The unseen hands manipulating the message of this election year are the gloved appendages of racism and white privilege. Until recently, people of color and white liberals have been scratching their heads and wondering, “Is it just me or is there a racist element to the campaign themes being espoused by the GOP?” With the introduction of a new attack ad the gloves may have come off. According to KMOV.com in St. Louis, American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-linked group is out with a new web video attacking President Obama as more focused on being "cool" than attending to the serious business of running the country.
The spot shows the “President dancing with Ellen DeGeneres, criticizing Kanye West, slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon, drinking a beer, and singing an Al Green song." The words emblazoned on the images of a “too cool Obama” proclaim “Four years ago, America elected the biggest celebrity in the world. And America got one cool president. But after four years of a celebrity president, one in two recent college grads are jobless or underemployed. Eighty-five percent [of them] are moving back in with their parents. Student loan debt exceeds one trillion dollars. After four years of a celebrity president, is your life any better?"
Let’s try a little experiment. Read the previous paragraph again and substitute the word “black” for the word “celebrity.” Now go and watch the ad at The Last Word, “Oh yeah,” is spoken in the goose bump inducing bass voice of Melvin Franklin of the Temptations, and is interjected four times in the forty-five second ad. The afro-centric ambiance of the ad subliminally suggests, “The black President is too busy being cool to do his job. He is too black too take his responsibilities seriously. He is all flash and no substance.” Now where have we heard those stereotypes before?
Who does this ad target? White youth and women are in the crosshairs of this effort. The message is clear, “He may be fun kids, and he may ooze sex appeal ladies, but he can’t be trusted to do his job.” Although the ad was just released at the end of April, it has already produced some unintended consequences. If its primary purpose was to indoctrinate a new generation with fear and prejudice, it may have missed its mark.
“I thought it was one of the worst commercials, in terms of what they were trying to do, that I’ve ever seen,” Donald Trump declared during an unscheduled call into MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” according to Politico. “They are making Obama look great. They are making him look like that’s the man we want to be president. I looked at that clip very closely, and actually, I couldn’t believe it.”
So what did you think that American Crossroads is “trying to do” Mr. Trump?
Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour also commented on the ad during an April 27, 2012 interview with Andrea Mitchell who asked the Governor, “What’s wrong with all those cultural references in the ad?” Barbour responded by saying, “I don’t think there is a thing in the world wrong with any of them except that it brings back to Americans that here is a President who is all talk, all cool, sounds good and tries to be popular with everybody, but it’s his failed policies that the American people are worried about.”
Really, Governor Barbour? There is nothing wrong with these images except that it tells Americans that black folks are irresponsible?
Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist and author describes this dilemma well in the “Open Letter to the White Right” posted on his website. “I know, you think you’ve taken “your country back” with this election — and of course you have always thought it was yours for the taking, cuz that’s what we white folks are bred to believe, that it’s ours, and how dare anyone else say otherwise.
The “Super Fly Obama” whose behavior is beneath the dignity of the White house involves one more attempt at the mystification process that has been at play in America since the days of slavery and segregation. The not so subtle message here is that white folks need to remain in charge if we are to progress as a nation. Check out the American Crossroads website and you will find that the organization’s goal is to influence the election so that, “In 2012, America will choose between President Obama’s politics of permanent decline and a new era of strength, security, and growth.” That’s right. You give black people something nice and they just tear it up.
Despite the fact that it is never mentioned that our President is black, every standard stereotype coined about African-Americans over the last two centuries is being brought to bear in his opponents’ depiction of him. Sadly, this practice of racially tinged disrespect will not confine itself to the political arena. Poison like this tends to seep out into every crack and crevice of American thinking. It provides a way to imply that black folks in general shouldn’t be trusted without actually having to come right out and say it. It alludes to the fact that black people are wasteful, incompetent, lazy, and hedonistic. The implication can be extrapolated out to one’s black employees, neighbors, coworkers, and friends.
Not only are black people too cool for school, but they are too cool to work, or to be self-sufficient, or responsible. Don’t let their likeability fool you for it is just a siren song. It is reminiscent of the 1950’s when black entertainers were forced to avert their gaze from the audience lest white women would be swept away by their wicked allure.
Wouldn’t it be humorous if Donald Trump was right? Despite their sinister plan to evoke fear and disgust could Karl Rove and his cronies actually have improved the President’s chances with young voters and women? Does the ad merely highlight the humanness of the Democratic candidate in sharp contrast to the Republican candidate who is left to wonder, “Why don’t the peons like me?” We certainly hope so.