Why Rush is a Slicker Race-Baiter Than Imus
I must have gotten ten emails last week expressing astonishment and anger over Rush Limbaugh's latest high-profile tweak to liberals: a little ditty called "Barack the Magic Negro."
Set to the tune of Puff, the Magic Dragon, this tune is sung by someone doing an awful Al Sharpton impersonation -- basically, someone using a jive-talking cadence so long associated with black people -- with awful lyrics.
It's a song which continues Rush Limbaugh's history of using race baiting humor on his own show (see my columns on that subject here and here). It also shows that Limbaugh has always been a slicker bigot than Imus -- and this latest episode won't come close to costing him his job.
Reason #1: He doesn't voice the parody. That task was left to conservative "humorist" Paul Shanklin, a white conservative performer who has been shucking and jiving his way through Sharpton impersonations --along with Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman -- on Limbaugh's show for years. I often said in the heat of Imus-gate that his big mistake was repeating (and amplifying!) the slur uttered by resident racist Sid Rosenberg.
Reason #2: The Most Incendiary Term Comes From a Newspaper Article - The most insulting words in the actual parody, the term "Barack the Magic Negro," actually comes from a Los Angeles Times column on Obama. The column's author used a more demeaning version of a term I often use in media literacy classes -- the Supernegro -- to refer to black characters who were made perfect in '60s and '70s era TV shows and movies to justify making them equal to white characters.
Another version of the Magic Negro is black characters with seeming subordinate roles in society who nevertheless exhuibit some innate understanding about life or spiritual power which escapes the white protagonists. Think Whoopie Goldberg in Ghost (and Corinna, Corinna), Will Smith in the Legend of Bagger Vance, Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty and Scatman Crothers in The Shining. Of course, these aren't the meanings Limbaugh and his crew are referencing in their work.
Reason #3: He Makes Fun of Somebody Even Some Liberals Don't Like: Ultimately, his parody is a slam on Sharpton as much as Obama, and even many people who agreed with Sharpton on the racism of Don Imus have their own problems with his connection to the Tawana Brawley hoax, anti-semetic slurs hurled during protests and some demostrations which seem more about getting headlines than finding solutions.
Someday, Rush may make a mistake which gets him booted off the air. But so far, slyly racist language and drug addiction ain't enough.
Need More Proof?
For the reader who emailed me asking for proof that Limbaugh has a long and nasty streak of race-baiting humor, I offer these instances compiled by the liberal media wathcdog web site, Media Matters: