Monday, March 3, 2008

The Affirmative Action Media

Popular wisdom is that O-tastic is loved by the media.

Clinton supporters have been claiming for weeks that she's been abused by the mainstream media, while Obama gets turn down service and foot massages. Throughout history, politicians on both sides of the aisle have accused the media of preferential treatment of their opponents, and the Clintons have had a certain disdain for the media since they reported with glee his penchant for making interns "drop knowledge" in the Oval Office.

Unfortunately, the first rule of politics is that if you repeat something long enough, people will eventually believe it. (WMDs anyone?) So the constant carping of Clinton and her surrogates has had the effect of forcing many media types to accept that Obama has been getting off easy. Everybody hasn't taken the bait, but enough folks have that you will see this Clinton talking point repeated on television and in print regularly.

Now, I of course disagree with this point, but I don't begrudge the Clinton campaign a successfully executed political maneuver. While I still remember questions about Obama's drug use, "blackness" and Muslim name, I can respect that the HillBillies have to tried to paint her as a victim of unfair practices in order to counteract the amazing popularity of Obama. As Undercover Black Man said on his blog it seems stupid to complain that you've got a harder road to the White House than a black man whose middle name is Hussein, but if that's how the Clintons want to play it, so be it.

No, what's pissed me off is that some folks in the media have taken this theory of a love fest for Obama a little farther, and have floated the idea that maybe all this love is a kind of affirmative action. I watched The McLaughlin Group the other night and that crusty white cat who is in charge (I assume he's McLaughlin) was going out of his way to point out that the media are probably enthralled by this "new, black guy," and they want to see him succeed even if he's not qualified because it makes them feel better about all the bad things in the past. That loud old guy said affirmative action as if it was an epithet, and just constantly repeated leading questions without ever really providing any insight.


I don't know how many sports fans read this blog, but a few years back King Dittohead (pill-poppin' Rush for y'all that didn't know) called Donovan McNabb a mediocre quarterback who was only hailed as more than that because the "liberal media" wanted to see a black quarterback succeed. Rush's logic was that it was Eagles' defense that made the team good, and that McNabb would be fairly unknown if he was a white dude named Bob. King Dittohead's comments, which came on ESPN, ignited a firestorm of controversy that ultimately resulted in him getting fired. McNabb would later create his own firestorm when he said he had been held to a different standard than white quarterbacks in an HBO interview last year, but that's a different issue.

Now some of you may be wondering how those two incidents connect.

The simple truth is that the vast majority white folks (and pseudo-white folks) in this country don't like affirmative action. Some think it's inherently unfair, some think it's unnecessary and some feel it was just badly implemented. Lots of folks believe all three of those things are true. Rush thought McNabb's popularity was a result of a form of affirmative action and that loud old dude thinks Obama is getting the same sweet deal.

There's the rub.

See, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there are a lot of people in America who believe black people are getting a sweet deal. They think the "bad blacks" are living off the government and refuse to work, and they think "good blacks" have only achieved success through some sort of unfair advantage that masked their deficiencies. In this reality, the real reason for affirmative action--blatant and persistent discrimination by white people--is ignored or minimized.

Man, one of the main reason I went to an HBCU (Bison, y'all) is because I didn't want to have to deal with folks openly questioning my qualifications throughout my college career at random white university. I had the test scores and GPA to get into most places, but it wasn't worth all that hassle because college is supposed to be a good time.

Consequently, it gets on my last nerve when certain media types get amnesia about just how many negative stories Obama had to deal with in the past, and suddenly start guzzling the Kool-Aid as it relates to his fictional "affirmative action" pass from the press. I'm even more pissed that black commentators with a true understanding of affirmative action don't speak up more frequently about the ridiculous definition of affirmative action that has become a part of standard discourse. It's not enough to just challenge the idea that Obama has gotten some sort of sweet deal that only minorities receive, it's more important to force people to confront the bastardization of the history of affirmative action.

The source of my anger is simple.

I realize that if enough media types repeat this theory, or even report that the theory exists, folks are going to accept it as true. That is more dangerous that rumors about Obama's religion or sexuality becuase it's much easier for people to believe that a black person is only successful because they caught a special break. It falls in line with their reality.

If this lie about Obama becomes an accepted part of the political discourse, Obama becomes just another black dude to many voters. You know, that black dude who got the promotion they thought was for them. Or that black dude who has a nice house and car that they could never afford. Or, even worse, that ungrateful black guy who always wants to discuss racism even though he's doing just fine and living the American Dream. Once Obama becomes linked to affirmative action, he becomes a proxy for every fear and hatred Americans have for that system, and for those they believe benefit from it.

It's exactly like what Bill tried to do in South Carolina, except instead of attacking Obama personally, it attacks a generally reviled media that many people don't trust. Yet it also uses that same media to spread the attack and lend it credibility. It's a masterful back door attack that could have an effect well into the general elections.

It's quite simple, really.

Obama could become a nigger with a sweet deal.


Fantastically Misunderstood Me said...

i love you for this post. i never read you before today, but i totally agree w/this. i recently saw an obama bumper sticker that said "white guilt". and i am sick and tired of people assuming that i support obama simply because he's black. reality is, if he were a mediocre candidate i wouldn't support him, (besides him being underqualified) because if he were elected & did poorly, white people would assume that he was the jayson blair of the political world. and any black person that ever got anywhere is only because of affirmative action.

it's sad to hear that no matter how impressive he is, somebody somewhere still has that mentality.

it also kills me that so many people are hollering that he's "inexperienced" when they havent taken the time to review his political background for themselves. and hillary hasn't gotten into specifics about his senate record because she knows its more impressive then hers!! anything people hear on tv more than once they take for fact.

Big Man said...

You are so right, particularly that last comment. It's appalling how little critical thinking most people do.

And you're right about black folks never supporting a mediocre black man for president. We know we only have one shot to get this right. In fact, I think I might write about that.

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