Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Race & Politics: 21st Century Style

May 10, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Race is and will continue to be an issue that we all must grapple with in America. Regardless of your economic or social status in our great country, the question of race permeates everything we do.

The euphoria around the meteoric rise of Senator Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign has caught the nation by storm. He has drawn large and enthusiastic crowds on the campaign trail, and his presence in this campaign has changed the electoral landscape in this country. Who would have thought in these times of cynicism and negativity that someone would capture the imagination of a large part of the electorate and the establishment media? Clearly his story is one of hard work and opportunity given and taken. His racial make up has made the story even more compelling, and the complex nature of race in America has taken center stage.

The recent announcement that Senator Barack Obama will now receive Secret Service Protection is not a surprise to many. As a front-runner and a person of color, it was only a matter of time before threats and concerns about his personal and family safety would arise. The major media outlets took a more matter-of-fact look at this situation to avoid adding a racial element to the story.

Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and other African American elected officials live with threats and slurs directed towards them via mail, phone calls, and emails everyday. The fact that people exist who would want to hurt or stop Senator Obama’s or any other African American elected officials comes as no surprise. These types of threats and activities unfortunately shape the lives of many of our public officials of all races. Clearly the effort to protect him or anyone else goes far beyond race. But it is a very real problem.

Recently, the focus has been centered on a parody played repeatedly by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called “Barack the Magic Negro”, which is sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon”. The song is intended to make fun of the popularity of Senator Obama within the white community, and mock the lukewarm response to Senator Obama by the traditional African American leadership. The parody has been running since March 2007, and at that time no one in the mainstream media gave the story any airtime. It seemed as if no one wanted to anger or agitate Limbaugh.

Now, it appears that things are starting to heat up between the major media outlets and Limbaugh now. The story and the song have become an issue. Coming on the heels of Imus and Secret Service protection for Senator Obama, new questions arise concerning what is and what is not appropriate language when it comes to the issues of race.

With Senator Obama as a major political figure, political humor and personal attacks go with the territory. Limbaugh understands this, and he is straddling the line to see if anyone forces him back. The underlying issue of this parody now, after the Imus controversy seems to be a subtle move to get back at Reverend Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson and other African American leaders who were involved in the firing of Imus. Clearly, this parody is Limbaugh’s call to both Reverends Sharpton and Jackson, and his effort to engage them. He appears to be waiting for someone or group to confront him and is pleading with them to step into the ring with him.

Limbaugh realizes parodies of this nature energizes his loyal listeners and supporters (called Dittoheads), increases the number of listeners for his show, which increases his ratings. He is not stupid, and he has used his bully pulpit to influence elections and policy. He is unapologetic about his conservative zeal and has no problem using his platform to espouse his beliefs and ideas. His power over the airwaves as of right now, is both unrivaled and undisputed.

The real question is who will confront him about this song, and his total lack of concern about offending African Americans, and how will it play out both in the media and politically. Clearly, Limbaugh does not care about any perceived “political correctness” or “liberal” backlash, and he seems to be preparing for a long hard battle.

Once again, Race in America is an issue.

Election 2008 is going to be a very interesting year.

By Leroy Jones, Jr.

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