Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Referring to Barack Obama as a ‘Rock Star’ Gives People an Excuse to Not Take Him Seriously

Call me too intense, but here’s what bothers me: It bothers me to hear the media constantly compare Barack Obama to a rock star.

The label is obviously meant to be flattering for a man with a megawatt smile, Ivy League pedigree and a back story that seems to validate the idea of America being a land of opportunity -- that a man born of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas could ascend to this country’s highest office.

But unfortunately, in America, the labels that usually confer confidence toward white candidates tend to generate dubiousness toward black ones. Too many times, descriptions that ought to tell people we’re worth taking a closer look at becomes the stuff that says the description is all there is to us.

Hence my problem with all the rock star adulation.

Aside from the viciously racist and anti-Islamic attacks that right-wing media have thrown at Obama recently, subtler barbs are also being directed at him. Already, newspaper editorialists are questioning whether there’s any steak behind his sizzle, and whether he has enough substance to serve up with his style.

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas, for example, recently noted that Barack’s choice of Feb. 10 as the day to announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination falls on the same day as the season premiere of “American Idol.”

He then writes that “part of the attraction and seductiveness of Sen. Obama -- perhaps the main attraction -- is that he is mostly a blank slate on which others can write what they choose.”

“If this were a contest about looks and style, Obama might have an edge. If it were a contest about which candidate is the best orator, he’d win,” Thomas writes. “But it is neither. Regardless of party, a president must have the credentials and especially the worldview to be a credible leader.”

Now, this is a teachable moment if ever there was one -- one that shows how racial double-standards work in this country.

First of all, you have white pundits who are quick to question the intelligence and substance of black leaders who either don’t speak the King’s English well or who don’t enunciate words well -- even as they praise George W. Bush’s inarticulateness as a mark of earthiness rather than idiocy.

Yet when a black man like Obama manages the task of speaking well, it isn’t seen as substance, but rather, as a cover for lack of it.

By: Tonyaa Weathersbee,

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