Obama’s Litmus Test of A Black Man-How Well Does He Dance?

by MullOverThis

Buck Obama! The caricature of the black-face coon hammering away at an over-sized watermelon wedge came to mind when during the South Carolina debate Senator Barack Obama answered the question, “Do you think Bill Clinton was our first Black President?” Our Black Democratic Nominee hopeful answered in part, “…I would have to investigate his dancing abilities.” Hee hee.  Ha Ha.  Chuckle Chuckle.  Buck. Buck.  Where are all of our socially conscious African American commentators when we need them.  The emphatic pens mysteriously run out of ink when it is time to objectively analyze the use of the race card during this campaign because  Obama will not fare well.  

Although the coon characterization is an admitted stretch here, Senator Obama’s remarks were all too reminiscent of the entertainment value the minstrel coon provided the  massa Caucasian audience by showing the mature black man who certainly isn’t on the equal footing as his contemporary white male counterpart. I’m free, I’m a grown man, but I sure can’t handle any real responsibility because of the pigmentation in my skin, so I’mma dance, dance, dance. How we’ll know if we had a Black president in President Bill Clinton is to judge his “dancing ability”, according to a Black man.  I have a sure feeling that if this commentary came from Hilary Clinton, or any of the other candidates for that matter, there would have been a flurry of headlines with race card references.  Hypocrisy on the African American side of the fence isn’t cute or acceptable by those of us who want equality, NOT merely our turn.   While black men are fighting every day to fight the stereotypes of all black men being criminals, drug addicts, singers, entertainers, multiple babies’ daddies, or experts dribbling the ball, this dancing  joke is what our dimwit Obama felt was appropriate.  A response reflecting the reality of the everyday lives of the educators, doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, journalists, college professors, coaches, scientists, engineers, insurance agents, bankers, entrepreneurs, construction workers, nurses, film makers, pilots, salesmen, architects, horticulturalists, designers, political analysts, CEOs and so much more was not too much to anticipate from Obama, or a real brother who has a pulse on the heartbeat of his brothers throughout this nation.  Yes, we have many great African American dancers, and we should not be ashamed of that.  While we are often relished to just being fun-loving negroes who can’t move beyond entertainment and athletics to be successful, the let’s test Bill’s dancing abilities to see if he is really a brother wasn’t the best approach.  

Suggestion:  Maybe Obama’s consultants should apprise the progressive brother about what images he should NOT make light of, particularly when his camp is being so sensitive about the use of the race card as it is.  The last thing we need is the African American candidate confirming the 2008 coon typology.  The litmus test of a Black man when the entire world is listening should not be how well he can dance, pun intended or not.


15 Responses to “Obama’s Litmus Test of A Black Man-How Well Does He Dance?”

  1. I admire the dancing abilites of African Americans and I did not see that as an insult, neither did any of my African American friends. Perhaps you need to search inside yourself and think of why you feel the shame such a remark brings to you.

  2. Maybe while reading, you skipped over the sentence that said we do have many African American dancers and shouldn’t be ashamed of that. I believe the post provided enough context to clearly illustrate the problem with Obama using dancing as a response. More than any words I can use, years of buffoonery since slavery in America based upon Black men shucking, jiving, dancing, etc. speaks volumes. So, there is really nothing more to say other than the great thing about America is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I certainly have mine and appreciate yours.

  3. However, if a Repulican (and probably any white person) had said this same thing they would have been crucified. Shouldn’t the same standards apply to everyone?


  5. You are right about one thing: your coon characterization is much more than a stretch.

    I think you missed the import of his response. He was referring to whether Bill had rhythm. It’s plainly understood that, in general, african-americans possess a UNIQUE rhythmic expression that manifests itself and is easily recognized in the way they dance & sing, worship in church, slam dunk basketballs, celebrate touchdowns, walk, etc.

    Now it ain’t Obama’s fault if they way we express ourselves in song and dance has become one of America’s most predominant caricatures. Why is it Obama’s responsibility (or any african-american’s responsibility) to educate the masses (read: white americans) on what is or what is not a stereotype??? Give me a break!

    You would spend better time asking why such a stupid and inaccurate appellation was placed upon Bill Clinton in the first place. And you would spend much better time asking why this stupid question was asked of any candidate- much less the black one- during a PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE.

  6. W, one thing we do agree on is that Obama cannot possibly be responsible for a negative caricature that existed before he was born. He is responsible for perpetuating stereotypes, and from your response, he wouldn’t be detected because as it is well known, the results of stereotypes self-perpetuate. I finished choking off of this Black people possess a unique rhythmic expression stuff, in general. There are too many people that can visually be identified as Black or African American that do not share this common rhythmic expression because they have not shared the cultural experiences found in AA churches or listening to AA music. I went to college with a microcosm of them, yet found them to be “sufficiently Black” (sarcasm so don’t hang me of the use of that phrase). Also, there are too many non-Blacks and people from other races and ethnicities who do share rhythmic tendencies as we do, many of whom would not call themselves Black. Latinos and Carribean people come to mind. So, I can’t buy this as legitimate. I do recognize it as a stereotype. Finally, all you have to do to convince me that Black folks, in general, have this unique rhythmic expression locked down is tell me that a group of African Americans or Black folks from America went to the motherland, Africa, and were able to simply as a matter of instruction, tap into this UNIQUE rhythm and easily join cultural/tribal/ceremonial dances with singing and clapping as if they grew up in the SAME CULTURE as their indigenious African counterparts. Rhythm and one’s inclination in expressing it, is largely cultural and not racial. Just ask all of the top selling artists in R&B and pop right now, who are riffing like a “Black” voice, and are NOT BLACK. Should we give them honorary Black papers? Should classical Black pianists get honorary Caucasion/White papers? W, since you are not running for President, You can be excused from feeding into this nonsense. Obama is held to a higher standard, the same one he and others want to hold everyone else’s comments to, when examining racial epithets in this election. President Bill Clinton’s tag as first AA President, in my opinion, was laden with the same deragatory stereotyping as a man who wore shades, played the saxaphone, loved AA music/artists, ate fast food, and had women problems. His connections with AA people helped this label to stick. This Q was fair game, as for the first time, we have a viable woman and AA candidate who just may win. Hilary has been asked numerous times about gender (and also even asked the same Q about President Clinton being dubbed the first AA President) and it is fair to ask OBAMA, who has made references to inappropriate use of race in his opposition’s campaign. He opened the door and since he is the AA candidate, it should be directed to him.

  7. Mulloverthis,

    First of all, I made no argument positing that rhythm or any other cultural expression was racial in basis and not cultural. Since you find it necessary to drive this bus off the cliff into anthropology and social science, there is no such thing as “race” among human beings. This is social construct.

    My point, simply is that Af-ams have unique cultural expressions some of which are easily identified and many of which, unfortunately, have been widely caricatured and ridiculed. Many of these cultural expressions have foundations in West African cultures. The fact that some folk from different ethnic groups have been able to express themselves in ways similar to Af-Ams does not mean that this expression is or was not bourne out of the af-am community. Jazz music is a unique Afr-Am expression. It is a unique part of Af-Am AND American culture. The fact that most consumers of jazz or maybe half of modern day jazz performers are not Af-Americans does not mean that my prior statement is false. Would you suggest that because salsa (dancing and music) has become so popular in the U.S. that it is not uniquely a Latin expression?

    So this entire discussion of black classical performers qualifying for “white papers” and vice-versa is your straw man because nothing I initially stated supported this position.

    Obama made a joke. To understand the joke means that you must tap into the stereotype of black people being able to dance. The fact that he implicitly referenced the stereotype means that he understands that it is a stereotype. It does not mean that he perpetuated it.

    By the by, I’m not aware of Obama’s “references to inappropriate use of race in his opposition’s campaign”. I know everyone else has been talking about it but I recall that he intentionally avoids discussing race.

    Finally, based on your rationale, how could this question be fair game for Obama? After all, he is not uniquely qualified to discuss anything relating to Af-ams. No one is.

  8. W, Q: Is it fair to call Bill Black? A: Let’s see if Bill can dance. Bill Black? Can He dance? Black man? Dance? And your interpretation adds, well does he have a unique rhythmic expression? Whatever terminology appropriately suits Black/African American/Negroids in America this week, a man who is not uniquely qualified to discuss anything relating to AA’s should not have fed into a stereotype that IS NOT TRUE for too many AA’s, who are AA. We cannot ignore the origins of genres and styles of music, etc. that have come from AA’s. Our rhythmic tendencies–cultural– do not make us Black/Negroid, so if the bus is off into never never land, Obama put the keys in the ignition and you are driving it there. BTW, when HIlary was asked the Q on BET, she answered it without joking. I am not trying to put words into Obama’s mouth, but I am watching what comes out of it. I am extremely concerned, as an AA woman when nutjob jokes are funny and acceptable simply because a Black man said it, but is scathing when a white person does. So for all those surveying Obama’s commitment to the AA community, as diverse as it is, we should hee hee haw haw, we should invite him to our local balls–oops let’s make that clubs–and see how well he can dance. GIVE ME A BREAK! When children who can’t read or write know all the latest dance moves and words to songs, we need to be re-prioritizing what are acceptable stereotypes, and not celebrating them, so that our realities and self-perception will change.

  9. Oops, and let me add, Obama said to see if he’s a “brother”.

  10. I’m enjoying this discussion…..on the one hand it’s not a big deal, but on the other hand it is. It depends on one’s perspective. The comment Obama made was great comedic timing. However, because of the emphasis on Obama being a black candidate (when in fact he is just as much white as he is black) and the forum in which the question was posed, his comment might not have been such a good idea. For a white audience it’s a good laugh. To a black audience, or at least the conscious folks, the problems lies in the fact that he was asked such a ridiculous question and entertained it. Maybe if he was on the couch at Harpo Studios or hashing it out with Bill Maher, this topic wouldn’t be that deep.

  11. “When children who can’t read or write know all the latest dance moves and words to songs, we need to be re-prioritizing what are acceptable stereotypes, and not celebrating them, so that our realities and self-perception will change.”

    YES!!!!! Mull over THAT (sorry, you gotta let me sneak my funny in, lol)

  12. Barrack is going to win after all the comments people are using to tear down his campaign, vote Obama for president. Racism is beneath us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Blacks and hispanics all got rhythym.

  14. you are all a bunch of pussy’s.this hegro is a noe con fake.the two partie system is a joke.great,what next hillary sec of state. ( oh shit).were fucked.23 of 24 appointee’s are jew also.we are really fucked


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