Comedian Paul Mooney Sums Up Christmas


"Santa Claus was good to everybody this year. He gave the black folks Obama and he gave the white folks O.J."

Paul Mooney



Sometimes it takes a comedian to tell us what's really going on. Right now, if you watch the news, it seems like we live in two Americas. Half of the country is afraid to even imagine what calamity could befall us next. They are petrified about the economy, hysterical about the Middle East conflict, and terrified of the unknown number of terrorists who are hard at work somewhere, plotting to attack the country.

The other half - well, okay, lets call it a third - this third is euphoric right now. It is as if they are wearing blinders that allow them to look past the economy, the fighting in the Middle East, and the terrorist threats to see the end of a bona fide rainbow. The light shining from the inauguration proceedings for Barack Obama has overcome the darkness of these perilous times for these people.

I am one of them.

And within this third of the country that is ready to celebrate the installation of our newest president next week, there is a sizable brown skinned contingent whose chests are swollen with pride. Whose minds are so focused on Obama's date with destiny next Tuesday in front of the U.S. Capitol building that they could care less about O.J., or Michael Jackson, or R. Kelly.

I am one of them.

Even though I laughed when I read it the first time, the thing Paul Mooney's joke gets at is the notion that white America needed to rebalance the traditional racial equation that the Obama campaign had thrown out of whack. That they intended to get this "bad negro" off the streets for life because he was found "not guilty" in the Nicole Simpson murder trial.

It wasn't so long ago, though, that O.J. was one of the most famous and beloved black people in the country.

His legendary commercial for Hertz Rent-A-Car, that showcased his record setting NFL legs in motion as he hurdled luggage strewn across an airport corridor in a suit with a briefcase, was so ubiquitous I still feel like running through the airport like he did whenever I am late for a plane.

"The Juice" had his own action figure. I got one for Christmas one year, complete with removable cleats and a washable Buffalo Bills jersey. It made me forget all about my G.I. Joe with the kung fu grip.

O.J. has seen hard times since those days. The "Trial of the Century" was so big that it spawned a legion of legal analysts. Almost all of the analysts who filled the airwaves this year with their analysis of potential legal dilemmas for the Obama campaign got their start fifteen years ago covering the O.J. trial.

Now we've got this new brother, Barack Obama, who has got us all - black white, latino - mesmerized. He is the toast of the town today. But there are going to be times, in the not too distant future, when he is going to make some decisions that will have comedians like Paul Mooney calling him "O'Tomma" instead of "Obama".

Don't get me wrong - I thought the joke was hilarious. I will be telling it for the rest of the week. But it was the picture above, with the black soldiers and the children of black soldiers standing in for the Obama family, that really underlined for me how easily many Americans could substitute in their minds one favorite black person for another - especially when the favorite black person began to rub them the wrong way.

I hope Barack Obama doesn't become the punchline of this same joke by next Christmas.


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3 comments:

blackgirlthinking said...

I am ecstatic about Inauguration Day, however I have this tiny bit of uneasiness deep down inside that won't let me be in complete peace.

And it is not just because the economy is in shitty shape right now or because terrorists are lurking. It is because all of these things, along with a laundry list of other things are left behind for Barack Obama to straighten up. Bush left this country in horrible condition, and even with his ambition and go getter mindset it is going to be difficult for Barack to get it all back on track.

Many are just waiting on something to go wrong so he can be the next bad black guy...because you know they always have to have at least one bad black guy.

Melinda said...

I am also blinded by that light of the upcoming inauguration---what a joyful event that will be, even watching it on TV in Texas!!

I know there are piles and piles of urgent, violent, bloody messes all over the globe that need our attention. Such things have always been and always will be. I can't even pretend to understand the financial messes.

But here's what I know: change can happen. There is reason for hope. This is an amazing moment in the life of our nation and I am not going to let go of the celebration until I have to----hard, cold reality will hit soon enough.

Our first African-American President is taking the oath of office and that is darn close to miraculous.

I just read some books to a group of 2nd graders who were appalled to see pictures of firefighters turning hoses on Black folks (these were all White kids, except my own Black child). Who were shocked to learn that *police* would beat those peaceful protesters who were trying so hard to get those unfair laws changed.

The 2nd graders couldn't quite comprehend the photo of the lunch-counter demonstrators, sitting still while the crowd pressed in on them and poured food all over their heads.

It is my fervent prayer and hope and perhaps my own personal crusade and mission to get White kids (and their parents) to learn the truth of the past so that they can better appreciate the hugeness of this time. I can be part of making sure that their kids get educated about what has been called "Black history" but of course is the history of us all in America.

Barack Obama's presidency may trickle down to the classroom level and open the eyes of some of those who have chosen to remain blind...or at least myopic.

As a White parent of Black children, I am often annoyed and surprised to learn that my White peers do NOT want to teach their kids about some of the "ugly" realities of life, both past and present. So their kids do not grow up knowing much about segregation or the Civil Rights movement or slavery, etc. etc. I think kids, all kids, should learn the truth of our past and present. In my experience, many Black parents are more conscientious about teaching their kids such things, in part to appreciate from where they've come but also to help prepare them for the racism that continues to affect their lives.

White parents (of White children) have no such burning fear----they don't tend to think to instruct their children about how to interact with police officers, for instance, except to teach them that the officer is a "friend." A benign and/or helpful adult. Well.....I wish I could leave it at that for my children, but you know I can't. I can't let my kids run wild at the local mall, or even walk quickly through a store.

White people do NOT think the same way about education and childrearing because they have shut themselves off from some of the ugliness of the past, or felt that it didn't apply to them.

Barack Obama's presidency should merge "Black History" and "American History" in a significant way.

South Minneapolis said...

I think we have a lot of insecurities that we have to get over.
Instead of focusing on how he might stumble and then be vilified, we should focus on our past, current, and future accomplishments.
Along the way when many, including us, doubted Mr. Obama, he time and time again proved us wrong with his toughness and strength.
Not black enough? Not man enough? Not "adequate" enough? Not experienced enough? Not "like one of us"?
Well, come next Tuesday, I'll be saying "Hail to the Chief".

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