The Color Line

What does it mean to be “race baiting”?

fred-armisen-obama.jpg

I was scrolling through Chicago Tribune online this morning as I get the email alerts and I saw a story concerning Saturday Night Live’s sketch on Barack Obama starring Fred Armisen.  The author posed a question that I had seen on various other blogs and messageboards as to the dwindling number of African American’s on SNL.  Granted SNL is not some highly watched television show, it is a firm and sacred part of Americana and to deny its importance I believe is simply foolish.  Be that as it is, why is it that SNL has not done a better job of finding more black male actors, or furthermore, why is it that since I began watching the show consistently that African American women have been VERY few.  Given the chameleon character of Maya Rudolph, I’m not discounting her existence as an African American woman, but the show historically has not seen someone who falls into the category of African American and female.

Anyway, the point of the Tribune article was that in the time between the last SNL show and last Saturday, why couldn’t the show have found a black male to play the role of Barack Obama.  I think partly what made this an issue was the fact that Fred Armisen, who is quite talented, somehow, according to some, did not deliver a good performance of Obama.  Well, there were a plethora of comments saying that this was a non-issue and others saying to the effect that Obama’s campaign shows that we’re past race and gender in this country (to which I wanted to reply what rock were they living under) and others saying that he’s half-white so why couldn’t a fully white person play the role (Fred Armisen is of Hispanic and Asian descent. 

Well, okay.

But what stood out to me was one of the posts that read “WOW! YOU ARE RACE BAITING FOR AFFECT. HOW PAINFULLY TRITE AND TRANSPARENT.  IT IS PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT CONTINUE TO STIR THE RACIAL POT, AND GIVE FODDER TO THOSE LESS INTELLIGENT WHO RUN WITH THIS STUFF AND CAUSE PROBLEMS. SHAME ON YOU.”  And yes, it was written in all capital letters.

Well, I want to know what classifies as race baiting?

Truthfully, does one have to be a certain race to accuse one of race baiting or be a certain race to be the accused of race baiting?  I remember back when I was ten years old hearing “the race card” enter the United States’ collective vernacular in reference to the O.J. Simpson trial and Johnnie Cochran’s brilliant cross of that nutso Detective Mark Furhman.  It appears to me that we’re still a country that has not fully dealt with its past. 

So let me ask this question and I would love for everyone who reads this to leave a response as to whether or not this is race baiting.  The following clip is one of MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann calling Bill O’Reilly’s crazy @$$ onto the carpet concerning his comment about a “lynching party” and Lady Michelle Obama in the same statement.

But like, honestly, in 2008, we’re still talking about lynching? And its a joke? I mean even our nut job, whacked out Son of a Bush president said in the previous clip that lynching and nooses are tabook in this country and we go on as if race doesn’t matter in this country.  Truthfully, at this point in time, everyone who reads this blog knows where the UNN and I stand on such issues, so there is really no need for me go off on Bill O’Reilly and his ilk.  However, let it be known that the UNN will NOT stand for any further provocation of Lady Michelle Obama.  There will be hell to pay.

It appears to me that this whole notion of race baiting is really an issue of presumed and acutal white privilege.  Anyone born in this country or who moves here (whether from Europe or Africa) with heavy European ancestry has white privilege.  Even if they are poor living in a rundown shack in the Appalachians or the Ozarks, uneducated and undereducated, in this country both historically and in the present, as long as they “aint a nigger” they have a leg up in this country.  Not until white folk realise and accept white privilege as a reality, then as a country we will continue to fail to have a real discussion about race relations and the socio-economic status of the non-whites living here in America.

Keep it uppity, JLL

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