I Feel Like a Black Republican

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David White picks up on the Common piece and expounds a bit:

You know, normally something this stupid wouldn't bother me, but this story really gets under my skin. If they can try to paint Common as a 'dangerous black man,' what black man is immune? If they think Common is vile, then I know they have no use for my black ass. Common is beyond the pale, Michelle Obama hates whitey, Eric Holder is protecting the New Black Panther Party, Shirley Sherrod is discriminating against white farmers, Barack Obama is giving reparations to black people? Conservatives, do you realize how stupid this sounds to black people? (and I know that black people aren't the audience for that kind of talk, there's no need to point that out to me.) Seriously, you can't find less-threatening black people. 

And fundamentally, I doubt if they even think Common's that bad. He's a convenient target for a bit of demagoguing, which is even more repugnant. At least when Lee Atwater used the "Let's dredge up the 'dangerous black man' feelings for a cheap political hit" ploy, he'd choose an actually dangerous black man. 

I mean, look, politically, I'm pretty liberal, so it's not like I'd ever be a regular Republican voter anyway. But shit like this is what prevents me from even getting to the point where I'd give their policies a fair hearing. And I know there are some Republicans and conservatives here, and I say that you have no chance of getting any kind of support from black voters as long as the leaders of your party are pulling these kinds of stunts.

I think that first paragraph captures a lot of what I meant when I asked "Who will they accept? This is different from \"Who will they agree with?" I think Liz Cheney's attacks on Eric Holder were disgusting and erroneous, but they were also pretty run of the mill for American politics. I think "Obamacare" is disparaging, but it's also the sort of term that people who disagree with you generally coin. I think "pull the plug on gradma" was a lie, but it was the exact sort of lie that I could imagine being employed against President Hillary Clinton.

David is pointing to something else, something which I tried to get at in my Malcolm piece. Throughout the 80s and 90s, there were a lot of black folks on the public stage who many of us loved, but never really held up as role models or hoped would be "accepted." You can understand why, say, Mike Tyson, Chuck D, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, OJ Simpson, NWA, or Snoop Dogg might be polarizing. A lot of these folks were polarizing even within the black community. You didn't really expect these people to be received as your ambassadors.

But Common is the dude in the Gap ad. His mother is a teacher. Shirley Sherrod is a victim of white supremacist terrorism, who lectures black people on seeing their own prejudice. Eric Holder went to Stuyvesant. Michelle Obama's mother was a homemaker. Her parents forfeited a full athletic scholarship to send Michelle Obama's brother to Princeton. They used to watch the Brady Bunch together.

If Common is disturbing, Shirley Sherrod wants to discriminate against white people, MIchelle Obama is obsessed with Whitey, and Barack Obama has a hatred of white people, then the rest of us are in real trouble. When you talk about "nonthreatening" this really is the best we've got. 

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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