By Rodney Blu
In one of his latest installments of political commentary, journalist, social pundit and former MTV Video DJ Touré assesses the fundamental difference between the landscapes of America in the possible reelection of President Barack Obama in 2012 versus the campaign of Senator Barack Obama in 2008. In the essay, “The Magical Negro Falls to Earth,” one of Touré’s many entries in the “TIME Magazine” auxiliary, Ideas, Token — I mean, Touré again assumes his typical role as the definitive black voice among TIME’s relatively pasty and milquetoast contributors and audience.
In theory, and according to the article’s subhead, the piece would seem an ideal platform to discuss how “victory for Obama now would signify more racial progress than it did in 2008.” Touré instead overdrafts his black card by emphasizing the president’s failure to meet the inhuman expectations of a nation that saw the Illinois senator as the archetypical “magical Negro,” — a fictional character model in American literary tradition, often lowly and benign, who serves the single purpose of aiding the white protagonist (see: “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” “The Green Mile,” etc.).
Touré ultimately resolves that now that America can see that he’s “merely mortal,” Obama’s reelection would signify the country’s newfound ability to stand alongside a flawed man, regardless of blackness.
No black man in the history of this nation has held as high an office as Obama. His platform suggested the complete upheaval of the previous eight years’ political culture, so his self-inflicted expectations were especially high.
Yet Touré boastfully asserts that the majority of the American population who elected Obama in 2008 saw the presidential hopeful as Jim to America’s “Huckleberry Finn,” and that now that he’s lost his mojo, America can now see the president as just as falteringly human as the rest of us. This is not only absurd, but marginalizes the President’s accomplishments in spite of the conditions left by the previous administration and halting adversity he’s faced — often arranged by his own peers.
Not to mention the blaring criticism regarding everything from his inexperience to the legitimacy of his citizenship, President Obama has been everything but revered — and magical? Like how Voldemort is magical, maybe.
Touré goes on and on in his characteristic know-it-all, matter-of-fact “don’t forget that I’m black” brand of journalism and, in the article’s most elitist apex, references “The Matrix” in analogizing Obama as Morpheus to America as Neo, the reluctant savior who is guided by the mysterious black sage to eventually embrace his messianic destiny. According to Touré, America chose the “red pill” in electing Obama and, unlike Morpheus, the president was unable in his tenure to usher in the divine fortune of the nation.
These comparisons and analogies make for an inconsistent and shaky argument that, from a critical and knowledgeable non-white perspective, exposes the author as highbrow and insincere.
Obama’s presidential expectations were high, but not to the extent of the nation seeing him as superhuman, as infallible.
When we elected him in 2008, we put into power a man as human as any who, in the face of insurmountable doubt, overcame the racial and bigoted boundaries deeply rooted in the fabric this country — not a single character of lore, but a man supported by people who, too, believed in for what he stood. When we chose him and if we reelect President Obama, it was and will be in spite of the odds against him, not due to some fabled enchantment he possesses.