Obama paranoia and race-based dementia

The presidential election cycle has been the most contentious of my lifetime, which is weird because I truly thought that nothing could ever exceed the nastiness of 1990s when William Jefferson Clinton was President of the United States (POTUS). I was wrong, very wrong.

The election of Barack Obama to the Office of President, the symbolic and de facto leader of the free world, set off an emotional tsunami in some political quarters of this country that defy measurement on the Richer scale. Amid all the euphoric cheers and optimistic chatter about post-racial America emerged an ugly reinvented beast believed to be dead and buried more than fifty years ago.

Excuse my grammatical faux pas, but Jim Crow is back, ya’ll! He’s back with a vengeance and a multicultural mix of billionaires and bubbas, businessmen and boomers, has-been politicians and wannabe plumbers, off-the-fringe commentators and the coalition of crackpots; good ole boys and corporate raiders; country singers and U.S. senators, the young and the old; no collar, blue collar, and white collar; rich and poor; women and men; Whites, and yes, even a few Blacks. Just when we thought we’ve gotten rid of him, here comes a new and somewhat surprising federation of bigots and haters to conjure up Mr. Step-and-Fetch all over again. That huge sucking noise that you hear is not your job being outsourced to Mexico as H. Ross Perot once predicted; it’s the sonic convergence of stupidity reforming on the brick hard political right.

How absolutely surprised I was when I later discovered that Jim Crow was not a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan at all; he was a d-list struggling actor-a white man in blackface makeup, and his name was Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice. 

Rice was a between-the-scenes performer at Park Theatre in New York City, NY, when he reportedly stated that he just “happened” upon what he called “an old black slave” singing the following lyrics: 

“Come listen all you galls and boys, I’m going to sing a little song, My name is Jim Crow.

Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”

In 1828, Rice introduced Jim Crow to the world when he appeared on stage dressed in blackface makeup and clown-like clothing, shuffling about and bellowing out barely-literate “yah suh boss” one-liners while smiling like a cowed dog from ear to ear. 

His Jim Crow Minstrel Show was a great success; he and other minstrel performers travelled the country and to parts of Europe where they solidified in the minds of some people and perpetuated in the minds of others the perception that peoples of African ancestry are intellectually inferior, and are incapable and unwilling to assume the responsibility of full American citizenship. 

Crowds of poor and working-class Whites, most of them illiterate and barely living better than slaves themselves, packed community houses and theaters to laugh at the stereotypical caricatures presented in minstrel shows. At that point, Jim Crow came to represent the “acceptable Negro.” From that time until now, Black people, and in particular, Black men have had to live with the legacy of Jim Crow and the minstrel shows-a legacy dumped upon us by people supposedly “acting Black.” 

What does all of this have to do with Barack Obama, the POTUS? Everything. President Obama is the absolute quintessential anti-Jim Crow, because he is everything that the Jim Crow Doctrine says a Black man can never be: intelligent, educated, articulate, ambitious, hard-working, insightful, analytical, complicated, self-disciplined, wise, relentless, likeable, lovable, trustworthy, decisive, good-looking, the monogamous husband of a beautiful Black woman, and the doting father of two gorgeous daughters born IN wedlock. And, most importantly, Jim Crowism insists that a Black man can never, ever-be President of the United States of America.

Our president is a highly offensive figure to people who have built their fragile self-esteem around a perceived ability to look down their noses at certain people. In response, rather than owning up to the possibility that they may have been caught off guard by his presidency and need time to process the events, they form paranoid delusions that ring of dementia regarding his character and behavior. 

Obama paranoia says things like:  He’s not a real American. He’s not one of us. Release your birth certificate. He is arrogant. He is a snob, because he wants everyone to attend college. We need to take “our” country back. How did he get into Columbia and Harvard Universities, anyway? Release your university transcripts. {Absent one iota of proof) Don’t believe the statistical data compiled and released by federal government agencies, because the President is cooking the books. Shuck and jive end with Benghazi lies.

What then, should be the response to such spiteful and demeaning rhetoric?  President Obama has chosen to ignore the crows and fly majestically-like a real American eagle–above their buzzing.  



Janet Bryant is a GSU employee in the College of Education.