LA Times Calls Obama 'Magic Negro'

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posted on Mar, 19 2007 @ 08:14 PM
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What's a "magic negro"? Well the ultra-liberal LA Times says Barack Obama is one:


AS EVERY CARBON-BASED life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.

But it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the "Magic Negro."

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia en.-wikipedia.org... .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

www.latimes.com...


My question is, should the term "magic negro" be considered as derogatory as Brer Rabbit's "tar baby" was when Tony Snow used it?




posted on Mar, 19 2007 @ 08:27 PM
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Wow.

I've actually never heard the term before.
But the Wiki entry, with all the movies listed.
I understand what the term means a little better, and can't believe how the archetype has shown up so many times in Pop Culture.

It made me think of the Charles Dutton (I think) character from the Football movie "RUDY". He was the stadium Maintenance guy..Who gave Rudy advice.

When the term is so widely illustrated, but not always defined. And is embedded in Culture like this, I'm not so sure what to think.

However. if he makes Hillary disappear....



posted on Mar, 19 2007 @ 08:35 PM
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I know. I had never heard of it either. It's a weird term, given the definition.



posted on Mar, 19 2007 @ 08:39 PM
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I think the analogy is a bit strained. It says the "magical negro" is usually someone like a janitor or prisoner who appears to help a white protagonist. He is the black stereotype, "prone to criminality and laziness." I really don't see how a candidate for President of the United States fits this mold, and I bet Hillary doesn't see Obama as helping her!



posted on Mar, 19 2007 @ 11:25 PM
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So just to be clear, a magic negro is'nt some sort of drug.


Seriously, who comes up with these terms.

I think the term negro or any assosiate words borders on derogative
myself, but I'm not gonna have a fit and try and get them forbidden
by the PC police.



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 07:52 AM
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Originally posted by jsobecky
My question is, should the term "magic negro" be considered as derogatory as Brer Rabbit's "tar baby" was when Tony Snow used it?


I'm sure there are those who find it offensive. If people find the idea of the "magic negro" to be offensive, I'm sure they find the term offensive.

It seems to me that people are focused on Obama's race far too much! Who cares what race he is? I guess it's only to be expected that a black man can't do anything without people commenting on his race or making race a big part of the equation. I hope we can get beyond all the fluff about his skin tone before the elections come around. He's just a man, like any other.

The media is making a much bigger deal about a person who's HALF-black than a person who's FULL-woman running for president.


I have never heard of "magic negro" before, but then again, I had never heard of "tar baby" before Snow used it, either...

This article gives a pretty good explanation of what the term means in another context (Hollywood). I have to say that I like the idea of the "muse" or quiet hero of a story being a black person for a change. If that was the only role black people could get, I could see complaining about it but that's just not the case in today. If I see a movie without black people in it today, I notice it.

Exposing Hollywood's Facination with the Magic Negro



You may be asking just what the hell I mean by “Magic Negro”. I didn’t make the term up, it’s something that gets tossed around quite a bit in film circles. Most recently, it was a term used by Spike Lee (more specifically, he referred to the ‘Super-Duper’ Magic Negro) to describe the trend when he first began to notice it and criticize it. What it is is an archetypal character that’s plagued Hollywood throughout the ages by great-white-hope filmmakers who feel it is their duty to paint some idea that the wise black man or woman is there to serve as a mentor to the troubled white man or woman. It’s stereotypical, outdated, and most importantly, racist as hell beneath the surface. There are several different levels of the Magic Negro archetype to be found in cinema, ranging from the subdued and likely unintentional to the blatantly obvious.


It seems to me that some very important lead and supporting roles go to black people today and I think that's good. But still, it's considered "'racist as hell beneath the surface". I wonder... when will things become just the way things are instead of racist as hell... :shk:

That reminds me. In Blast from the Past a man who was raised underground sees a black person for the first time and exclaims, "Look! It's a negro"! in a TOTALLY innocent context. It's the first time he's seen one and he's very excited. I'm sure people found that offensive, too, even though there was no intent of offense.

Seems to me that if you don't have any black people in your movie, it's considered racist. With my education of this term, I learn that if you give a very special role to a black person, it's also racist. What's NOT racist? If the whole cast is black? Because that seems racist to me.



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 08:25 AM
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Originally posted by Benevolent Heretic
Seems to me that if you don't have any black people in your movie, it's considered racist. With my education of this term, I learn that if you give a very special role to a black person, it's also racist. What's NOT racist? If the whole cast is black? Because that seems racist to me.




It's hard to disagree with that BH!


I was thinking about this, and I can think of just as many white characters in movies with similar roles as these "magic negros," yet there's no special racial term for them.



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 08:31 AM
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The term seems to come from an era where the implications have racial undertones. If you watch old movies, look at old cartoons or even read old news articles, the manner in which blacks are referred to are extremely derogatory in today's society. The image of a black janitor aiding the white man is racist in that it implies a lesser man assisting or guiding a better man. I find it still racist today, even if the implication is not meant that way and the term being used is one the author feels is acceptible due to it's past history of glorifying a black man for his actions.



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 08:42 AM
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That reminded me of a movie I watched recently which starred Gregory Hines, I think "Bojangles" was the name and it portrayed the life of Bill Robinson, the famous black tapdancer who starred in some flicks with Shirley Temple.

While Bill was portrayed in typical fashion in the movies of the day, he struggled to break free of the stereotype constantly but to no avail.

I find it very, very hard to compare what was done to the blacks during this period of time to Barack Obama today.

"That dog just ain't gonna hunt"



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 10:03 AM
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I don't personally find the term "magic negro" offensive. I think it was invented by sociologists as a label for the cultural archetype.



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 10:10 AM
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Originally posted by HarlemHottie
I don't personally find the term "magic negro" offensive. I think it was invented by sociologists as a label for the cultural archetype.


I see it as an old fashioned way to say "a helpful uncle tom" which, to this white boy, is offensive. forget the fact that negro is an outdate and, to some, offensive a term, the concept of a black person being "magic" for actually helping a white person is wrong. It implies that most black people are not helpful or of use to white people but this guy here, he's magic because he has the answers.

White guilt perhaps?



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 10:11 AM
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I can see the idea of the 'Magical negro' being offensive. As a matter of fact, I've always seen this, but never knew wht it was called. I guess now I know.
Especially in movies like Driving Miss Daisy.

Anyway, I'm not sure who Obama is the magical negro for. Is he Bagger Vance to Hillary's Matt Damon?



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 10:26 AM
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To Raso and Crakeur,

I didn't say the concept itself wasn't offensive. I was just responding to the original question. The term itself is not offensive to me. The idea behind it is whole different story.



The word "negro", now considered archaic and offensive, is used intentionally to emphasize the belief that the archetype is a racist throwback, an update of the "Sambo" stereotype. The term has been in use since at least the 1950s[citation needed], but has since been popularized by Spike Lee, who dismissed the archetype of the "super-duper magical negro" in 2001 while discussing films with students at Washington State University and at Yale University.
en.wikipedia.org...



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 10:53 AM
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I totally agree HH,

I think the attempt to bring the offensiveness to the word, rather than the actual concept is dangerous in and of itself.

I am actually more curious as to why the topic of this thread is the word 'negro' itself rather than the prospect of Obama actually being a magical negro. It seems a bit diversionary to me.

In the article, there are many descriptions of what the 'MN' is, but it doesn't really say why Obama is one. And now I can't even get back into the article to re-read it.



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 11:01 AM
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Ras, here's the entire article. Mods, slap me on the wrist for over-quoting, if you want.
*************
LA Times

AS EVERY CARBON-BASED life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.

But it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the "Magic Negro."

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia en.-wikipedia.org... .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.



[edit: added source link and EX tags]
Mod Edit: No Quote/Plagiarism – Please Review This Link.
Mod Edit: New External Source Tags – Please Review This Link.

[edit on 20-3-2007 by 12m8keall2c]



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 11:34 AM
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I don't know if he's magical, but it is one hell of a campaign strategy.



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 12:42 PM
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It's interesting and educational to hear the different views on this subject.
I have some responses, if I may...


Originally posted by djohnsto77
I was thinking about this, and I can think of just as many white characters in movies with similar roles as these "magic negros," yet there's no special racial term for them.


My guess is that's because there was never a time in the US when all the movies were all-black and then roles started being developed for the token white person in the film.


We have to consider the history when we talk about these things. I'm starting to get the idea.
If we could wake up tomorrow without memories of our history, we could start with a clean slate, but we can't do that.


Originally posted by Crakeur
The term seems to come from an era where the implications have racial undertones.


This makes sense. Although we have a long way to go in race relations, as a young white girl with rose-colored glasses on, I wasn't as "plugged in" to racial issues as I am not (which still admittedly isn't much). So I didn't see Sidney Portier as a "Majic Negro", I just saw him as my freaking hero! He wasn't a black man playing a role, he was Sidney Portier!



Originally posted by Rasobasi420
Especially in movies like Driving Miss Daisy.


Oh, man! But I LOVED Morgan Freeman in that role! How can that be a bad thing?
But in my mind, if he was white, I wouldn't have thought any differently about him at all. His blackness didn't add to the role for me. But I guess I could see how it would for some.


Originally posted by Rasobasi420
Anyway, I'm not sure who Obama is the magical negro for.


Perhaps "White America"?
See? Everything is about race...


Originally posted by Rasobasi420
I am actually more curious as to why the topic of this thread is the word 'negro' itself rather than the prospect of Obama actually being a magical negro.


Personally, I'm much more fascinated by the term (not negro, but Magic Negro) and its use in culture than I am about Obama.


And it's my personal opinion that whoever wrote this article just used that term for dramatic effect, as it's never clear who the white protagonist really is... I'd much rather get a good education about the term and it's cultural and historical impact and use than talk about Obama!
Sorry, jso!!


Originally posted by Rasobasi420
I don't know if he's magical, but it is one hell of a campaign strategy.


Exactly! I wonder if his people started this?



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 03:54 PM
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So, just to be clear, there are 3 topics in this thread

1. The use of the word 'negro' in a 'black' world.

2. The concept of the 'magical negro' in society, and their place as never being the front runner, just the guy who give the protagonist a hand, then gets shot.

3. Obama's possible position as a 'magical negro' for the US.

Personally, I know Obama's got some stuff on him. Everyone has a dark side (no pun intended). But he is safe. He's where he is because of the exact same reasons that I am where I am. When we turn it on, we're 'safe' negroes. This can end up being a problem for him as stuff starts to get real. I've been caught with this one a few times. When stuff gets real, keepin' it real can go very wrong for him. Although, he may be just the 'magical negro' that his running mate needs until Obama is shot, and his white VP (the real protagonist in the made for TV movie) becomes president.

As for the concept of the 'Magical negro', it's out there, and it's very real, and very offensive (to me at least).



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 04:24 PM
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Originally posted by Rasobasi420
As for the concept of the 'Magical negro', it's out there, and it's very real, and very offensive (to me at least).


It's clear to me (now) that it's out there. I just never noticed it before. I'm not going to say I don't notice race but it's not the first thing I notice.

Do you see this phenomenon happening in movies made today?
Do you consider Will Smith in Independence Day a magic negro?

I can understand how some would find it offensive, but I don't. It's very difficult to offend me. I make sure of that.




He's where he is because of the exact same reasons that I am where I am. When we turn it on, we're 'safe' negroes. This can end up being a problem for him as stuff starts to get real. I've been caught with this one a few times. When stuff gets real, keepin' it real can go very wrong for him.


Interesting... I'd love to sit down with you and talk sometime...



posted on Mar, 20 2007 @ 05:07 PM
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Originally posted by Benevolent Heretic
Do you see this phenomenon happening in movies made today?
Do you consider Will Smith in Independence Day a magic negro?


Bagger Vance, yes

As mentioned, Morgan Freeman in Miss Daisy, Charles S. Dutton in Rudy etc.

I'm fairly sure you could find this "character" in many movies released each year. I'm also guessing that the character isn't always written for a black man but sometimes the right guy for the right role works out. Morgan Freeman's character in Shawshank is a perfect example of this (not the magical negro but the use of good actor over the role description).






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