Thursday, January 1, 2009

Stand your ground, Chip!

It might seem that there's already too much being made of the flap over our good friend, Chip Saltsman's including Paul Shanklin's "Barack, the magic Negro" parody in a Christmas gift CD to fellow Republicans. But I'm jumping in here for the simple reason that every published quote I can find on this one misses the point.

Let's just look at the reactions in the mix: First, we have the Democrat opposition types already pulling their "R word" trigger, with RNC Chair Mike Duncan, fellow RNC Chair candidate Saul Anuzis, ND party chair Gary Emineth and no less prominent a figure than Newt Gingrich piling on and suggesting that this episode should end Chip's bid to succeed Duncan as national Party Chairman.

Then we have some real stand-up guys like fellow RNC Chair candidate Ken Blackwell supporting Chip and chiding other RNC members for dissing him. Blackwell said: "When looked at in the proper context, these concerns (about Chip's sending the parody around) are minimal." Said OK committeewoman Carolyn McClarty: “I don’t think he intended it as any kind of racial slur. I think he intended it as a humor gift,” adding “I think it was innocently done by Chip.”

So what's missing here, you ask? I would suggest a little perspective is missing. There's no question that a good perspective has to take into account that there is still a tremendous race-counsciousness and racism in America. So in fact, one really can't put out a parody about a "magic Negro" without provoking that 800-pound gorilla.

But here's the problem, as I see it: The Democrats want us all to pet the gorilla and keep him fat and happy and full of bananas. And those in the GOP who are afraid of them and their media sponsors want us to go along and do just that. That's what poor ol' Senator Trent Lott did, and the gorilla sat on him!

I would suggest that thoughtful Americans--certainly thoughtful Republicans--want to get rid of that gorilla called American racism. And how best to do that than with a great parody that pokes fun at racists and race-baiters like Al Sharpton? That's what Shanklin's parody of Sharpton does so brilliantly in "Barack, the Magic Negro". I remember when my old college friend Dwight Raiford organized the re-institution of the Harlem Little League baseball team some years ago. I was hoping he might call the team the "Harlem Whiteskins", as a way to do the same thing: make a mockery of racism.

So hang in there, Chip. And thank you for being unafraid to help us all laugh at America's foibles. Feeding the gorilla will only make it grow. But laughing at it ultimately might just make it go away.