Getting the Point

Hope she made her point…

Arizona Gov, Jan Brewer has probably been interviewed more by the national media today than she has been since Arizona became the only state in the Union where I could be asked for a copy of my birth certificate if I find myself looking too Dominican while in Phoenix.

That’s because she decided to do something that you shouldn’t do to anyone: she decided to stick her finger in someone’s face. That this face was attached to the President of the United States was what made it news.

Otherwise, it’s just another white woman trying to put a black man in check.

Now I know that some of you are going to look at that last sentence and say “Why must you make everything racial? That wasn’t about race. Why is it that every perceived disrespect when it comes to this President gets looked at through the prism of race?”

Because when it comes to a lot of the things that Republicans do and say to this particular president, the prism of race is the most obvious one through which it can be viewed. Don’t shoot the messenger. It is what it is…at least it is what it is in this case…

Now why do I say that? Well, let’s look at it in another direction and you’ll see why.

Suppose the positions in this picture were reversed? Let’s just say that this wasn’t President Barack Obama, but Gov. Barack Obama. And let’s pretend that Gov. Brewer was the President instead. Now let’s further extend this scenario and have Gov. Obama confront President Brewer as she came off of Air Force One and stuck his finger in her face.

Before you could say “angry black man”, people would be calling for his head. How dare he disrespect the President like that…and a white woman to boot? You’re sticking your finger in this white woman’s face? Are you nuts boy?! Better get your nigga ass back in its place…!

(Now if you don’t think that’s how it would have gone down, I have the deed to the Ben Franklin Bridge. I’ll sell it to you if you want….)

But here’s the part of this that kinda cracks me up. When Gov. Brewer made the television talk show rounds today, she said that she felt “intimidated” by the President.

On one hand, I guess I can understand that. If I had done something stupid enough to possibly lead to my ending up face down on the tarmac or looking down the barrel of a Secret Service gun, I might feel intimidated.

But because America is possibly the only place in the world where a white woman can put her finger in a black man’s face and then claim that HE’S intimidating HER, she’s been hailed as a hero on Fox News.

If that’s not proof that we’re deep into the Silly Season of American Politics, you tell me what is.

It is dynamics like this that made me decide that I’d like to know more about political speech…and the coded messages connected to it. It is these codes that have given us such things as “food stamp president”, “welfare queen” “socialism” and other things that seem to act as dog whistles to the people to whom they’re directed.

I started noticing coded speech when I was working for the Reading Eagle-Times in Reading, Pennsylvania. Because I can be a little nuts at times, I found myself covering organized hate groups.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m black. I’m talking to Klansmen. Not the safest gig. Mom got on me about it a lot. Even told the paper that if anything happened to me, they’d have a new owner…)

But while the rank and file of these groups weren’t made up of the brightest bulbs in the lamp, their leadership, the ones that recruited them, were pretty intelligent. They knew what to say to get these folks into the fold. They knew that these folks were looking for someone to blame for the fact that they didn’t have a job, or food for their families and they also knew that they weren’t quite smart enough to say, “Hey! What about the greedy bastards that laid me off?!”

Thus, they were able to say, “It’s the blacks fault!” or “It’s the immigrant’s fault!”…and these folks bought it because it was easier than trying to understand the inner workings of multinational corporations.

It’s almost the same in politics. In 2004, President George W. Bush got a second term because he was able to distract people from the war by keeping their eyes on “gay marriage”. Because bills codifying marriage as an institution exclusive to straight couples were on the ballot, and the anti-“gay marriage” forces were largely Republican and largely religious, he rode to victory.

(Here’s where I say what I usually say when I write about gays and legal matrimony: I still don’t understand what gay folks can do to ruin the institution of marriage that straight folks haven’t already done. I mean hey, we’ve got a guy currently running for president who asked his second wife to consider an open marriage so that he could continue screwing the woman who would later go on to become his third wife. If that’s not proof of my contention, nothing is. Not even Elizabeth Taylor tried anything like that…)

Now coded speech in politics has always been with us. These dog whistles get blown no matter who is in charge.

But when you have an African American incumbent in the White House, and a segment of the population that’s still pissed off about this, the code words come flying fast and furious. In the last few months alone, we’ve heard that Spanish is “a language of the ghetto”, black kids “need to work as janitors in their schools so that they acquire a work ethic” blacks should “demand paychecks instead of food stamps” and that “I don’t want to make life better for black people by giving them your money”.

It’s annoying. It’s grotesque. It’s disrespectful. But it works.

But because it’s appearing in 2012 that people of color have no rights that anyone is required to respect all over again, it makes sense that a woman who tends to make up stories about Mexican cartels killing people in the Arizona desert (something that has been proven false time and time again) feels that she has the right to put her finger in the face of the President of the United States.

However, Gov. Brewer should be really, really glad that President Obama was alone when she wagged her finger at him because my guess is that this picture would have looked a whole lot different if First Lady Michelle Obama were present.

If she’s at all like most of the women I know, you’d have learned the definition of “intimidated”…

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One comment

  1. THANK YOU! Thank you for pointing out what it would be like if this situation were reversed. It would have been akin to a Emmett Till supposedly whistling at a white woman in the 1950s! Yes, they would have called for his head and everything else.

    It does bother me that none of the talking heads/pundits/blackperts haven't said this out loud. It would be case closed. (perhaps) She wouldn't have wagged her finger in Bill Clinton's face, or even Jimmy Carter (today). This was beyond disrespectful.

    Pres. Obama is a better man than I'll ever be (and I'm a woman). Seriously, the man is a lesson in temperament that our professional black men and women can learn from. I know I do.

    “Obama's cool,” remarked my 70-year old dad when I said that the world would have ended if the roles were reversed. That's what it boils down to. He's as cool as cucumber while being the Jackie Robinson of US presidents.

    K.S. Johnson

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