June 19, 2009

The Great Black Hype?


Few things in life are as excruciatingly boring for me as shoe shopping. I am a guy, after all; I really don't understand needing more than a pair of flip flops and one pair of dress shoes. So when a few weeks ago I was informed that we were going on a shoe shopping expedition, I fought to stay home like a drowning man fights for the waters surface. Okay, that might be over-dramatic, but those of you who know me would attest to the fact that taking me somewhere I don't want to go is like trying to bathe a cat. As usual and despite my protests, I find myself driving into a store parking lot thirty minutes later. It could have been worse. It could have been strictly a shoe store, but this time it was the department store with the big red circle logo and that’s not too awful.

My typical modus operandi in a situation like this is to head straight for the book and magazine section and hunker down until it's time to go. With that in mind, the following blog piece is a typical example of what is going on in my head during times like these. So the next time you see some poor soul with his eyes glazed over in the book section your local department store… it could be me just killing time…

These days it is impossible to escape the avalanche of Barack and Michelle Obama in the print media. From the checkout lines to the book stands, their faces glower from the cover of all kinds of paperbacks, hard covers, special collector’s edition books and magazines, print media of any kind. Not even JFK could have reached this level of (over)exposure but I am not certain they had Black Biker and Needlepoint magazine back then.


Okay...okay...we all get it. He is a our new black… well half- black president and the First Lady has very competent stylists working for her. Because really, if you think about it, when most of these books and magazines came out of the oven, what had Obama really achieved besides being elected and being of multi-racial parents?


I decided to see just what exactly was in these Obama books, and specifically in the half dozen children's books on sale. What better place to see Obama's progressive message without all the smoke and mirrors of 'grown up' politics? Friends, I was utterly amazed.

For my readers familiar with early Soviet propaganda – I will tell you that the similarities were uncanny. If you are not familiar with Soviet propaganda and the "Socialist Realism" style, then you need to go no further then examine the landslide of children's Obama books. All the elements of Socialist Realism are present in terms of its treatment of political leaders. The art form, in this case illustrated books, is created to support the political ideology of Socialism. Naturally, reality and historical facts are always subordinate to the advancement of ideology, and it is important that the work is digestible to the masses. Check and check. In other words, Soviet Socialist Realism and all the Obama books I saw were both very shallow and unashamedly partisan.


While the parallels between the Socialist Realism of the collapsed Soviet State and recent children's books about Obama are stunning (and deserve further examination), I began to see a common theme. Perhaps more than a theme, I noticed a reoccurring presentation of Obama.

The Democrats and the Obama administration have worked hard to give Obama a larger than life image. The Democratic Convention, for instance, was just one of the high points for Obama’s very talented handlers and multi-media wizards to really create the political rock star that Bill Clinton could never have been. For more sober folks, Obama seemed to be coming off ever more like a political demigod. But these children’s books had not so much of a political as a racial demigod.


The presentation of Obama the 'Great Black Hope’ is no secret. It is a combination of his messiah image and the fact that he identifies himself as primarily black. In many of the books I read, the message of Obama as the ultimate expression of the entire Civil Rights Movement is crystal clear. From the Buffalo Soldiers to the Tuskegee Airmen to Martin Luther King, the culmination of the civil rights struggle was Obama’s election. He is the fulfillment of the prophecy - Or so they want our children and us to believe.

(Let us not forget that America’s first black president has a very white mother. It is interesting that he didn’t choose to sell himself by his true racially identity of being of mixed race. To me, that would have made him be the ‘unification of black and white’- but I guess I am just a dreamer... Anyhoo, I think that Obama identifying himself (or allowing himself to be identified) as black says quite a bit about the political landscape of our nation, but I digress.)


What really fascinates me is how the Congressional Black Caucus and their allies - the liberal and solidly Democratic segment of the black community, which claims to speak for all black people, has so firmly hitched their wagon to Obama’s star. It is not surprising, but it is also not without some degree of risk.
Say for instance, Obama turns out to be at worst the harbinger of American Socialism - bankrupting our once great country, and at best an inept boob of a president... Does the entire black community want to share in his disgrace and the responsibility for the disaster left behind by the “Great Black Hope”?


In some ways, American blacks have no choice but to float or sink with the ship. After all, the truth is that most blacks voted for him and most significantly, they were very honest about the fact that they voted for Obama simply because he is black. Polls indicated that ideology was a very distant second. I don't recall any outrage from the Left over voting for someone solely based on race- something that until Obama was considered a serious thought crime. I am not sure that this is exactly what Martin Luther King had in mind all those years ago.


Many of my conservative black friends deeply resent the entire black community being shackled to Obama and his platform. These courageous people are quite used to being told what they should believe by the Congressional Black Caucus and white liberals. They are also quite used to being (mis)spoken for by self-appointed black ‘leaders’. I can’t imagine the guts it takes to speak out against Obama and be black today, however, it does seem to have some benefits: the confused look on a fellow African Americans face when they admit the don’t support Obama – amusing; the shocked look on a white liberals face when they admit they don’t support Obama- PRICELESS!

If the past months of Obama’s presidency are any indication of the next four years, and the Great Black Hope turns out to be the Great Black Hype, there will be a lot of disappointed children, particularly non-white, who are being victimized by the New Socialist Realism in the books they are reading. And a whole lot of disappointed adults, of all races, who are being victimized by political rock stardom. (The Congressional Black Caucus will suddenly remember Obama is only half black and scramble to find a ‘truly’ black candidate to ‘really’ make history) At that point, the black conservative opposition will have an opportunity to offer a real alternative and a huge role to play in the Republican Party we rebuild together. And maybe, just maybe, my daughter will be reading books about black heroes like Thomas Sowell and Ward Connerly. Well, I did mention I was a dreamer…one who hates shoe shopping.

Post script! My friend Mary over on Myspace sent me a link to some actual Obama shoes! You must see this to believe it:




No comments: