Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cliff Huxtable's Serious Nephew for President

My wife, who grew up poor, sees a lot of the national problems in terms of class, and often race as a subset of class - which is a very white opinion. And this week's The Pain inadvertently hammers that point with a 12-lb demolition sledge. Barack Obama's appeal to whites is not because of race, but because of class. He is the serious Bill Cosby of the 21st Century.

I don't think it's any coincidence that The Cosby Show aired 16-24 years ago, and a number of other sitcoms featuring black middle-class families followed. It then becomes natural that a black politician without direct links to the black political establishment (which gives white America the heebie jeebies) could rise to the Executive Office; all those kids and young adults whom watched Doctor of Obstetrics Huxtable are voting or will vote soon.

The attacks on race against Obama - Arab or black or otherwise - simply don't stick with the majority of white voters polled because they see Obama as a bootstrapping high achiever. He is One Of Us, or what we aspire to be. The ads othering him, or claiming that he has a secret or not-so-secret plan to do something heinous to America (middle-class whites) simply don't work with those whom have more classism than racism in their hearts.

I've seen it in the reactions of this town of Mayberry, Iowa. I'm surrounded by insular white middle-age and younger people whom believe he's a secret Arab because he will redistribute all their wealth. They use race because they are classist. Not the other way around. Conversely, the older voters are more prone to follow the race-then-class argument.

Cosby has always acknowledged his race as part of his identity, but his identity - therefore his comedy - has always been rooted more in his class. He made being black acceptable by espousing middle-class 'American' values. And as he's aged and occasionally said some fairly nasty things about the other African-American entertainers rising in his wake, he's added another layer of shellac to his middle-class image.

The wiki article is pretty telling: "In a 1992 book, authors Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis use the results of an audience study to argue that The Cosby Show obscured the issues of class and race and reinforced the belief that African-Americans have only themselves to blame if they don't succeed in society and ignoring that racism still exists and can be a factor in society."

Simply put, appeals of racial (or radical) membership to infer that Obama would give away the country to blacks or arabs or another stereotyped evil group, simply ain't going to float unless you're prone to believe that anyone not a Republican will tax you into oblivion.

1 comment:

Anjha said...

Id, I don't think it matters what the "ism" is; racism or classism, I believe that it stems from Republican ideology.

It is the Republicans who say that "the other" is the problem, regardless of who the other is. Democrats have historically said that we are all in this together and attempt to bring people together. This is the main reason that I am a Democrat. I believe in the togetherness that the Democrats espouse.

The cartoon is good, but I like his commentary more. It was excellent.