“Arrogant” is the new “uppity.”
JUST LIKE the Obama girl, Obama has a crush on Obama.
Barack Obama always was a larger-than-life candidate with a healthy ego. Now he’s turning into the A-Rod of politics. It’s all about him …
A convention hall isn’t good enough for the presumptive Democratic nominee. He plans to deliver his acceptance speech in the 75,000 seat stadium where the Denver Broncos play. Before a vote is cast, he’s embarking on a foreign policy tour that will use cheering Europeans – and America’s top news anchors – as extras in his campaign. What do you expect from a candidate who already auditioned a quasi-presidential seal with the Latin inscription, “Vero possumus” – “Yes, we can”?
— Joan Vennochi, “The audacity of ego” (Boston Globe)
And Massa said, “Who let you in here? Yes, you. With that inconveniently independent mind armed with facts. With your standing up straight and talking white, looking The Man directly in the eye. Just who do you think you are? Because you’re not me. You’re nothing like me who is better than you. So you are an insult to me. You refute my long-held beliefs about you so you must be proven wrong.
“This is a trick. This is a gimmick. This is a game. I am the fleet of foot and you are the beast of burden. I placed shackles on your feet so that you would never get off the ground, yet there you are, an indictment of me, flying high above me, doing me one better, twice better, thrice better over and over again. Who released you from those chains because someone like you could have never figured out how to get out of them yourself.
“Who gave you the right, the permission, the clearance, the verification and insinuation that you are free? Who did this? Who taught you to read? It was against the law and you are too obtuse to understand the meaning of these words, yet you insist on speaking them. Yet you insist on looking me in the eye and demanding that I address you by your name. Who do you think you are and who let you in here? I said, who let you in here where the sign said niggers and women need not apply?”
They lost their shit. All of them.
Since this election cycle began, since all the eyes were fixated, for good and for bad, on a woman and black man, and now, just the black man alone. The charismatic yet serious senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, is a magnet who attracts the adoration and the fears. And in those fears he is the sum. He is their devil, the fiend, the infiltrator, the agitator, the infuriation, the Antichrist or one better, the “uppity Negro” — the man who would did not know his place.
Some black people make terrible slaves. Like Frederick Douglass who kept running away even after his first attempt failed. He stole himself, that’s what the Fugitive Slave Act would later say. He was the dish and the spoon, the commodity, the property tossing the burden off his back running away. Like the song, steal away, he stole himself away, reclaiming himself, becoming the providence and property of himself and himself alone.
Like Harriet Tubman, Du Bois and thousands of lesser known others looked at their situation and said, “Not me. Not ever. I don’t know about you, but I’m making break for it.” Like my mother’s great grandfather, Grandpa Ben, who remembered his father and a gaggle of relatives, sisters and brothers and mother, all sneaking out in the dark of night, hidden in wagon, covered in a cloth. Absconding away from Mississippi, never to return again. My mother does not know what was the principle event that caused her great-great grandfather to decide he had to get his entire family, cousins and all, out of Mississippi. Did Massa die and were they facing being sold and separated? So many things can cause a slave to run, but in the end he needed no specific act to justify his actions. They chose the great unknown over the known. They went down the road less traveled. They were horrible slaves.
Barack Obama is not the decedent from slaves. Unlike most black Americans he has a place in Africa that has a name that he can claim as his own. But he was born and raised an American, taking in all the benefits and disadvantages of being brown in a white world. He could have taken the easy road. He could have simply be a lawyer and live a quiet, nice, noble but unremarkable life. But like all people who are filled with an ambition burning hot inside, a mix of righteousness and ego, brilliance and manifest destiny, he reached for the heights and ascended, looked from his perch and rather than be content and satisfied as the second black senator to be elected from Illinois, he looked at his accomplishments and had the audacity to say, “More.”
Who let you in here? Who do you think you are?
His head is too high and his neck is too straight. He looks people in the eye. He speaks the words and knows their power and meaning. He is the center of the attention for good and for bad because he is what his opponent is not. He is attractive, he is sleek, he is young, he is new and he is making history. For the Democrats he is the completion of their perceived redemption as the antagonists and tormentors of “Segregation today. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever.” For others he is their worst nightmare. A black political wunderkind.
“[W]ho is he and who … the heck does this guy think he is, is becoming a real issue for Barack Obama.” Buchanan then accused Obama of “act[ing] like, you know, he thinks he is the Lord’s gift to mankind.” — Patrick J. Buchanan, Media Matters
Who were we to think we could drink out of the same water fountain?
Everyone is talking about that uppity Negro, that uppity nigger who does not know his place. “Places, Please!” shouts the establishment at Barack, Michelle and any other high-minded son-of-a-bitch who has the nerve to think they could rule the world. There is nothing more insulting that a precocious black child talking back to his elders, his superiors, his supremacists. There is nothing that enrages them more.
With his campaign for president, Obama is acting out, showing out, insulting them with his talent and skill. The best they can do is call it “narcissism,” like Joan Vennochi did in her column for the Boston Globe.
“A presidential candidate is supposed to get bigger on the national stage. That doesn’t mean his head should, too,” she wrote.
Hubris, they shouted, is a charge every politician in the history of government can be accused of. It is an arrogant thing to belie
ve that you are the one who can lead. But one wouldn’t want some sullen, broken-backed, mouth-breather nervously negotiating our contracts and legislation.
There’s an inherent arrogance required in thinking you can govern a country of 300 Million people. But the folks behind the stories on Obama’s “arrogance” seem to be plainly offended at the idea that Obama is seriously running for president, because apparently some people thought he was just here to make them feel better about race.
But I also think it’s possible for them to overplay this card. When I see Joe Lieberman on Meet the Press repeating “good young man” like he’s been practicing it in a mirror, ( I guess that’s what they say in Connecticut instead of “boy”) and CBS mocking Obama for having a nice campaign plane, (Word? Not everybody’s wife has their own plane, CBS.) I start to wonder whether they’ve been playing this “uppity” card a bit too much. Most people care more about being accused of being racist than actual racism, but I think people also generally recoil when the racism of a particular remark becomes obvious. Aside from Gergen, media critic James Rainey in the LA Times is also pointing out that the “arrogant” storyline is ridiculous. Of course, we all know what they’re really saying.
— “Over Playing The ‘Uppity Card,'” Jack and Jill Politics
Many writers and bloggers pointed out the uppity paradox, where anything Obama does can be spun into brazen gall. Author Ishamael Reed also took notice of this in his analysis of the insensitivity some white feminists and white male commentators had towards blacks and Obama’s campaign, tying it in to a recurring storying line of “uppitiness.” Blogger Field Negro proclaimed this was a case of Americans loving that their presidents were “elite” until the black elite came around.
When Mrs. Clinton, during a debate, commented that voters found Obama more “likeable” than Mrs. Clinton, Obama said that Mrs. Clinton was “likeable enough.” Obama’s reply prompted an Ante Bellum white man, Karl Rove, to refer to Obama as “a smarmy, prissy little guy taking a slap at her.” …
— “Going Old South on Obama,” Counter Punch
I submit to you that A-merry-cans wanted their Presidents to be elite. That is, until, this potential President. This one, they don’t want to be elite. “There is nothing a white man with a penny hates more than a nigger with a nickle.” Sorry “O” man, no elitism or uppity behavior from you. Here in A-merry-ca we will not tolerate an uppity black man.
— “The Uppity Candidate,” The Field Negro
Places, please! It’s getting out of control, the Obamas’ faces on every magazine. It was too good to be real so they searched for the lies. In Salon, Edward McClelland, an author and former correspondent for the Chicago Reader, wrote that Obama was once a cold stiff who liked people to know he was from Harvard. He repeated the line that Obama wasn’t “black” enough for the South side of Chicago and that the senator had to earn his “ghetto pass.” He was too high for the perceived low of blackness. He didn’t speak the language was the essence of McClelland’s piece. He had no rhythm. He was an elitist and dull. The smug man drinking out of the white water fountain was too incredulous to be real.
Obama just couldn’t — or wouldn’t — loosen up. The dignified demeanor that had won him a state Senate seat in the university community of Hyde Park did not translate to the district’s inner-city precincts. His internal rhythm was set to “Pomp and Circumstance.” “Arrogant,” scoffed a South Side radio host. Even his body language signaled he was slumming.
— “How Obama learned to be a natural,” Salon.com
McClelland writes that as Obama transformed over the next four years into the politician he is today he voted for him twice, amazed by the brilliant speaker before him, but the written words still sting, still follow the meme of “twice as good” being too good. MJ Rosenburg of Talking Points Memo writes that the uppity smear is a winning strategy for McCain, painting Obama as the elite “other,” proclaiming that, “Racism dies hard in America.” On the blog Being! Or Nothingness the author notes the very “Southern” attitude critics have taken to Obama,
“Imagine, a black man who thinks he’s better than you! Why, that uppity negro needs to be put in his place.”
Just who do they think they are being bright and beautiful and ubiquitous? Who opened the door and let them in the master’s house? They’re sleeping in his bed and drinking his wine. They’ve made themselves comfortable and at home and it looks like they’re not leaving anytime soon. Their adorable daughters playing in the yard. And the Kennedy allusions make them sick.
“The fashionistas have already noted Michelle Obama’s affinity for channeling Jackie. And it’s hard to watch the Obama daughters ‘Access Hollywood’ interview and not think about Caroline and John F. Kennedy Jr. back in the days of Camelot,” wrote Vennochi.
His wife Michelle is routinely decried as not good enough when she surpassed “good enough” decades ago. Shouting about her inferiority and alleged defects does not make them come into fruition. Wishing for the Obamas to fail does not guarantee that they will. So ahead of the curve they’ve left orbit. There was no lie in the statement when Obama insinuated that a lot of this angst, sturm und drang, was over him not looking like the men on the money, the former slave owners on the money. So many blacks can be bought off with the money. They could be made content. They could stay on the plantation happy with their SUVs and glittering idols. We were the people who could be bought off with a Cadillac and a bucket of fried chicken. Why wasn’t the plantation enough?
And Massa said, “Be ordinary. Be happy with what you have. Do not question. Do not fight back. Do not lift your head, it’s not worth it. Punks jump up to get beat down, and we will beat you down. With clubs and fists if necessary. Nooses and crosses aflame. Because you need to know your place
“There was a time good colored people knew their place. Now they’re in your face and everywhere. They are bragging, boasting loudly of their feats. They are succeeding and excelling and becoming us, replacing us, but no one can be us. We are special, we are real, we are the archetype, the origin of the species and your existence is an indictment of our judgment. Our judgment of you. Because we are judging you. We are always judging you and we found you guilty before proven innocent. And there is nothing innocent in your intent. I am disgusted with the thought of saluting you, of yielding to you, of submitting to you, of turning on the TV and seeing you speak on behalf of me when you are not me. You are not one of us. I say, ‘Places, please!’ because you are out of place. You must know your place or I will make you know it.
“Bad things happen to those who don’t know their place. What do you love more? Your life or your freedom? I’ve cut the cards and now you must draw. Learn your fate. Learn your place.”
Black brother, think your life so sweet
That you would live at any price?
Does mere existence balance with
The weight of your great sacrifice?
Or can it be you fear the grave
Enough to live and die a slave?
— Ray D. Dandridge, “Time To Die“