that's about as persuasive to me as George Bush saying he doesn't hate Black people because he has a Black friend named Condoleeza Rice.

I'm really trying to NOT go there, but I'm starting to feel a little "used." Like we are only important in states where there are a lot of us, and even then only during the primary. I don't like this feeling, and I hope I'm proven wrong soon, but while he's so busy trying to get working class whites and Republicans, he's in danger of losing or demotivating his base. Every day a little more of that "new penny" shine wears off of him in my eyes.

They are so afraid of being painted as "scary" and "too black" that they are willing to make themselves look as white as possible without looking like they are "selling out." There was a report about a week ago about him telling people at a fundraiser that the GOP was going to try to paint him as too black and too scary. I hate to say it, but it looks like Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough are right, he is very sensitive to those types of attacks. For all of his rhetoric about the American people being smarter than that old style of politics, and ready to move on and elevate the political dialogue, I don't think he honestly believes that.

What is also disturbing to me is this trend of Obama supporters to say this type of behavior is acceptable because he HAS to get elected. Throughout the entire primary he preached about not playing these types of games to get elected, and yet here we are in the general, and he's playing these games just like every other politician. He's pandering. It may not be as blatant as the gas tax/oil drilling McCain is putting out there, but it's pandering nonetheless. The few Obama supporters that DO want to hold him accountable get treated like trash for questioning the "great" Barack Obama. But let McCain do some of this stuff, like two of his unpaid volunteers tell Black people not to sit behind him during a major campaign moment, and all hell would break lose among Obama supporters and "progressives."

The longer this goes on, the less I believe that Obama is anything other than the usual game player, only he's better at it because he makes people think he's not playing the game.

This blog is just my opinion, and I welcome your thoughts, but it's what I'm feeling right now.



Shanikka said...

Funny - I thought I was the only person who noticed about that ad. Indeed, the only Black face in it is during what I guess is a meeting of some kind - and it is quickly superimposed by the message "took people from welfare to work."

Thus, again, reinforcing a link between Black people and pathology, the message that whites need to hear to feel safe with him (withouth knowing they need to for the most part; the perniciousness of this racism thing is so deep, always, that virtually nobody means to feel this way, anymore). I guess I shouldn't complain because there was a dearth of Asians and Latinos in it too.

To watch folks squeal in delight over at DailyKOS reviewing it was really tough to take. And silencing, to me - I am too weary.

The only place we disagree is in our view that the "de-Blackification" has always been there in Barack Obama's campaign, with the notable exception of when he shifted strategy right before North Carolina, after polls showed he was losing the Black vote to Hillary Clinton and finally went into our communities to talk *to* us, instead of at us. It made the difference. The combination of that strategy and Michelle (*everyone* I know in the 'hood, 'burbs, you name it LOVES Michelle) was enough to cause lots of folks to say "We can WORK this thing!" and the rest is history: 80-95% of our votes in every remaining contest.

But now, he's back to same-old same old. I probably could handle that but for the apparently-forced changes being imposed on Michelle. That proves to me, sadly, that we can never be "non-threatening" enough, as Black people proud of Blackness. Because even innocuous pride like hers gets equated to advocating rioting and screaming "Black Power" -- which we all know causes even most liberal white people to pee their pants.

Muzikal203 said...

I wasn't saying that he's been doing that through the entire election, just in the past couple of weeks. And after he did so much to assimilate (for lack of a better word) into the African American community, for him to feel he has to distance himself from that part of himself to win an election is disheartening, and to me suggests he's just another politician willing to do anything to get elected.

Muzikal203 said...

Oh, and he didn't say anything about Juneteenth yesterday as far as I head, did anyone else hear different?

Shanikka said...

No, he said nothing.

Which is, of course, a change.

Muzikal203 said...

I guess that's the "change" we're supposed to believe in.

BlackLiterature said...

Amazing. I still contend that we(Black people) are harder on each other than any other group will ever be.

He is running for president. Not the Black president, but president. I don't see why he should take every speech, stump, etc... to remind us that he really is Black. We know, he knows and America knows.

I guess I'm not feeling that there is any sudden effort to distance himself at play here.

Muzikal203 said...

Did I say every speech? No. But lately it feels like he's taking the Black vote for granted, and too many of us are willing to allow him to NOT pay attention to us because he is Black and we're just so convinced he'll work for us if he gets in office. There is something to be said for accountability, and right now he has none in the African American community. He could denounce and reject all of us, and that would be okay with most of us because "the man has to get elected first." I'm sorry, but I don't agree with that premise. We all want attention, I'm not asking him to grow and Afro and run around singing "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm proud." but I also don't think that everytime we see him on TV he needs to be surrounded by white people.

But I guess we are still playing that game of inferiority where we need to be as close to White as we can get to be successful.

Antenna-ness said...

I noticted the lack of any one of color in Obama's ad and wondered, "what the". I'm used to not being represented in the others ads.

RS said...

Rather late in the day, perhaps, but reminds me of The Candidate.
If that's before your time ;-) here's a plot summary:

p.s. I am not much older, just have a thing for the movies :-)

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