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Est. April 5, 2002
March 03, 2016 - Issue 643

The Magic Negro
A Predictable Token

"For the record, a Magic Negro is a
recurring character in American cinema
that's portrayed as coming to the aid of
a film's white protagonist.  Magical Negro
characters often possess special insight or
mystical powers and have long been
a tradition in American fiction."

As the 2016 election season in the United States reaches its quarter point, by consensus, we’ve learned many things about the American psyche. The picture is clearer: The Republican Party has one heck of a high degree of racial intolerance, and the Black Democratic majority seems intensely complacent with status quo politics. And, this election once again illuminates our collective amnesia regarding the “cult of personality.” Personalities are powerful and the multiple choices seem endless this campaign season. Yet, one personality in particular merits closer scrutiny: the power—or lack thereof—of the Magic Negro.

For the record, a Magic Negro is a recurring character in American cinema that's portrayed as coming to the aid of a film's white protagonist. Magical Negro characters often possess special insight or mystical powers and have long been a tradition in American fiction. Just when the negative connotations of the term had moved to our subconscious, Conservative satirist Paul Shanklin wrote Barack the Magic Negro about President Obama. Rush Limbaugh broadcasted and praised its lyrics Ad nauseum on his nationally-syndicated radio show.

The day following the final results of Super Tuesday, Dr. Ben Carson, the famed neurosurgeon announced there was no path forward for him in the 2016 race for the Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States. No one asked me, but I’d have told him last July not to waste anybody’s time—or money—including his. Why then did he bother? You see, last July, I was at the annual Palisades parade (a Washington, DC tradition), and saw a small group of white Washingtonians attending a draft-Dr. Ben-for-President table. Because I’m less crazy about Republicans than I am about Democrats, I stopped, glanced, shook my head in disbelief…then kept it moving!

I stopped because I had to assure myself of what I was reading. I glanced because, once I read the banner, I thought it was a Saturday Night Live prop. I shook my head because I thought to myself: These white people have cahunas! To champion for a Black man in the ritzy-ditzy community of Palisades in DC takes exceptional courage that re-ignites my belief in a color-neutral America. That fire’s always short-lived—doused by a new racist incident about every three days.

So when the announcement danced across the mainstream newsfeeds all across this country that Uncle Ben—uhh, Dr. Ben—may end his campaign for US President, I asked out loud: Dr. Ben, where’re your surgeon goggles? If I saw this coming eight months ago, why didn’t you?!

History is a more than apt teacher; just in the recent past, Republicans have treated fellow Black Republicans like a cheap, young mistress: The husband is the upstanding, hard-working family man (the Republican Party) who loves his doting wife, but gets a little bingo on the side (Black Republican).  The husband tells strangers, “She’s with me.” With a wink and nod, he also admits, “My wife’s at home. I’d never cheat on her!”

Like the mistress, the Party claimed Ben Carson—in public. Seriously, could you see Republicans following Dr. Carson as their Commander-in-Chief? Neither can I and neither can they. In back rooms, straight faces burst out in laughter. Not that Ben Carson was suitable to be the President anyway, but every time a Black man is tapped by modern-day Republicans to lead them to top victory, they get really real around Super Tuesday—and pull the rug or shall I say pull the plug.

This Lucy-pulling-the-football-away-from-Charlie-Brown-kickin’-it scenario is deftly familiar: Remember Alan Keyes? Michael Steele? Herman Cain? Well, Dr. Ben Carson was the latest Magic Negro to go POOF! He held his own in the race until Super Tuesday when he (‘cause it’ll NEVER be a she!) disappeared. You might still catch a glimpse of him, but for Republicans and debate moderators, he’s a disappeared.

Recall Alan Keyes? On December 12, 2007, Keyes participated in the Des Moines Register's Republican Presidential debate, televised nationwide by PBS and CNN. This was Keyes’ first major Presidential debate during the 2008 election season— and his last before the Iowa Caucuses. Although Keyes wasn't listed on the latest national CNN poll leading up to the debate, he was eligible to participate, having garnered at least 1 percent of the Iowa vote. As the moderator began to ask Texas Congressman and candidate Ron Paul a question, Keyes rightfully insisted that he wasn't getting fair treatment. He told the moderator that she hadn't called on him in several rounds and that he felt compelled to make an issue of that. Doesn’t that sound like a few of the 2016 debates in which Dr. Carson was all but ignored, even when the field had whittled from 17 to 5.

Let’s recall Michael Steele’s ascendency in the Party. He never sought the Republican nomination for President but was elected RNC Chair 2009…that’s about as high as a Negro will get in the GOP. After a failed bid for the Maryland Senate, he ran for RNC Chair—and after seven ballot rounds, he won! As Chairman, Steele kicked butt! The RNC broke fundraising records (over $198 million raised during the 2010 Congressional cycle) and Republicans won 63 House seats, the biggest pickup since 1938, thus giving Republicans back control of the house. The 2010 mid-term elections were overall successful for Steele and the Republicans, as they also won 6 senate seats, 7 governorships and the greatest share of state legislative seats since 1928 (over 600 seats). Even this Magic Negro brought The Tea Party to life! In the words of the late Paul Harvey, Now for the rest of the story…

Steele tangled with the magic negro revisionist, conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh, and after a short back and forth, Steele was put in his place and apologized to King Rush over who was really the head of the Republican party…just like that, POOF, Steele was disappeared!

And then came Cain…in May 2011, Herman Cain announced his candidacy for US President. By the fall, his proposed 9–9–9 tax plan (remember that insanity?) and debating performances had made him the Republican front-runner and he briefly led President Obama in the polls. In November, however, his campaign struggled with allegations of sexual misconduct—all denied by Cain—and the Republican Party threw Cain overboard like chum on a rowboat! On December 3, Cain suspended his campaign. Despite the Pew Research Center poll at the end of 2011 that identified Herman Cain as the most covered candidate, the smartest guy in the room suddenly went POOF!

So, here we are, talking about the famed neurosurgeon. Last May, he officially announced his run for the Republican nomination for President. In October, it was noted that Carson's "improbable" political career had surged in polls and fundraising. It had become clear that Carson was no more than Republican diversity window dressing. He continued to participate in nationally-televised Republican debates through last week when the CNN TV cameras cropped the viewer screen to only show the supposed top three poll getters, and Dr. Carson was barely asked one question.

With that said, we see the Magic Negro syndrome reappear in American history. Ben Carson was just what the doctor ordered for the sickness of the Republican Party: the target of Party racism, jingoism and paternalism. Elevating the Negro works up until the GOP think they’re cured and they stop taking their medicine. The sickness lingers….be on the lookout for the next Magic Negro…until 2020, POOF! Columnist, Perry Redd, longtime activist & organizer, is the Executive Director of the workers rights advocacy, Sincere
that currently owns the FCC license for WOOK-LP 103.1FM/ His latest book,
Perry NoName: A Journal From A Federal Prison-book 1, chronicles his ‘behind bars’ activism that extricated him from a 42-year sentence and is now case law. He is also the author of As A Condition of Your Freedom: A Guide to Self-Redemption From Societal Oppression, Mr. Redd also hosts a radio show, Socially Speaking, from his Washington, DC studio. Contact Mr. Redd and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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