"Negro, Do You Know Who I Am?"

As I watched the predictable news pundit responses tonight about McCain’s Mississippi Maneuver, I was snatched back to the first of the year, when something between Obama and an agitated press corp made me compare Barack Obama’s reactions when provoked to the classic performances by Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and In The Heat Of The Night. Poitier’s characters acted as the moral authority in these pictures, rebuking prejudice through the only stance a black man could take in a movie in those days – coolly restrained rage crossed with a furious sense of righteousness.

There is a heightened level of agitation I am seeing, not just in John McCain, but in a large section of the American population, a visible anxiety about Barack Obama’s ever growing support that is now threatening to ratchet itself up to the next level – an outright racially based fear that these particular white Americans who say they support John McCain and Sarah Palin can’t seem to escape.

At the press conference he held yesterday to announce he was suspending his campaign to help his fellow senators wrestle with the Wall Street bailout plan, McCain’s eyes and his facial expressions told me what you already know - that his defiant stance was being backed by millions of his supporters, who had long been waiting for McCain to "show that uppity Negro" who was really in charge here. The way he looked at the camera when he said “I informed Obama of what I planned to do,” I could see his brain ticking – "negro, don’t you know who I am?"

I don’t have to waste time conducting any damn polls to tell you what kind of nervous jubilation is erupting in this segment of America tonight. For these people, McCain is their Great White Hope, the last obstacle between that black man and the Oval Office. So long as he doesn’t pop up as a suspect in the Jon Benet Ramsey case, he can do no wrong.

For Barack Obama supporters like me, watching their white hero in action, I get the same sense of preposterousness I have when I watch an obviously aged Clint Eastwood punch out men decades younger than him in his movies. But this preposterousness is laced with disgust, because I know the same thing you all know – white America has mastered the art of believing its own bullshit.

There is a scene in the movie In the Heat Of The Night, set in Sparta Mississippi, where a young, vigorous Sidney Poitier, who plays a Philadelphia detective, confronts the old Southern aristocratic banker who is responsible for the death of a wealthy progressive industrialist. Poitier got slapped hard across the face by the banker when he asserted his authority as an officer of the law, something the banker had undoubtedly done many times before to rebuke impudent, uppity blacks who threatened his way of doing business. It was Poitier’s arm slinging back automatically, as if by natural reflex, his brown hand cracking the aristocrat square across the face, that brings me back to this picture year after year.

I have watched this scene many times from the relative comfort of the new millennium, but isn’t until now that I really understand what that slap meant, and why John McCain is really doing everything in his power to avoid facing the movement that is Barack Obama. Suddenly withdrawing from the presidential debate to be held Friday in Mississippi has virtually nothing to do with the Wall Street crisis.

It was the white community's sense of shame that the civil rights movement exploited, because it was the only weapon they had. This white shame that the movement's organizers marshaled into a palpable moral authority literally disciplined America. This metaphorical visit to the woodshed is something these particular white people remember all too well, and are not interested in going through again.

To have to see that brown skinned face standing behind a White House podium for at least four years means that they are wrong, that their belief systems are wrong, that the bedrock of the principles by which they live their lives, which most certainly does not include any notion of true equality by black or brown people, are just plain wrong.

These are the things nobody wants to talk about, because the kind of kindergarten equality we have today is only tangentially related to an actual universal equality. Universal equality means anybody could potentially wield the power to retaliate, the power to dictate the agenda, and the power to rearrange the fabric of the lives we have come to believe are authentically American.

What black Americans want to see from Barack Obama, the thing that will let us finally look upon him as a fully formed man, are crackling, spontaneous reactions to this kind of bullshit, a reaction whose aggressiveness exploits the power behind him. A reaction that says in no uncertain terms that he means business.

His campaign managers know better than this, though. They know intimately the levels of depravity to which a lot of white Americans, including some of those who have decided to support Obama, can sink to in a hurry. So we won’t get to see Obama metaphorically cock his arm back when he is confronted with the rest of the bullshit that you know is about to come.

But what we will see is an increased level of agitation in McCain and his supporters as the eight million volunteers and the $400 million plus dollars that under gird the Obama campaign conspire to do what our standard bearer cannot – retaliate against the odious stench of race baiting, fight to dictate the American agenda, and work to rearrange the very structure of the lives we actually live until we finally begin to really become the Americans we think we are in our minds.

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GreenLadyHere said...

Brown Man: Another "masterpiece!"
Loved the imagery!

Saw the movie -originally! :>)

. . . won't get to see Barack Obama metaphorically cock his arm back. . .

But I see it in my mind and in his words! He said that a POTUS ought to be able to multi-task! "ARM cocked. . !" :>)

Congratulations, again! :>)

Obama-Biden '08!!

Will Cooley Fan Club said...

Excellent essay. Gets right to the heart of the matter in a way I haven't read elsewhere. Well done.

Christopher said...

Well said.

I agree that the Old Coot is terrified to meet Obama face-to-face because he knows Obama is the superior man.

Obama is younger, smarter, has a keener command of the issues, thinks faster, is better prepared and, Obama is a decent man.

The Old Coot is pond scum, who abandoned his disabled wife, Carol, upon returning from Vietnam because after the accident, she didn't fit the image of a senator's wife and the senate was where the Old Coot wanted to reside. So, he kicked Carol to the curb and found himself a young un' who was rich, too.

Brown Man said...

As I watched the news pundits blither and blather around saying anything that could be construed as a pointed attack, I felt they were wasting my time.

As ridiculous as this was, why couldn't they just say that? "This is #!@$%ing ridiculous" would have been nice and to the point, with a beep like they do on radio to censor the comment.

McCain is beyond jokery. He is beyond buffonery. This shit is so incredibly off the chain stupid that I would seriously think about getting my head examined if I were McCain.

The thing that kicked me in the ass about midnight last night, after Jay Leno had finished feasting on the day's events, was how little a price McCain has paid for any of this shit so far.

You saw white folks on TV, acting like THIS SHIT WAS NORMAL!!

I could do the "what if Barack did this" comparison, but then my blood pressure would leap fifty points, because I'm back to the same old "different" standard bullshit.

Now this mofo is talking about "I hope I get to Oxford, Mississippi tomorrow", like he's waiting for somebody to ask him to the prom!

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

good visuals. the eastwood link is perfect, and moreover this could really be interpreted as a "i will show you whose boss moment"--good stuff!

chauncey devega

rikyrah said...

This was quite wonderful. I think Obama coming out and not falling for it, and saying he's going to Ole Miss, and hope that McCain JOINS HIM, was fabulous. That the POTUS should be able to do more than one thing at a time..LOL

Did you read the summary of what happened today at The White House?

From Politicalinaction.com:

. On CNN, Paul Begala said that his sources told him that in the Cabinet Room, after Bush's opening statements, it is customary for Nancy Pelosi, as the highest ranking from the congressional delegation to start speaking. She deferred to Obama, and he laid out to the whole cabinet, without notes, the Democratic position on the bailout bill. When he finished, everyone looked at John McCain. He fumbled and deferred to someone else. He didn't say anything else for the 43 minutes of contentious debate that followed, until, get this, Obama called on him. He then said he wanted less regulation and corporate tax breaks. After that, the meeting adjorned, and the bailout bill was officially derailed. John McCain had the opportunity to back the bill and get something done, and he faltered and allowed everyone to say no deal.

But, your post is on point. It's also the reason for the defense of the horror that is Sarah Palin.

NOBODY Black who was that fucking stupid would ever be acknowledged, let alone pretended to be taken seriously.

Never truly, and I mean, truly, has this much ineptitude been thrust upon the American people.

The Couric 'interview' was as obvious as it gets.

This woman is smart as a box of rocks, and I apologize to rocks.

Never has such White Mediocrity been bent over backwards for in such glaring terms.

Brown Man said...

THANK YOU, Rikyrah, for this info from Political Inaction!!!

John McCain is REEE-DICULOUS!!

And the clowns on TV aren't much better, because THEY KNOW THIS!!!

I think I know what tomorrows post might look like now.

Trader Rick said...

Interesting fantasy here, but a little far-fetched. The hatred and bigotry are shining thru nicely. Rascism has no place in our society. Republicans have been fighting it since Lincoln freed the slaves and "thinking" like yours set back the process decades. If Obama loses it will because of a back-lash to vile hate-mongers that promote such hated between the races.

Missy said...

...just found your blog from Average Bro and saw the link. I loved the title and thought I'd come have a look. Who have I overlooked this place. Definite oversight on my part and to my own detriment.

You're right on point with the post and you are a MUST read on my daily blog strolls.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

I love this analogy! Love it!

Personally I think this is more about getting Palin out of the debate with Biden. I heard McCain wanted to move the presidential debate to the VP debate slot and then determine a VP debate at a later time, like LATE November (lol).

Any which way you slice it anyone with half a brain can see straight thru this McCain shuffle. It really is a shuffle too, because when you are going on 103 one tends to shuffle not walk.


cinco said...

Unfortunately there are still too many days left. No longer do I wonder if McCain and camp will do/say something vile, inaccurate or racially motivated-now I just wonder When; after what poll; before what group of people and how Obama will respond.

I appreciate and am thankful for Obama's intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Here's the thing: much of right wing "thinking" is based on the emotion-laden tirades of conservative talk radio.

First they get angry about something. Then they try to justify the anger intellectually by some attempt at logic or reason.

But at the base, it's all about rage.

And the right wants DESPERATELY to be angry at Obama. They want to show he's a racist in reverse, that he's a Muslim, that he's un-American... anything that can enable them to say, "you can hate this guy without even thinking about it."

That's why Barack is their worst nightmare. A black man who's magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. A black man who is cool under fire. A black man who responds to attack with thoughtfulness and introspection.

Basically, Barack is just a hard guy to hate.

And they just can't stand it.


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