Tags: obama | parody | la | times

Obama 'Magic Negro' Parody Started at LA Times

Monday, 29 Dec 2008 10:09 AM

By Phil Brennan

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Liberal outrage over a ditty that parodied Barack Obama's identity as a black American ignores the fact that it all began with a Los Angeles Times column by a black liberal columnist who questioned Obama's status as an authentic African-American.

Liberals were not alone in expressing anger. The chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) Robert M. Duncan, obviously unaware of the parody’s origin, jumped the gun saying he was “shocked and appalled” at the judgment of one of his potential successors, according to the Associated Press.

Duncan castigated former Tennessee GOP leader Chip Saltsman for sending RNC committee members a Christmas CD featuring a 2007 song called “Barack the Magic Negro.” But David Ehrenstein, a black liberal writer and no friend of Obama's, is the one who first wrote of Obama as a "Magic Negro," in a March 2007 Times column in which he argued that white liberals were portraying Obama as a stereotype.

He likened Obama to “warm and unthreatening” black figures such as actors Sidney Poitier and Morgan Freeman. Ehrenstein insisted that Obama's role as a candidate was "to assuage white 'guilt' over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history".

"As everyone knows, whites feel no guilt about America's racist history whatsoever," Ehrenstein wrote, according to the Washington Post. "All they care about is the appearance of politesse — the slimy veneer of 'good manners.'"

"Obama's fame," wrote Ehrenstein, is about "his manner, which, as presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden ham-fistedly reminded us, is 'articulate.' His tone is always genial, his voice warm and unthreatening, and he hasn't called his opponents names (despite being baited by the media).

"Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him."

The song, "Barack the Magic Negro," sung by satirist Paul Shanklin, who wrote the parody, was a direct result of Ehrenstein's column. That's where the "Magic Negro" term originated

It was played on the Rush Limbaugh show last year. According to The Telegraph UK, Shanklin plays the Reverend Al Sharpton who he has complaining, " 'Barack the Magic Negro' ... is not authentic like me ... and a guy from the LA paper said he made guilty whites feel good, they'll vote for him but not for me because he's not from the 'hood."

"See, real black men, like Snoop Dogg, or me, or Farrakhan, have talked the talk, and walked the walk, not come in late and won."

The ditty is one of 41 Shanklin songs on a CD titled "We Hate the USA' that Chip Saltsman, Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign manager, sent to RNC members. Saltzman is a candidate for the post of Republican National Committee chairman.

In Saltsman's defense, he described the parody as one of several "lighthearted political parodies" that have been featured on talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh's show.

Ehrenstein, a homosexual, also takes issue with Obama on gay rights. In October 2007, Ehrenstein "attacked Obama for his handling of gay rights issues," according to the Washington Post, and he had even harsher words for his selection of Pastor Rick Warren to lead his inauguration prayer.

At the end of Ehrenstein's blog post, he even says about Obama, "as he's made clear through Warrengate, he's certainly not MY President."

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