Black Like Who? Kerry’s Making History All Right
John Kass, Chicago Tribune Online, Mar. 4
If Democrat John Kerry wins the White House in November, he promises to make history.
He hopes to become our second black president.
“President Clinton was often known as the first black president,” Kerry told the Urban Radio Network the other day, according to an Associated Press report.
“I wouldn’t be upset if I could earn the right to be the second,” Kerry said.
Great. That’s just what Urban Radio Network listeners need: a rich white guy married to an even richer white woman to form the second black family to occupy the White House.
I just got used to the idea that Kerry wasn’t Irish, and now he’s gone and confused me even more by becoming black.
What’s next? Will Kerry pass out old copies of the book “Black Like Me” at his first presidential news conference?
We all have wishes and dreams. Well, I wouldn’t be upset if my wife surprised me by inheriting hundreds of millions of dollars in ketchup cash.
We might get a new TV, since our old one is on the fritz and my brothers whine and complain about the lousy picture during ballgames.
“We can’t even see the ball! Get a new TV! What are you? Cheap?” they cry.
Yes, I am cheap, I say. Squint. Squint and it looks just fine.
And after spending my wife’s new ketchup fortune on boats and fine cars, Cape Cod vacation homes, gigantic plasma TVs, and so on, I’d happily condemn those evil, rich special interests.
As I considered this Kerry-inspired-spending-spree, Rev. Jesse Jackson stopped by my office to say hello, after a visit with members of the Tribune editorial board.
Jackson and I chatted for a few minutes in the hallway about local politics. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask him what he thought of Kerry’s determination to become our second black president.
You may recall that Jackson campaigned for the presidency years ago. Yet he didn’t seek white votes by claiming he was a white guy.
At the convention, he made a tremendously moving speech, perhaps the finest of his career. It began, “I understand …” He talked about growing up without a name, hungry and poor, something Kerry knows nothing about.
If he had been elected, Jackson would have been the first black president. But he wasn’t elected, and no black person has been elected since then. So the Clinton-Kerry black presidencies are perplexing indeed.
It could be that Kerry was joking. Or it could be that black voters actually think Kerry will be the second black president and that they believe Clinton was the first.
Somehow, I doubt this.
But Nobel-prize winning novelist Toni Morrison didn’t doubt, in writing an essay declaring Clinton a black president in the New Yorker a few years ago.
“White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black president,” she wrote of Clinton. “Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food loving boy from Arkansas.”
I just want it on the record that I didn’t write that last paragraph. Morrison wrote it.
If I wrote it, I’d probably get sentenced to six weeks of intensely painful multicultural sensitivity training and be forbidden from using cheap stereotypes.
A few paragraphs ago, I suggested that the second black president might pass out copies of the book “Black Like Me” at his first news conference.
“Black Like Me” was a big hit with white liberals in the 1960s. The author, John Howard Griffin, took pills to darken his skin. He added makeup to make it darker still.
Then he walked around the Jim Crow South getting beat up by drooling white bubbas and wrote about it.
Liberals loved the book, and I was compelled to read it by the liberals in my family. For some reason, many liberals couldn’t understand why some black people might be insulted by the elitist premise:
Intellectual white guy, makeup, riding happily in the back of the culture bus, excited about using blacks as props for his story about his brief experience with white racism. Then he takes off the makeup, becomes white again, drives away home and cashes in.
The book became a terrible movie starring the famous not-black actor James Whitmore.
If Kerry were a Southerner, his “Black Like Me” comments might be called Foghorn Leghornism, after the cartoon rooster who sounds like a foolish senator.
If Kerry were a Republican, he’d be ridiculed as a cynical panderer.
Yet he doesn’t have to worry. He’s not a Republican.
He’s trying to make history, as the second black president of the United States.