The end of Sista Souljah
I don't think we've reached the stage where the Imprimatur Of Ta-Nehisi Coates means much, but if it did I'd offer that imprimatur to Obsidian Wings. What a great blog. Somehow I missed this beautiful post form Publius analyzing the implicit racism of the phrase "Sista Souljah moment":
Remember that Obama didn’t even say anything – the “moment” was created entirely by Jackson. Obama had nothing to do with it. But there were a bunch of black people involved, so let's call it Sister Souljah.
But anyway, the larger point is that the use of Sister Souljah here strikes me as a tad racist. Again, what idea exactly is Obama distancing himself from – castration? No, there’s nothing substantive here. The only thing that Obama is distancing himself from is Jesse Jackson – a black man who lots of white people (and the press) dislike and caricature unfairly.
If you dig a bit deeper though, something else is going on -- something that goes well beyond Jackson. I mean, maybe Jesse Jackson remains a central figure in Democratic politics, but that would be news to me. No, what’s really going on is more depressing. When I hear many people talk about what good politics all this is for Obama, what they are really saying is that “it’s good politics to be distanced from black people.”
That’s a pretty disgusting concept, so it gets dressed up as a “Sister Souljah moment,” which links it to a safe and more bland political science concept. Using the same label for both concepts masks the uglier aspects of its use. Hell, even if we’re talking solely about the benign concept, the relentless use of the name “Sister Souljah” to describe it probably subconsciously reinforces the notion that black people are a group that savvy candidates must distance themselves from.
Basically. I think this is what's at the root of the way the press covers Obama's interactions with African-Americans. Basically, they're just waiting for him to kic the folks to the curb. Some think Obama subtly plays on that. I'm not sure. Either way, this is why you hear about "Chastising" Bernie Mac or "Rebuking" black fathers. Implicit is a kind of cynical Dick Morris logic that holds you can't actually be close to black people and get white voters.