A Philosopher's Blog

The Magic Negro

Posted in Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on December 29, 2008

Christmas is supposed to be the time that people come together and exchange gifts. But, one gift has served to create division.

Chip Saltsman gave out music CDs featuring the parody song “Barack the Magic Negro” as presents to members of the RNC. Not surprisingly, this has not gone over well with some people.

Political satire has a long tradition in the United States and can often be regarded as harmless or at least acceptable humor. Both the left and the right have put out multitudes of comedy songs over the years mocking the other side. It is all part of the game of politics and a legitimate avenue for comedy.

Naturally, there is little (or no) outrage or media drama when comedy songs mock white male politicians. However, the “Barack the Magic Negro” song has stirred up things quite a bit because the song is about Obama. Some folks on the left are outraged because, of course, the left is supposed to be outraged about such things. Some folks in the Republican party are also expressing their outrage at this song and Saltsman’s decision to distribute it.

No doubt, some of the Republicans are honestly upset about the song and Saltsman’s decision. After all, the song can be seen as racist and hence Saltsman could be seen as expressing racist views (or at least bad judgment).

Also without doubt is the fact that some folks in the Republican party are exploiting this for political advantage. Not surprisingly, Saltsman’s political rivals in the party have been leading the charge against him in this matter. After all, this situation provides an excellent means for them to gain an advantage over Saltsman. There is, of course, a certain irony in these Republicans exploiting a situation created by a song popularized by Rush Limbaugh. It is also ironic that Republicans are using racial sensitivity as a piece in a political game.

This situation also raises the issue of whether the song is racist or not.  On one hand, the song does include references to race and parodies both  Al Sharpton and Barack Obama.  The gist of the song is that Sharpton (in the parody) is saying that people will vote for Obama because he is a “magic negro” and not authentically black like Sharpton. As such, the song could be seen as racist and Saltsman’s gift could thus be seen as racist in nature.

On the other hand, the song is relatively tame and could be seen as bringing up the matter of race in a way that is legitimate political satire. In fact, a case could be made that the song is mocking the left for being so concerned about race. If so, it is ironic that some Republicans have become so suddenly concerned about the matter.


13 Responses

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  1. kip said, on December 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I reserved judgment till I heard the song for myself.
    It’s racist.

  2. muslim said, on December 30, 2008 at 4:48 am

    At first i thought this was a joke… Then after reading to the end of your post, giving it some serious thought, and then searching it up on youtube… then giving it some more thought… it’s not as funny as i originally thought, now it’s just mildly funny 😉

  3. magus71 said, on December 30, 2008 at 5:07 am

    “It is also ironic that Republicans are using racial sensitivity as a piece in a political game.”

    Come on, Mike. You can’t be serious with that statement.

    I thought Brack was going to bring us all together. Please, please do a piece on some of the hypocracies in your party. There’s plenty to write about.

    Now, it seems there’s just more stuff for race-mongers to write about. This’ll never end. Ever.

  4. Michael LaBossiere said, on December 30, 2008 at 11:38 am

    I can be serious. It is ironic that some of the same folks who have mocked the Democrats for being so sensitive have suddenly become so sensitive. Or, rather, have taken on the appearance of sensitivity.

    I’m not a Democrat. I have no party affiliation at all. In general, I think little of both parties and regard them primarily as engines of corruption and tyranny.

    I have done pieces critical of the Democrats. When the Democrats were flailing away at each other about race and gender, I wrote about that. Now that the Democrats are in power, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of critical things to say about them. I expect a scandal soon-probably something with the Clintons.

  5. kernunos said, on December 30, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Wasn’t it a Democrat that used the term ‘Magic Negro’ about Barack? Where was the outcry then? ooooooh, that’s what I thought.

  6. magus71 said, on December 31, 2008 at 4:05 am

    The media is blowing their “concern for the matter” out of proportion, I suspect. Just because the media talks about something a lot, doesn’t mean everyone else is. It’s the same with the war on terror. The media talks a lot about it, so people think that’s all the Bush administration talks about.

    So when they’re not sensitive, they’re racist, and when they are, the Republicans are: “using racial sensitivity as a piece in a political game.”

    The song is actually a knock on Al Sharpton, more than Obama, by the way.

  7. Michael LaBossiere said, on December 31, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    The media folks do often fail to present the important of a story properly (too much or too little).

    There are Republicans who are sensible about race and who are not racists. I’d say most are not racists. I’d also say that most are not “sensitive.”

    My point is that the folks who have suddenly found sensitivity just in time to whip Saltsman with the lash of racism are probably not sincere in their moral outrage. I suspect that many Democrats who wield that lash also lack sincerity.

  8. kernunos said, on December 31, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    This Satire is a political commentary on how awful some black people treat each other when concerning race. Are political cartoonists praised for this sort of thing?

  9. toddyenglish said, on January 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    On the onehand it seems racist; however, I can honestly understand the intent. I think the skit was lampooning Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton…
    As I recall, prior to weeping on election night, Jesse Jackson wanted to cut Barack Obama’s nuts off. :: shrug::

    Honestly, as a person of the African American persuasion, I wasn’t all THAT offended by it. Yet, sometimes I wonder about the rampant racism in the Republican party (which was evidenced by the McCain/Palin campaign…Their rallies were only missing the white sheets and burning crucifixes).

  10. kernunos said, on January 5, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    To Toddyenglish: What evidence?

  11. toddyenglish said, on January 13, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Well, this youtube video (and several others like it)…

  12. kernunos said, on January 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    People with cameras trying to incite combativeness from a minority of the people there does not make what you say true. I’m sure you would get the same type of crap if someone was trying to incite people at an Obama rally.

  13. magus71 said, on January 14, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Everyone should suck it up and get over it. ~non-sensitive Republican.

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