Black Presidents

When I was wrong as well as a snob about rappers and politics and readers called me on it.

Barack Obama (Photo: Wiki Commons).

I’m eating crow.  Let me explain. Earlier today I published a version of this post aimed at highlighting an interview with the Chicago rapper, Lupe Fiasco, who gained some fame with his “Kick Push” song. Setting up the post, I noted that Fiasco generally has decent politics (this link is to his close association with the late historian Howard Zinn).  In the interview Fiasco compared Barack Obama to Zimbabwe’s Life President Robert Mugabe.

Fiasco was responding to a question about why he had a line in a new song “Words I Never Said” that dissed Obama (“Gaza Strip was getting bombed but Obama didn’t say shit/That’s why I didn’t vote for him, next one either”), responded:

“I love Obama, and I love the fact that it’s a black president of the United States of America, but he’s not the first Black president,” Fiasco told Gigwise.com. “Robert Mugabe is a black president too so let’s not get to talking about precedents being set. The fact that he’s Black and American, that’s different. But that it’s anything special beyond that, that just because of that everything’s going to be a utopia, then that’s not true …”

Obama is out of line for his unqualified support of the Israelis, but I decided to add this: What’s Mugabe got to do with it? The comparison between the US’s new president and Mugabe, who is essentially a dictator, didn’t seem to make sense. I then likened Fiasco to R&B singer Akon: Basically, here’s another rapper who doesn’t know his politics.

The problem was that I responded too quickly and misread Fiasco’s comment.

As readers @frenchie and @Ricci pointed out in comment on this post (update: you can’t see it because we closed comments), actually Lupe Fiasco is displaying good politics not inconsistent with his earlier stance: Fiasco’s remarks is a necessary critique of the limits of identity politics and black nationalism. Here’s what they wrote:

“He’s saying that there have been other presidents that are black. there is nothing unique or benevolent about simply being black and president, as exemplified by black presidents like Mugabe …”

“… Maybe… and this is just a guess.. but maybe he’s saying not all black presidents are necessarily good presidents…. or good for the country..? Just because he’s black, doesn’t mean he will be good for the people, because ‘hey.. look at Mugabe.’…?”

That’s the first thing that came to my mind anyway… I could be totally off.

In another update, there’s also my snobbery as pointed out by @Heti:

“That comment about rappers and actors talking about politics is like saying that cooks or cleaners shouldn’t talk about politics because they probably don’t know anything. That kind of mentality is what doesn’t get enough people talking.”

They’re right. I ate the earlier version of this post.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.