Yet again another faux flap dominates the airwaves and Twitterverse. By dawn of the next daily news cycle, producers and talk show hosts will be foaming at the mouth to talk more about it, to get some “perspective” and “insight” into the fake controversy that is President Obama’s remark on California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ easy-on-the-eyes looks.
Harris, considered a gradual rising star in Democratic politics, is not all that bad. Of course, she’s more than just “good looks;” how she arrived at AG for the nation’s largest state is not an accident. It took an abundant amount of skill, much of which Harris holds. The President, among others in the male species, is not alone in tastes. And, incidentally, this is what people in politics do – along with iron fist grip handshakes, bear hugs, pats on the back and baby kisses. It is a business based on the invasion of personal space as elected officials and their challengers engage in a perpetual arms race for votes. Some of it is genuine; some of it the tears of clowns looking for constant affirmation; and, the rest is downright transactional. To tell one he or she “looks good” in politics is as familiar as yard signs on Election Day. Everyone is campaigning at all times, and the campaign is more like a high school popularity contest in which candidates make plays on the emotional IQ of their targets. How convincing they are in that process (Vice President Joe Biden comes to mind as master of handshake, shoulder grab and hug) can be the decisive factor in how well they win an election or sell a policy.
Hence, Obama giving Harris compliments on her good looks is nothing new. Granted, he may also derive some secret fascination with the California AG – as some White Republican dudes I know think Florida AG Pam Bondi (R) is “hot.” Others may reflect on this debate having something to do with exotic beach states. We could extra on this conversation, but out of respect for the sistren, let’s say we won’t. But, certainly, it’s not a bad thing that Harris is “the best looking” Attorney General. Neither is it bad for the president, alpha male Most-Powerful-Dude-in-the-World that he is, for letting us know his opinion on the subject.
Batty conservatives and nanny state Republicans who normally cry foul at any hint of political correctness should stop while they’re ahead on this. Nervous progressives who easily throw each other under the bus should take a breath. Trifling journalists too lazy to find real news should resume sifting through sequestered budget spreadsheets and watching chubby ass Kim Jong-Un play checkers with his generals while the rest of the world wiles out. While we dig the reprieve from the Red Dawn remake remix, this is not what we had in mind. Sure, we’re a bit down in the dumps about the slow job growth numbers, but if this is White House end-of-the-week dog wagging we’ll pass on it. Give us another cheesy trend story on Rutgers University’s athletic program imploding overnight. Something. Not this.
But, let’s keep it real: “sexism” from the president is not what this is really about, now is it? This has very little to do with the man in the White House stepping over bounds with executive privilege and everything to do with the brother in the White House simply being a man. The big deal in this “what’s-the-big-deal” controversy is that the media-industrial complex, colluding with hateful journos and commentators with nothing better to do, can’t get enough out of chewing away at the present portrayal of modern Black American masculinity.
Does this amount to nothing more than digital emasculation or corny schemes by the opposition to diminish a Black man’s manhood? We won’t go as far as an infamous Clarence Thomas line on the subject, but some of us can smell the fresh scent of worn racial stigmas rearing their ugly head. In the era of the Black president, significant blocs of the predominant White populace are still wrapping their heads around the notion of color in the White House – despite a full term of it. In the process, we’ve witnessed outrageous round after round of disrespect and racial dehumanization.
This next round is old fashion Fear of Black Man carefully marinated into a broad attempt at making him completely powerless, even if it means surgical snips at any hint of masculine self. There are tomes of studies on the topic, this obsession with Black male emasculation as a form of racial warfare. Never did we think that it would get this ridiculous. Yet, it’s that pervasive. The gradual mutilation of Black masculinity is rampant, from the nerdy or obese sidekicks in Disney sitcoms who have no powers compared to their athletically endowed and girl-catching White jock friend to the more obvious effeminizing standard found on most popular programming.
So bad is it that the Black male president can no longer golf, run ball, gulp brew or pencil in NCAA brackets without the disapproving glare of a White pundit accusing him of abdicating presidential duties. But, did we hear this sort of talk when his predecessor was playing cowboy on the Texas ranch or engaged in daily fitness runs from mountain bike riding to trail running? Did folks poke at President Bush’s manliness the way they must suck the man out of a Commander-in-Chief who has his own way of tapping into manliness as a way to battle unbelievable stress and gray hairs? Don’t recall a demand for an apology for his infamously awkward shoulder massage of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a 2006 G-8 summit. Of course not, because we regularly accepted the Cowboy-in-Chief’s rugged Texas masculinity. What’s different now?
CHARLES D. ELLISON is a political strategist, politics contributor for UPTOWN Magazine and Washington Correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune. He can be reached via Twitter @charlesdellison