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‘It’s Because I’m Black, Isn’t It?’



President Obama misunderstands the country, not the other way around. Race makes people crazy, but often not in the way you’d expect. A nation watched wide-eyed as Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC complained that the Star Wars franchise was racist because the major villain is “black.” Darth Vader is black in the sense that Johnny Cash or Ben Roethlisberger or certain figures from Arthurian legend are “black” — white guys in black outfits — so people kept waiting for Harris-Perry, “America’s foremost public intellectual,” to crack and let us know that she was joking. But she wasn’t joking. One cannot imagine what she’d make of that Adolf Hitler/Darth Vader episode of “Epic Rap Battles of History,” in which the Nazi dismisses the Sith and his off-brand Stormtroopers: “You leading an army of white men? Disgraceful.” And, of course, in the latest installment, The Force Awakens, one of those white men turns out to have the black face of English actor John Boyega. This isn’t the sort of thing that drives people nuts: If you’re breaking down the hidden racial significance of Darth Vader’s black armor, you’re already there.

The American people, who are generally more tolerant, more sensible, and more wry than is appreciated, have learned to laugh at that sort of thing. A popular image among AR-15 enthusiasts shows the fearsome-looking rifle over the caption: “It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?” The same joke has been made about coal, certain cats that provoke a superstitious response, Anas rubripes, dark T-shirts, and one very mean-looking 1987 Buick Grand National. Barack Obama doesn’t get the joke. In a pre-vacation interview with NPR, the president argued that (as the New York Times decodes the message) “some of the scorn directed at him personally stems from the fact that he is the first African American to hold the White House.” I.e, “It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?”

This is kind of clever, in a way. The president says that much of the unhappiness with his administration


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