Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Magical Negroes

Lookee-Lookee! We’re all saddling up (again, damnit?) for some racist boors who created a song that makes fun of President-Elect Barack Obama! The nerve of those poor-losers! But, before we rise and smite them, brothers and sisters, let us dutifully rouse ourselves by overdosing on cable news shows and blogs abou-tit, because somebody must be lambasting somebody right now!

Ohhh, see??? Folks made a parody, transforming “Puff, the Magic Dragon” into “Obama, the Magic Negro”. Terribly clever, don’t you think? Can I get that in a ring tone?

And, please take a moment to commiserate with Poor Peter Yarrow. Back in the hippie-dippie days, his song was banned because somebody misinterpreted it as a pro-marijuana-commie ballad, (Puff the Magic Drag-on! Isn’t it obvious what he was SAYING?) rather than a poignant tale about a boy and his imaginary friend. And, now this. The guy can’t catch a break.

Obama, the Magical Negro. At least “they” didn’t call him “Obama-the-Angry-Negro”, or somehow-worse, “Obama-the-Happy-Negro”. Then we’d all have to saddle up to battle the shade of Uncle Remus (Again? Oh, for cryin’ out loud. Next someone will be throwing Huck Finn on the bonfire). Zippa-dee-doo-dah! Zippa-dee-dayy! My O My … Sorry.

Yet, somehow not sorry enough not to ask: Are we horrified at the characterization of Obama as “Magical” (but he’s a Christian!), or do we protest the label ”Negro” (with the acres of water long flowed under that particular bridge)? Is it that the perpetrators are working from a mind-set situated somewhere on the amusement-disdain-disrespect-hatred continuum? Or, that we, standing at the threshold of some significant victory over the dark hatred that has ever sullied the American Dream, just aren’t going to tolerate any more racist shit?

Me? I can’t seem to get my panties in a twist over this one. Maybe it’s because this issue brings to mind a story told to me about a black theater professional who counseled the white teachers working in a predominantly black school, to develop their own tactics and relationships with their students, rather than relying on black peers –he called them “Magical Negroes” – to solve the hard problems. Was that an insult? Maybe it brings to mind prototypical Magical Negroes in literature and film (Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Denzel Washington – sorry I have to stop; I’m running out of room), who brought a magical wisdom to those who needed a new road in life. Was that an insult? Maybe it’s because I am a Negro, and have the audacity to find myself pretty damned Magical my own self. Is that arrogant? Good.

In fact, I’ll own that and raise you another, because I’m also a woman, complete with all the associated baggage stretching along a similar amusement-disdain-disrespect-hatred continuum. Hell, call me a “Magical Negress”. I think I’ll make T-shirts, and sell them right next to the ones that read, “DANGER! Educated Black Child!”


Because, for me, neither the words “magical” nor “negro” are slurs. Even when the RNC issues an
apology over the flap: "We do not want one ill-considered song parody to create the wrong impression. The Republican Party has always been, and will always be, the friend of the negro." then amended the apology with: “"It has come to our attention that we misused a word in our first apology. We should have capitalized 'Negro.'"

I could not magically make this stuff up.

Isn’t it clear? What is needed is not for some perceived enemy-“they” to recognize “us” as good. What is needed is for “us” to acknowledge (finally, publicly) “us-all” as good. Whatever our magical aptitude. Whatever our origin. “We-all” who spend our time and sweat and souls transforming the world in excruciatingly little ways each day. “We-all” who raise a candle, rather than a pipe bomb. “We-all” who shrug nonsense off. Like silly parodies.

And, if someone comes along with magical ambition to cast a big ol’ world-wide spell? Let me know; I’ll be happy to lend him my magic wand.

Now, put that in your bong, and smoke it.


Maryanne said...

I heard this song mentioned on NPR the other day, that RL and ilk are playing it on their radio programs. Yes it is racist crap.

Why are those that are playing this on major media outlets not being censured or banned, such as Imus with his racist comments? I hope that it is that most of us don't care, that this kind of desperate idiocy from those who need the ratings, can be expected and dismissed. And, rather than give them the attention they crave, we ignore it.

Yes we can.

Lori Skoog said...

Fe....I have not heard about this yet! Stick to your guns woman! Don't accept any of this manure...EVER.
You must get so tired of this.

CoyoteFe said...

Happy New Year, Maryanne!

I'd rather "they" spew their crap uncensored. That way, "we" can see tehm for what they are. And, avoid them. And snicker. :-)

Lori! Happy New Year to you!

I do not get tired, but for some reason, I am always surprised. Screw 'em, Sister. "We" are much too brilliant to be darkened by the likes of "them".

One Red Horse said...

This is such a great post - been wanting to respond for the last few days. How ironic that the Republican Party's website lists "ensuring equal treatment for all" as a core party value. Betcha that the GOP's equal treatment for all and my concepts of social justice are two very different things. Somehow, throughout the last election, the far right's sense of self-monitoring (always limited) got turned off. The ole GOP is unraveling and its mask of bullshit is falling away to reveal the nastiness inside. One of the most vile nasties is their blatant racist, white supremist core. Your reframe of "magical negro" was a powerful one Fe.

Happy New Year from Humboldt County


CoyoteFe said...

Hallooo, Cherie!

Maybe we could be consultants for the republican committeee (Come toward the light. Keep walking. Come toward ...) Ha!

I think the self-monitoring has been turned off for quite some time, but to be fair, it's probably an affliction of the powerful, rather than just the right. Yet, every once in a while, we seem to choose justice over power, and I am hoping now is one of those times!