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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Rush Limbaugh Minstrel Show

by digby

This has been around for a while, but I just heard it today. Cultural critic (and African American blogger) David Ehrenstein, wrote a provocative article in the LA Times in which he referred to Obama as "the magic negro" and deconstructed what he saw as the Barack Obama phenmenon among liberal white voters. You can agree or disagree with Ehrenstein's thesis, but I really don't think there's any doubt that a rich, white rightwing gasbag taking his piece and doing a song parody called "Barack the Magic Negro" by an Al Sharpton impressionist is not exactly done in a spirit of brotherly love.

You can hear the song as it was played on The Rush Limbaugh Show here.

Whether rappers make insulting videos or black comedians say the "N" word or African American cultural critics take on white liberal guilt, one thing is abundently clear: is just not acceptable for white people (particularly rich, white conservative men) to do song parodies of black people using racist stereotypes. I can't even believe it's necessary to point that out. But for some reason people like Rush and Imus just can't contain themselves and I don't think we have to think too awfully hard to figure out why.

Limbaugh did his own song and dance on the program, twisting himself into an unintelligible pretzel pretending that he was criticizing white liberals for being racist while defending his right to air minstrel shows:

LIMBAUGH: David Ehrenstein, the L.A. Times today, "Obama the 'Magic Negro.' " It's just infuriating. It is the left that continues to besmirch these people. It's the left that continues to question their so-called authenticity. These people are all human beings. Talk about Sharpton, Reverend [Jesse] Jackson, these people are all human beings. Now some of them are in the race business. I understand that. But look at who it is that keeps focusing on whether they're authentic enough. Authenticity based on skin color. Who is it doing this? It's the left. You know what, I got a suggestion for those of you at the L.A. Times. Let's cut to the chase. Go get an old-fashioned auction book and put it in the town square. Put it somewhere where it looks like it's real and just bring all these black people up there and auction them off and find out who it is that sells for the highest price.

That's essentially what you're doing with all of these nonsensical categorizations -- Obama's not black enough, Obama doesn't have -- he's not down for the struggle, Obama doesn't have a legitimate civil rights -- civil right background. Obama's ears don't look like a black person's ears, they're too big, Obama doesn't sound like a black person, he's clean and articulate. The left's saying all these things. Now he's the "Magic Negro," which is a convenient trick for the L.A. Times to blame a bunch of white people for being racist. OK. Let's find out who the -- just get an auction block and grab as many blacks as you want to put them up there and let's start the sales, L.A. Times, and let's see who it is that fetches the highest prices. Isn't that essentially the way they're approaching this? These are commodities. These human beings are simply commodities, and they are there for some purpose other than their own human existence? You doubt the racism and the groupthink and the superiority of the leftists in this country, you'd be making a grave error.

And then he sang "We Shall Overcome" and recited the "I Have A Dream" speech.

Well, no, he didn't. He whimpered about being misunderstood:

LIMBAUGH: For example, you could take 10 seconds of me saying, "Obama is the Magic Negro" and make it look like I said it, rather than the fact that I'm repeating it from an L.A. Times column today. So the BBC is getting ready -- and we declined their permission to use this in that regard. We said, "If you want to do it just on Rush, and we'll send you a compendium of what's been said." "No, no, we're not interested in that." So they're doing a hit piece on talk-show hosts in America, the way they're talking about Obama, which is precisely my point.

It's the L.A. Times, and it's Joe Biden, and it's all these other people who are raising questions about his authenticity. In fact, there was an honest story, but even it, and I forget where it was -- last week, might have been a blog, I forget. And this -- the person writing this story begrudgingly admitted that even Rush Limbaugh is saying there's something to this Obama guy and so he's not being overly critical of Obama, but then the snide follow-up was, "That's because so many people are excited about -- so many people on the left are being critical of Obama for one reason or another that Limbaugh is not being genuine in his respect that he's showing for Obama."


LIMBAUGH: ... Nobody knows enough about him to support him on the basis of policy or substance. And so the white people who are supporting Barack Obama, the "Magic Negro," are doing so precisely because he's the "Magic Negro." By supporting him, white people get to assuage their guilt over this nation's history with slavery and the Confederacy and all this other tripe. [you're letting your racist slip show, Rushie. ed]

And this has led to a number of points being made by me, brilliantly so on this program, that it is the left in this country that looks at people and sees their skin color or their gender or their sexual orientation as the first things they notice about them. The whole point of this piece is to accuse white people of being racist. They don't really like Obama, they don't really like black people, they feel guilty over what this country's done to black people, so they support Barack because he's the quote-unquote "Magic Negro."

This is the same newspaper that has run a couple of stories on "is Barack Obama is black enough?" This prompted a drive-by caller, Dan from Fruitport, Michigan, to suggest that the Democrats, since they feel so bad about this, should offer black credits to someone like Obama who is not black enough in the eyes of the L.A. Times and other liberals. So he could go out there and buy black credits, so he could -- like Gore, you know, offsets his carbon use with carbon credits, Obama the "Magic Negro" could offset his lack of blackness with black credits. Then say he could down for the struggle [sic] and that he has roots in the civil rights movement. Reverend Sharpton's upset, you know, "Obama, where were you when we marched for justice in Selma?" and so forth. So clearly, it is a -- I mean, it's just remarkable to continue to witness the actual racism that exists on the left, using the term "Magic Negro" to apply to you white people who are supporting Obama. Singing a song in my head here during the break: "Barack, the Magic Negro, doo doo do doo."

I know. That's almost painful to try and deconstruct into anything sane, much less logical. (And it's infuriating to hear this bloviating pondscum take Ehrenstein's piece and turn it into wingnut horse apples.) But when you wade through his blather what you get is that he's making a slick, cynical pitch that liberals are racists and Rush Limbaugh is a friend to the black man knowing full well that his loyal following are aware that's a line of complete crap. We know this, not just because he is a well known rightwing racist jerk, but because he demonstrates this great "respect" by broadcasting a parody of Al Sharpton that might as well have been done by Amos and Andy.

He knows his audience and what they are thinking. And that little ditty "Barack the Magic Negro" will stick --- not in the minds of the liberals whom Ehrenstein claims see him as the great assuager of liberal guilt, but by racist creeps who just love to snigger and snort over the word "negro." Dittoheads know exactly what Rush is about here no matter what kind of patently absurd nonsense he spews about liberals putting African Americans up on auction blocks. Everybody's in on the joke.

But it's also clear from the total hysteria emanating from the rightwing media the past week or so that they are nervous about what happened to Imus. It was no partisan left wing boycot that brought him down. Corporate America decided that he was too hot to handle all on its own. So I doubt that Limbaugh is happy about having this little racist number all over the internet no matter how "proud" he is:

Uh-oh, Dawn's shaking her head on that. What are you saying, if I do that, I then will own the term, because I will be taking it above and beyond how it's been used? Well, that's what we always do here. We do parodies and satires on the idiocy and the phoniness of the left. We could throw in -- yeah, we could put an L.A. Times lyric in there to make, you know, make it obvious who it was who actually used the term. I mean, don't start telling me to shy away from this stuff. That's why I'm where I am, that's why I'm who I am, and for which I make no apologies. I'm very proud and happy.

My oh my. That has just a little bit of the stench of fear about it, don't you think?