Race Card: Blagojevich Says He's "Blacker" than Obama
Oh, no he didn’t. In the February issue of Esquire, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich declares himself “blacker” than Barack Obama is. Discussing the first black President, the disgraced politician told the men’s magazine:
“This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the fuck? Everything he's saying's on the teleprompter. I'm blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up."
Let’s drop the fact that Blagojevich endorsed Obama for president and was booted from office for allegedly trying to sell the Senate seat Obama vacated after winning the presidency. Clearly, Blagojevich needs a crash course in “Race 101.” A few things to consider: Growing up with or in proximity to black people doesn’t make one black. Growing up poor or working class doesn’t make one black. On the contrary, dismissing Obama’s blackness because he wasn’t destitute in childhood is racist. The black experience is varied and includes all experiences—from those represented in the film “Precious” to those represented in “The Cosby Show.” To imply that Obama’s not black because he never shined shoes is akin to saying that a black man’s rightful place in this country is as a shoe shiner. Incidentally, a photoshopped picture of Obama shining Sarah Palin’s shoes is currently making the rounds on the Internet and just landed a Colorado state employee who emailed it to coworkers in hot water.
For the record, Obama has said that his mother, who was a teen when she had him, relied on food stamps to help support her family. Does having a white mother who used government assistance make Obama any more of a black man? And why are discussions about authentic blackness so often gendered?
Seems to me that the blackness of African-American men is much more likely to be challenged than the blackness of African-American women. Moreover, when the blackness of men is questioned it’s often because they fail to meet certain gendered expectations of being African American—getting into fights, having scrapes with the law or getting a girl or two pregnant. Meanwhile, the blackness of an African-American woman such as Condi Rice is questioned because her politics seem antithetical to black progress, not because she didn’t grow up hanging out on street corners or being thrown in and out of Juvie.
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