My Random Thoughts

Location: United Kingdom

A Naija Guy living (and loving) in the UK.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

30 Rock, Barack Obama and American Idol

I've recently fallen in love new NBC comedy series 30 Rock. The show features Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan of Saturday Night Live and it deals with issues relating to the cast and production team of fictional TV show, 'The Girlie Show.' I first started appreciating the show when it dealt with a new twist tothe issue of sensitivity to the N-Word, when one black character took offence when another black character refered to him as his N****. The clip below shows Toofer (who is Harvard educated) calling Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) his N****. The difference in social class of the actors appears to distort the playing field and thus the term was perceived as derogatory from one black male to another.

Personally I have never appreciated the attempt to reclaim the word by the black community using it as a term of endearment, as all it seems to be doing is causing confusion for white people who don't seem to understand why they can't use it when its used in most gangsta rap songs nowadays. (The argument is that its alright to diss your own family but if people from outside try this mess, "they going down"). Chris Rock recently expressed similar sentiment when he recanted his Niggas vs. Black People Sketch in an interview on 60 Minutes before his Oscar hosting in 05. Anyhoo, 30 Rock this week dealt with Politics and Barack Obama.

I guess this bit focuses on the challenge Obama faces in his race for 08. Barack Obama is not the first black candidate to run for the white house. Jesse Jackson, Rev Al Sharpton and former Democratic Senator Carol Mosely-Braun have all been there. Obama is clearly making waves as he has endeared himself to White America, its Black America he is struggling with. When civil rights activist Jesse Jackson launched his attempt to seek the democratic nomination in 1984, it was clear what platform he choose to stand on, where he thought his votes would come from.

It is undeniable that Race Matters when it comes to politics. There is an unwritten rule that Blacks are expected to vote Democrat/Labour (dependent on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you live on). I guess this is based on the assumption that these parties in general are based on the principles of establishing a more equitable society and this is seen as being to the benefit of black people as we are generally less affluent compared to white people in the West. It is assumed that a black candidate will better understand the difficulties that black people face in western society, discrimination in employment etc. I guess this is one of the problems Obama faces, he has himself admitted that his upbringing is not typical of an African American.

I'm sure the Obama team is curently asking itself if a Black Candidate can win election to high office in the USA without the Black vote. Obama won election as Senator against another black candidate, Republican Alan Keyes. While the Obama camp has recently been seeking to woo the black vote, Black people need to believe that by electing him it will change their lot. Is it enough for black america just to have a black man in the white house or does his politics have to be black as well. Critics of Obama point out that 10years of having Clarence Thomas on the bench haven't done a damn thing for Black America. It says creating a symbol is no longer enough. I personally think its a shame that the USA in the 21st Century has only seen 5 black senators in its history and I think only one black govenor. Al Sharpton argues that America cannot afford to look beyond race in a climate that is still populated by inequalities that are inherently due to racial prejudice and historical inequalities. I agree.

Should Obama succeed in wooing the black vote he will still have problems with Black females who are experiencing a case of divided loyalties over voting for a woman or a black male!

Obama has joked that he worried his political career was over after 9/11 because his name sounded too much like Osama bin Laden. (the reason for Jenna's confusion in the 30 Rock sketch below). Named after his father, his full name is Barack Hussein Obama Jr. Some of his opponents have taken to using his full name Senator Obama Barack Hussein Obama to repeatedly attempt to link Obama with two of America's hated enemies - Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussain.

As a study of how race matters in a voting system one needs look no further than American Idol. Viewers of the show cross race, age and social backgrounds. I happened to be in New York a few years ago when the final of the show featured a head to head between Fantasia and Diana Degarmo. I was amazed at how many white people were rooting for Diana. I thought any neutral observer just assessing singing talent would clearly see that Fantasia's singing voice was a million times better than Diana. Alas I was wrong. For anyone who doubts how polarising race can be in a voting system, visit the American Idol Discussion Board. One guy posted a rant seeking support for a ban on all votes for Sanjaya Malakar cause he is too 'Indian looking'. Fortunately that post didn't stay up too long.

For what its worth, I think the only remaining superpower needs to elect a minority to the White House in 08 (Woman, Black Male, Mormon) to prove to the world it is truly embracing its diversity and dreams can come true in the ole US of A. My vote goes to Barack Obama.