Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Michael Steele & Racism


Although, as Jon Stewart often points out, RNC chairman Michael Steele looks like the muppet Mr. Johnson, the chairman acts like a blaxploitation character. Speaking in a parody of AAVE, Steele has acted as a token of racial acceptance, citing many of his setbacks as examples of racism.

In February, I wrote a piece called "Sarah Palin & Sexism" in which I argued that Palin’s shenanigans are actually encouraging bigoted people to be less sexist. I cannot argue that Steele’s shenanigans are encouraging bigoted people to be less racist.

While Steele and Palin use racism and sexism as catchall excuses, respectively, Steele caters to stereotypes where Palin does not. Not to say that Palin does not cater to any stereotypes; she knows who she is talking to, and she likely believes some sexist stereotypes herself. However, she hunts, she speaks out, she does not restrict herself to a kitchen and a laundry room. She demonstrates that being powerful does not make her any less feminine. I will not often compliment this woman, but I do admire this aspect of her public persona.

Steele, on the other hand, awkwardly inserts broken jive phrases into serious interviews and public statements. He wears a suit and acts a fool. He insults powerful white men then apologizes. He plays to stereotypes of black men. He chooses to play to these stereotypes. Looking over Steele’s impressive work history, writings, and statements, he appears to be a remarkably thoughtful and intelligent person. Looking over Steele’s recent public statements and interviews (from around the time he began running for the RNC chairmanship), he appears to be Bosko. He does not have to play to stereotypes. Palin is a great example of a person who can lead bigots away from a particular brand of prejudice.

Perhaps Steele is sacrificing his dignity to attack Obama’s by mocking their common black skin and heritage. Whatever his reasons, Michael Steele falls far behind most political leaders in terms of dignity and beneficial action. Far. Behind. Most political leaders. In terms of dignity and beneficial action.