Over at The Root, Kim McLarin has written a funny and insightful piece - "Whiteygate: What black people call white people…and it ain't 'whitey'" - about the recent claim that there is a secret tape out there somewhere that shows Michelle Obama in full black nationalist rage attacking "whitey" from the Trinity United pulpit...
McLarin begins, "And so continues the conundrum of being a post-racial black candidate in a still-very-racial world. To speak the truth about anything involving race is to be accused instantly of dragging out that famous racial deck we've all been dealt that stands us in such good stead in America."
The campaign of Barack Obama has had to rebut, not once but several times, the wild rumors that his wife Michelle used an insulting term for white people while railing from the pulpit of Trinity United Church in Chicago. His campaign has had to set up a website to refute the charge, and Obama himself has had to chastise mainstream reporters for spreading the lie.
What he hasn't done—because he cannot if he wants to win the presidency—is roll out the clearest and most obvious knockdown of Whiteygate. Namely this: "When the hell was the last time you heard a black person call somebody 'whitey?'"
I mean, come on. White man, please.
Speaking as a person who has been black all of my 40-plus years on the planet, I can say with some authority that no self-respecting black, African-American, Negro, colored or even "there's only one race: the human race" person I know would use the word.
Not unless they were quoting Rush Limbaugh. Or maybe George Jefferson.
Ok, now she's found her groove...
The accusation is insulting not only because it so clearly reveals the desperation of right-wing zealots terrified of losing their stranglehold on a gasping America by playing to baseline anxieties and sad, unfortunate fears of those hard-working white Americans we've heard so much about; but because, frankly, it's so ham-fisted in its mendacity.
And then, finally, exasperated:
I mean, 'Whitey?'
The woman has a law degree from Harvard, for crying out loud. If, for some reason, she was trying to rile up a congregation she could do much, much better than that.
So, according to McClarin, what do black people call white people?
[I began] to think about the terms black folks use when talking among themselves about white people.
I could barely move my pencil tip. Probably because black folks spend a lot less time talking or even thinking about white people than most white, right-wing reactionaries and their black counterparts dream in their hot little dreams. I had trouble, and, after hours and hours, the best I could come up with was this:
White folks. Whites. White people. They.
Upon greater reflection:
But really, that was pretty much it. When I was growing up in Memphis in the groovy '70s, some people tried to get the word "ofay" going, but, in my circles at least, it never really took. My mother's generation used Mr. Charlie, my older sister's cool boyfriend use to say The Man. There was redneck, of course, but growing up in Memphis, the only people I ever heard use that word were white people.
There was cracker, but usually that referred to a certain, specific kind of hog-jowled, Southern racist, as in "That cracker had the nerve to make me wash his sheets—and I don't mean the ones he use on his bed!"
I know a genteel older black woman who, out of delicacy or discomfort, will never use the words white or black when referring to people associated with those hues. Instead she says "wonderful people" and "beautiful people," which I think is kinda sweet.
But whitey? Uh uh! I'm sorry. No.
Any of you lurkers out there in blog-o-land have any thoughts or reactions to McLarin's piece, or the whole "controversy" over the term "whitey"?
Here are some further online resources:
• Erin Kotecki Vest skewers the Fox News "Obama Baby Mama" smear.
• Fox News contributor and all-around conservative blow-hard, Cal Thomas, blathering on about "angry black women," as if he has a clue:
• Kim McLarin has written another excellent essay on Michelle Obama: "The Real Prize: Why Obama's Wife Makes Me Love Him More"
• Here is another interesting piece about the attacks on Michelle Obama: Marc Lamont, "The Attacks on Michelle Obama (Call)"
• And Paul Devlin wrote "An Open Letter to Michelle Obama"