Three Mexicans Walk Into a Bar. . .
Ok, that’s not the sort of racial humor we’re into, but we did decide to keep the blog super light THIS WEEK. After months and months of bringing you disturbing examples of American bigotry and racism, we offer some fun.
It’s important that we understand exactly why the items we include below are funny and why we are comfortable putting them forth in this space. First, while we are quite far from achieving racial equality or eliminating racial prejudice in America, there is certainly cause for celebration after white voters did not succumb to deep-seated resentment at the level that we expected on Election Day. So we’re giving ourselves permission to chill out a bit. A second (related) point is that we laugh with full knowledge that the ugly reality that undergirds each of these pieces is waiting for all of us on the other side of the joke. Barack Obama’s presidency will have a gigantic net favorable impact on race relations in America over the long term. But in the short term, there will be a level of psychological divisiveness with respect to race that we have not seen in decades.
Consider, for instance, this quote by Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, who sought reelection this year. Because Georgia (wisely, we feel) requires a majority of votes for electoral victory (as opposed to a mere plurality), Chambliss will face Democrat Jim Martin in a runoff election next month. When asked on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes (watch the clip below) why he wasn’t able to secure an outright majority on Election Day, Chambliss had this to say:
There was a high percentage of minority vote, and I am tickled to death that as many Georgians as did examined their right to vote. That’s what make our election process the envy of the whole free world, but we weren’t able to get enough of our folks out on Election Day.All-righty then.
Chambliss could certainly have been referring to Republicans or simply to his own supporters when he referenced “our folks,” but given the proximity to his acknowledgement about the high number of minority voters in Georgia, it is clear that he was distinguishing “our folks” from minorities. We will certainly see much more of this “us versus them” mindset rise to the surface over the coming months. For our part, we will be examining the extent to which Whites strive to avoid or combat that tendency publicly. (Thanks to loyal TWIR reader Dr. Kevan Yenerall for forwarding this story to us.)
Daily Dose of Humor
Not surprisingly, Jon Stewart has not been afraid of highlighting race as an issue in the aftermath of Obama’s victory anymore than he was during the campaign. In the days since the election, The Daily Show crew has offered a number of hilarious takes on what it means to have the first Black president.
Black Liberal Guilt
The Daily Show’s Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore is deadpan in his admission that not only are Whites and Blacks are “square,” but that the real lesson to be learned from Obama’s win is that interracial relationships benefit everyone. But when he turns his attention to the ways so many White progressives have allowed their concern for racial inequality to be manifest in condescension, he hits the proverbial nail quite uncomfortably on the head. Take a look:
Takin’ It to the Streets
Race Project research assistant Sidra Hamidi alerted us to this Daily Show tidbit from earlier in the week. Here, Stewart points out the unfortunate comparison made by CNN’s affable correspondent Jeanne Moos as she reported on Obama’s motorcade’s trip to Washington, DC. If McCain would have won the election, her reference to O.J. Simpson as the helicopter cameras followed the SUVs would not have caught our (or Stewart’s) attention. As it happens, however. . .
(The relevant section begins at about the 4:45 mark of this video.)
“But It’s Different”
If The Daily Show writers were quick to point their mocking little fingers at patronizing Whites through Larry Wilmore’s commentary (above), they were even more hostile (appropriately so, in our view) toward African Americans who voted to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples in California. The dynamic of “oppressee becoming oppressor” is not new, of course: ethnic minorities from Western Europe were among the most openly bigoted against Blacks in the first half of the 20th century as the former began to assimilate into the mainstream of American social and economic (if not yet political) life. After being granted suffrage, White women did not uniformly turn their attention toward rectifying the ills of racial oppression, and Black churches have long featured some of the most homophobic attitudes in America. The cruel reality of anti-gay bigotry is highlighted, though, by the suggestion that one of the reasons Proposition 8 passed was because of the increased turnout of African Americans to the polls so that they could signal a defeat of one form of oppression (electing the first Black president), only to participate in another. Watch here to see Stewart’s comic outrage:
Fear of a Black President (1980s version)
Finally, the folks at Gawker.com cleverly posted this video of Eddie Murphy from 1983 (you remember Delirious, right – the red leather suit?) joking about the first Black president (after he referred to Chicago’s first and still only Black mayor, Harold Washington, as “that boy”). Murphy joked (watch below) that Jesse Jackson could win because White people (who might even get drunk before heading to the polls) like to vote for the “wrong” person as a “goof.” Of course, as the folks at Gawker point out, a good piece of the “humor”in this bit is the reality of how many people would be interested in assassinating the first Black president. It’s a sobering thought, of course, but as is the case with all great comics (and Murphy in his prime was certainly among the greatest), we are encouraged to soothe our fears with a good laugh now and again.
Consider, also, this Richard Pryor skit about the first Black president. In it, he notes that one of his priorities is to have more Black quarterbacks in the NFL, as well as more Black coaches and team owners. While there has been a proliferation of Black NFL quarterbacks in the past decade and the number of Black head coaches has risen slowly (the 10th Black head coach in NFL history assumed control of his team last month), there are still no Black owners. Further, a report released THIS WEEK shows that the number of African American head coaches in Division I-A college football is at its lowest point in 15 years (only four of the 119 schools have a Black head coach; nearly half of the players are Black).
Perhaps the most prescient element in Pryor’s routine, though, is the suggestion that the first Black president will use that position to “court White women.” Not only does this humor strike hard against the now-unspoken concern, which runs back to the arrival of the first slave ships, that Black men are looking to “violate” White women (perhaps Chambliss would refer to them as “our White women?”), but it brings us full circle from the first comedic piece we posted (above), where Larry Wilmore joked that Obama’s victory was partly the result of Obama’s Black father having “hooked up” with a White woman. It also reminds us about how the Republican National Committee played on resentments of Black men being intimate with White women in its discraceful 2006 attack ad against Harold Ford, Jr. in his bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. Click the photo below to view the ad.
Of course, at the end of Pryor’s piece, the president attacks a reporter for talking about his mama. We’re going to go out on a limb and advise you not hold your breath waiting for that to happen in Barack Obama’s White House.
Major Overhaul of RaceProject.org
Many of you have already heard via Facebook or a direct email from one of us (or both of us – sorry if that was you!), but we want to be sure that everyone is aware of the massive revisions that have been made to the website home of The Project on Race in Political Communication. The full list of updates is too lengthy to print here, but it includes:
- a greatly expanded “resources” page
- detailed information about booking one or both of us for an appearance
- an updated “press room” with links to our print and broadcast appearances and an updated “studies and data” page with links to our publications and scholarly presentations
- more biographical information than you can imagine (or want) for each of us
- a video archive of some classic and contemporary clips relating to race and politics
- some nifty bells and whistles like the addition of a RaceProject “favicon” so that when you bookmark or navigate to RaceProject.org or TWIR, you’ll see the RaceProject logo in the navigation tab and address bar of your browser. (Look up now – is it there? If not, you may have to clear your cache and restart your browser to get the full effect.)