This is how the whole thing started.
David Ehrenstein, a writer who happens to be black and liberal, wrote an opinion piece in March 2007 in the Los Angeles Times called "Obama the 'Magic Negro.'"
He argued that whites, according to sociologists, stereotype blacks as "dangerous." But whites consider Obama accessible, likeable and "benign." This, according to Ehrenstein, explains Obama's "crossover" appeal.
The article insults a) Obama, by virtually ignoring his effectiveness as a candidate, b) whites, by accusing them of voting for Obama merely to assuage their own guilt, and c) Sidney Poitier, the brilliant, groundbreaking actor, for ascribing his success to whites who find him safe and non-threatening.
The article produced virtually no outcry.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh then aired a song parody --set to the music of "Puff the Magic Dragon" -- called "Barack the Magic Negro." Referring to the L.A. Times article, an Al Sharpton-like "singer" called Obama inauthentically black. Why, complained the singer, should white folks vote for Obama rather than a true black man "from the hood" like -- me.
Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent the song on a CD with 40 other songs, in a Christmas mailer to committee members. Doesn't the mailer, asked several cable news programs, expose the Republicans -- yet again -- for their tone deafness on the issue of race? CNN host Anderson Cooper asked about the term "Negro." Isn't it pejorative?
Never mind the parody actually satirized Al Sharpton. The song implies that Sharpton hoped against an Obama victory, for it crushes Sharpton's argument about America's alleged institutional racism, a force so potent in a country so racist that Obama could not win. An Obama win threatens to reduce the significance of Sharpton-like black leaders. And never mind a black liberal -- who started the whole thing -- called Obama a "Negro."
When will the GOP -- on the issue of race -- go on the offense?
After all, for 100 years, the Democratic Party showed its tone deafness to the rights of blacks. Democrats opposed the 13th Amendment (freeing the slaves), the 14th Amendment (making ex-slaves citizens) and the 15th Amendment (that, on paper at least, gave blacks the right to vote). Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan -- some even call it the "terrorist wing of the Democratic Party." And a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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