Courtland Milloy
Courtland Milloy
Local Columnist

Playing into the tea party’s hands

Psst, tea partyers:

Want to make mischief in the minds of black folks? Of course you do. Just keep Herman Cain in the hunt for the Republican presidential nomination and watch us get trapped by our own racial rhetoric.

Courtland Milloy

Writes a weekly local column

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The snare is already set.

According to a story in The Washington Post on Tuesday by my colleague Krissah Thompson, some of President Obama’s most visible black allies are urging black people to vote for Obama just because he’s black.

“Let’s not even deal with the facts right now. Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride — and loyalty,” Thompson quotes the blog of popular black radio talk show host Tom Joyner. “We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man.”

To which you tea partyers might cleverly counter: Why settle for reelecting Obama when the psychic high of having that “first black” has obviously worn off? Better to make more history by supporting Cain and electing two black presidents in a row. Put a Morehouse man in the White House, black folks. Show your black pride. A graduate from a historically black college running the country? Or one from the snooty white Ivy League?

You right-wingers could have a ball with this black thing: Tom as well as Al Sharpton play the race card while being steeped in black tea.

After more than two years as president, the tea partyers could say that Obama’s core supporters can be held together only by appeals to racial symbolism. The president is so weak on substance, they could claim, that Sharpton, a civil rights activist-turned-cable TV talk show host, must issue threats against those who would criticize their beloved brother Barack.

“I’m not telling you to shut up,” Thompson quoted Sharpton as saying to Obama critics. “I’m telling you: Don’t make some of us have to speak up.” Meaning he’d call you a race traitor and an Uncle Tom.

Cain has already suggested that most blacks are just marching in lockstep on the Democratic Party plantation. And now comes Sharpton acting like a black Simon Legree, keeping the mindless blacks in line.

Frankly, Tom and Al, the president could really do without this kind of help.

Truth be told, Obama needs a loyal opposition more than most. Otherwise, there’d be nobody to push him back into the fight when those Republican kickboxers have him backed up on his heels. Besides, even if black people were lukewarm in their support for Obama, the specter of some of these extreme right-wingers in the White House is scary enough to mobilize the vote all by itself.

From what I can tell, Joyner and Sharpton are pretty savvy, but in this case they appear to have forgotten how the politics of race works in America.

To refresh their memory: Black and white “races” are biological fictions, optical illusions contrived to create a separate and opposing social reality aimed at benefiting a particular group with European ancestry. That’s just a historical fact. So when more than 90 percent of black voters helped put a black man in the White House, there suddenly appeared a national movement of supposedly disorganized white people who just happened to be unified by their opposition to the black man’s “policies.”

Even though he hadn’t even been sworn in yet.

The racial appeal from Sharpton and Joyner is likely to be met with similar opposition, stirring up even more white folks than blacks.

The hallmark of tea party opposition to Obama was always public displays of personal disrespect. They tried to demean him and the office he holds. At town hall meetings where the president was scheduled to appear, they show up armed with assault rifles. And they caricatured him as a monkey.

And when blacks called them racist, up popped a few black tea party-backed politicians as their evidence to the contrary.

Now, even if Cain is not being used as the tea party’s tool for this purpose, as some have claimed he is, the tea party can certainly use him to hammer away at Joyner’s and Sharpton’s misguided appeal to blackness. After all, the tea party is supporting the first black presidential candidate who dares to say, “I’m black, and I’m proud.”

Even the late James Brown, the legendary “Godfather of Soul” and, incidentally, one of Sharpton’s mentors, would have to be impressed. Right, Al?

 
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