This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
by Seke Ballard
In the Presidential race the Democratic front-runner is a charismatic, bright and well-achieved man who has garnered the tacit support of arguably the most intelligent publication in all of Europe, The Economist, and a substantial number of American voters. Oddly enough, black Americans don’t fall into the mass of supporters itching to cast their ballots for Barack Obama. The most obvious question is why? And, however unfortunate, the most obvious answer is because of the oft-referenced ‘crab mentality’ of blacks.
A credible theory that explains crab mentality among blacks points to the division of work during slavery. Generally stated, there was a strong positive correlation between how light a slave was and the likelihood that they would work in the house as maids, butlers and/or cooks – instead of being in the field with darker slaves. Typically, those who worked closer to the owners in the home were privy to better food, clothing, shelter and overall treatment. For this reason, domesticated slaves were often more accommodating to whites and accepting of their subordinate status as blacks in society. The result was a mixture of jealousy and hatred of the so-called "house Negroes" by the so-called "field Negroes."
Not surprisingly, this phenomenon exists to this day. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 20% of black Democrats surveyed supported Obama while an impressive 60% supported Hillary Clinton. The justification for favoring Clinton over Obama:
“When black Americans refer to Obama as ‘one of us,’ I do not know what they are talking about.” — Stanley Couch
“Obama isn’t black…I’ve got nothing but love for the brother, but we don’t have anything in common…His father was African. His mother was a white woman. He grew up with white grandparents.” — Debra J. Dickerson, Salon
The issue that I have with these statements and this general sentiment is not so much that they don’t support the “black” candidate, but more so with the claims’ dubious nature. Apart from holding Obama hostage for being a mixed child, to state that his racial makeup made him any less subject to racial discrimination and the ‘black experience’ outside the home is absurd. The doorway of Obama’s childhood home, just as any other black child’s, marked the threshold separating unconditional familial support from discrimination in the world at large. Red Neck Joe from Boondocks, State X didn’t take the time to survey Obama’s history and family makeup before casting a wondering eye in the local market. So why think that his experience was any different?
Simple. Because the field Negroes, once again, have been sippin’ on their Haterade®. They've established this unreasonable idea of blackness that punishes balanced and long-term political perspective that is rightfully not militantly pro-black and opportunistic. However, paradoxically, this same critical group of people rewards reverends with perms, over-sized egos and rhetoric that could put Mother Goose to shame. Just as during slavery, a person’s blackness is being called into question for largely invalid reasons. The result is an unfortunate illustration of how blacks continue to perpetuate their own mental enslavement. My advice: if you happen to be a field Negro, take a step back and analyze exactly why you don’t support Obama. If it’s because he’s light-skinned and privileged, chances are you’ll need to do some soul searching. If it’s because he’s overly accommodating and accepting of his position as a black man in society, then you’re probably on solid ground.
Hutchinson, Earl Ofari. "Why Blacks Won't Necessarily Back Obama". Christian Science Monitor, 29 January 2007.
Bacon, Perry. "Can Obama Count On the Black Vote?". TIME Magazine, 23 January 2007.