Thursday, June 12, 2008

magical African-American friend

John Cole:

Last night on CNN, Campbell Brown was filling in for Anderson Cooper on AC360, and had a panel discussing the Jim Johnson bit. What follows actually happened- I am not making it up:

BROWN: Let me get your take on this. And by running a campaign that’s promoting higher ethics, a new kind of politics, does Obama and McCain, who has done this himself to a certain degree, do they set themselves up to be measured to a higher standard?

FARAI CHIDEYA, HOST, NPR’S NEWS & NOTES: I think this is a Americans really are looking for new kinds of leadership, whether it’s Republican, Democrat, independent. And they are holding politicians to incredibly high standards.

I also think that Senator Obama has a very specific issue going on.

Christopher John Farley of “TIME” magazine once wrote an essay about the magical African-American friend, which is the idea in movies often, that there’s this nice black man who’s my black friend, and he’s not like other black people. He’s so nice.

And I think that some people, some supporters have put Senator Obama in the magical African-American friend box. And therefore, for them there’s a double high standard, which is not only that he has to be squeaky clean as it relates to other politicians, but he has to be sort of this super-nice person. Politics is not always nice. We know that.

I think that Chideya (who is black by the way), in her awkward way, was trying to make an analogy to the same problem that Jackie Robinson had when he broke the baseball color barrier. When Robinson became the first black drafted into the major leagues, he had to be not just a good player but a GREAT player. If he messed up at all it would give ammunition to those who wanted to be proven right about blacks in baseball.

Fortunately, Robinson was a great player.

Obama has to be not just a good candidate/president. He has to be a GREAT candidate/president, otherwise critics will all say, "See, we told you so."

Put more simply, anyone who breaks a barrier will be subject to a higher standard of judgment. It's inevitable.

Chideya's point is valid. Just very poorly stated.


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