• DOUBLETAKE 08: “Taking a second look at race and racism in the 2008 presidential elections”

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Remember the “Terrorist Fist Jab?” What about the “White Power Grab?”

Earlier this summer, Fox News reported on a simple gesture between Barack and Michelle Obama on stage. It was a fist bump, but the Fox News reporter questioned, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.”

Fox News’ coverage of the Obamas’ fist-bump raises serious questions about the implications of such coverage. Why do we need such an elaborate analysis of, what essentially amounts to a goodbye/ good luck send-off gesture? Do we do the same thing when it comes to handshakes?

Of course we don’t because handshakes are the primary greeting among white folks, so therefore they are normal, but “the fist bump” is something that, within the lens of whiteness, is odd or peculiar: it is outside whiteness. More accurately, it is cast as something specific to black folks; not something the majority of white folks would do, much less understand.

Fox’s report sets up the experience of black folks as foreign to what is normal, where normal is equated with whiteness. And the assumption that whiteness is normal is thoroughly racist.

We made this video to point out what it would look like to flip the script on the racist assumptions of Fox’s report. While there are some subtle critiques of white supremacy, we primarily wanted to point out how patently absurd Fox’s coverage of “the fist bump” is, not to mention have a little fun in the name of white anti-racism!

DoubleSpeak Dictionary #5

Hillary Clinton: “Now, like some of you may have been, I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Sen. Obama made about people in small town America. Sen. Obama’s remarks are elitist and they are out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans that I know – not the Americans I grew up with, not the Americans I lived with in Arkansas or represent in New York.” (April, 2008)

“Elitist”

Some possible decodings…. by Organizer JP

Elitist:
Used with racist implications to criticize an African American person who dares transgress what the speaker sees as the place of black people in society by running for high office. This use of “elitist” suggests that African Americans 1) should not contradict the racist stereotypes of unemployed males and welfare moms or 2) they can be model middle-class citizens but should never dare attempt to enter the elite ranks of power in U.S. society. Both the Democrats (in the Hillary Clinton campaign) and Republicans have attacked Obama as “an elitist.” What’s factually misleading about attacking Obama as “an elitist” is that he was raised without class privileges and has gone on to modest economic success and to become a social and political leader, thereby fulfilling the American Dream.

DoubleSpeak Dictionary #4

Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post delivers this edition of our DoubleSpeak Dictionary… a critical look at the use of the term “uppity” to describe Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it finally happened: A Republican congressman has come right out and called Barack Obama “uppity.”

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), often described as one of the most conservative members of Congress (which is saying something), used that racially loaded term to describe Obama in a conversation today outside the House chamber with a reporter from The Hill. As you can see in The Post’s news coverage, the reporter gave Westmoreland a chance to take it back. Bless him, he didn’t.

I love it when everybody’s cards are on the table.

A spokesman for the congressman said later that his boss didn’t realize that term has long been used to describe African Americans who don’t know their place. If so, he is the only born-and-bred Southerner alive who is so oblivious…..

The notion that Obama is somehow reaching beyond his station has been a subtext of the attacks on his eloquence, his academic resume, his ambition — qualities that are usually prized in a leader but that are somehow twisted by Obama’s opponents into negatives. It is within even Lynn Westmoreland’s limited grasp to understand that “uppity” means one thing: Who does this black guy think he is to run for president? If Republicans are going to ask that question, they shouldn’t be allowed to do it through hints and nudges. Just do like Lynn Westmoreland and put it in plain English.

“Clean, Articulate, and White Approved!”

“…he’s the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and
bright and clean and a nice-looking guy…” (Joe Biden)

Commentary by Organizer KD

In Joe Biden’s political career he’s become known for being “loquacious”; feisty, gritty; speaking with candor. He’s a straight talker, a man who speaks his mind. Now, saying what you think is one thing; but when saying what you think invokes historical prejudices and stereotypes, you’ve moved beyond inappropriateness to racism; whether it’s intentional or not.

Biden’s most recent “gaffe” when talking about Obama during the Democratic primaries is inexcusable. He insists that his comments are being misunderstood and he regrets that “some have taken totally out of context my use of the word ‘clean.’” He goes on to explain, “My mother has an expression ‘clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack.” On an appearance on Good Morning America he explains. “Look, this guy’s incredible, He (Obama) is really bright. He’s fresh. He’s new. He has great ideas.”

So why not just say that Joe? Instead he chose to use clean and articulate to describe Obama; words historically (and currently) used by white folks have to divisively distinguish between the “good” and ‘bad” black folks. The “good” ones of course being ‘clean’ or ‘articulate;’ and the “bad” ones? Perhaps, as Wahajat Ali sarcastically quipped in CounterPunch they’re; “…disheveled, mumbling, Colt 45 drinking, dread locked, gangsta rapping, sexually threatening and incapable of intelligent speech.”

Actually, using ‘clean’ and ‘articulate are code words to let white folks know the black person in question is “white approved.” In fact, I can see the next Obama ad campaign. Obama steps fresh out of the shower with a sparkling clean white towel wrapped around his waist with a great big, warm smile. They freeze the frame, and from the bottom corner of the screen pops a little Joe Biden with two thumbs up saying: “Joe Biden here! Remember folks, Obama’s clean, articulate, and white approved. Vote Obama-Biden in ’08!”

Well maybe not, but if Joe Biden really is a straight talker then perhaps it should be.

In another “whoops” moment, the senator lets his stereotypes show here:

DoubleSpeak Dictionary Entry #3

“community organizer:” too black…??

Dictionary Entry by Organizer CF

According to New York Governor David Patterson, VP candidate Sarah Palin’s mocking reference to Barack Obama’s experience as a community organizer carry racial undertones. Palin’s quote: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.” Patterson (and I)  feel that use of the term “community organizer” in this mocking tone is code for anti-black racism- along the lines of “Oh, you know.. he’s a ‘community organizer.’ He’s from those… kind of communities.'”

“The Republican Party is too smart to call Barack Obama ‘black,'” said Paterson, the state’s first black governor.

Patterson: “But you can take something about his life, which I noticed they did at the Republican convention. A ‘community organizer.’ They kept saying it, they kept laughing, like what does this mean?”

DoubleSpeak Dictionary # 5

Even Michelle Obama in her speech at the DNC said she thought Barack Obama’s name was “weird” when they first met…. what’s behind the emphasis and apologies for his “foreign-sounding name?”

Dictionary Entry by Organizer JP

“Foreign-sounding” or “weird” name:

This descriptor is attached selectively to U.S. citizens’’ names, and it’s use implicitly asserts that only those of northwest European, white descent are appropriate candidates for high office. The term implies that U.S. identity should be given only to those who have names that seem familiar to xenophobic, nativist English-only speakers (so-called “American names”), and suggests that candidates of non-Anglo and non-European descent are not to be trusted. The usage is racist in limiting the pool of candidates to white people.
see also: Barack Hussein Obama (Doublespeak Dictionary entry)

“Barack Hussein Obama:”
Have you ever seen (seemingly neutral) news reports that tell you John McCain’’s middle name? Sarah Palin’’s? Joe Biden’’s? Using Obama’’s middle name suggests affiliation of this presidential candidate of color with Saddam Hussein and terrorism in minds of people who do not know that the name “Hussein” is as common as Jones in some cultures. This selective use of Obama’s middle name is racist in its association of person of color with a threatening image.
see also: “foreign-sounding” name

Does Race Matter in ’08? The View from NPR

News Analysis by Organizer CF

NPR’s Michelle Norris and Steve Inskeep have teamed up to offer listeners an in-depth listen into a conversation among 13 diverse voters from York, Pennsylvania.

Norris explains why she was personally motivated to produce the piece, admitting that race is often mentioned in election coverage but rarely given the necessary time and space to draw out complex and diverse experiences and subconscious feelings.

Upon first reaction- and having worked for NPR- I know that this more nuanced approach to race and politics is under appreciated and under covered in the network.

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