Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Magic Negro and Other Hollywood Myths

That's where Black characters are brought in to serve as noble, wise, many times suffering, "guides" to specifically help the main White character understand or transcend some deep metaphysical concept, trauma or life challenge.[1]

As we get closer to the historic election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States I can’t help but be concerned about a phenomenon that I sense is gripping the nation in general and many blacks in particular. This phenomenon made famous by various Hollywood films such as Bagger Vance, The Green Mile, and many others throughout the years creates a mystical black character who is able to transcend the realities of life and help a white character overcome some challenge or trauma. Looking at our current national situation I don’t think Hollywood could have scripted this any better. If there was ever a time for a “magic Negro” now would definitely be the time.

However there is just one small problem. There are no magic Negroes. Barack Obama is not a magic Negro. He is about to inherit a country that is at war on two fronts, an economy that is teetering on the “Great Depression”, a corporate culture that rewards greed and quick profits to hard work and sustained growth. A country that has lost all of its prestige in the world and now has to rely on bullying tactics and torture. A country with a growing healthcare crisis and is about to experience high unemployment and home foreclosures. A country that will be struggling to come together and come to grips with having a black man-magical or not-leading it. Thanks to the McCain camps scorched earth win at all costs last minute campaigning there will be many Americans who will resent the authority of President Obama. Come to think of it why would anyone in their right mind want this crappy job?

The thing we must all remember is that voting for Senator Obama is the easiest thing we will have to do. The real work will come after he is elected. Make no mistake despite the disintegration of the Republican Party right before our eyes, the corporate task masters will have no problem finding lackeys to espouse their agenda; nor will there be any shortage of proponents of the status quo. Corporate America is not going to wake up on November 5th and decide that greed and malfeasance are no longer in vogue, racism is not going to magically disappear and we will stand around the national campfire singing Kumbaya hand in hand, nor will there be reparation checks showing up in the mailboxes of all mistreated minorities.

The forces of resistance and intolerance will not be so easily defeated by just an election. The election is only the first step towards the bigger goal of transforming this nation. Those same people who have decided to volunteer in record numbers and to come together for a common purpose greater than themselves cannot go home after the election as if the election were the end all to be all. No, we must continue to organize, to communicate with one another in a common purpose and to press our newly elected officials to change the toxic political climate in Washington and to once again allow government to serve, protect, and aid its people; all of its people not just the wealthiest ones.

I realize it has been a long campaign and many of us would like to just go home and get back to normal after the election, but if we do then all of the change and hope we have been striving for will be for naught. Barack Obama is just one man; a very powerful man but one man just the same. Alone he can do very little; he is going to need our continued hard work if he is to take this country into the next generation and into the next century. It won’t do any good for him to open up opportunities for higher education if there are no students prepared to take advantage of them. It won’t do any good for him to generate new jobs in the “Green Economy” if there are no people trained to do them. Regardless of how much he does without personal responsibility and self-motivation it won’t matter. Things can only get better and progress not from Washington to Main Street but from Main Street to Washington. We must be the change we want. Change always occurs from the bottom up, never from the top down.

If the change we need is more than just a slogan to you then it will be after the election that your hard work will be needed the most. We must begin to use that driving force that allowed us to register so many new voters and become competitive in states that haven’t been competitive for a Democrat in a long time as well as winning some of them. We must use it to go out into our communities and help to provide opportunities for all Americans, to provide a quality education for all of our children, to provide healthcare for all Americans, to tear down the barriers that have kept us from becoming one nation. We must not allow symbolism to triumph over substance. If after the election nothing changes, then nothing changes. This election could be the launch pad for a rebirth of our nation, a nation that actually tries to live up to its principles.

No my friends Barack Obama is not a magic Negro, but each one of us has a little magic and we can all make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens if we take the time to reach out to others.

[1] http://www.counter-racism.com/articles/newspaper/themagicnegro.html

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