As Obama gears up his campaign to court Black voters for the November election, he and his fans are also fighting against the idea that the president’s policies, not his race, are what is important to the Black community. In November, we told you about radio host Tom Joyner, who implored African-Americans to vote for Obama to show Black pride. “Let’s not even deal with the facts right now,” wrote Joyner in a post on his Black America Web blog. “Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride — and loyalty. We have the chance to reelect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing.”
At the time, we told you that Joyner’s words should not be heralded, and that, for the most part, Black voters were not going to the polls simply because Obama looks more like them than his Republican opponents. Today, just a few months later, yet another high-profile Black American is coming out to say that he did, in fact, vote for Obama because he’s Black.
In a new interview with Ebony magazine, hugely famous African-American actor Samuel L. Jackson has admitted to voting based on race in the 2008 election. “I voted for Barack because he was black," he said. “’Cause that's why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them.” Jackson continued: “That's American politics, pure and simple; [Obama's] message didn't mean sh*t to me.”
While Jackson’s admission will probably be the most widely covered bit of his interview, perhaps more interesting is what Jackson said he hopes Obama does if reelected. “Obama ain’t scary at all,” said Jackson. “Niggas don’t have beers at the White House. N****s don’t let some white dude, while you in the middle of a speech, call [him] a liar. A n***a would have stopped the meeting right there and said, ‘Who the [bleep] said that?’ I hope Obama gets scary in the next four years, ‘cause he ain’t gotta worry about getting reelected.”
Jackson’s words echo the frustrations of other public Blacks who feel that the president hasn’t been stern enough or done enough for the Black community. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have infamously derided Obama time and again for being soft on Black poverty, with West going so far as to call Obama a “Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a Black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”
It should be noted that it’s not only Black critics who call Obama “too soft.” It’s been a criticism he’s been burdened with throughout his time in office. “The president should really take it to his GOP detractors,” people say. “Why is he not playing hardball?”
If Obama wins again in November, it will be interesting to see if he takes his cues from people like Jackson, who want him to get tough. But one wonders how effective getting “tough” can be against a monolithic Republican block that seems hell-bent on saying no to the president, no matter what his approach. In fact, Obama getting angry at them might be exactly what they want — the better to write him off as nothing but another angry Black man.
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