Friday, July 04, 2008

Denver Singer’s Black National Anthem Switcheroo Was a Risky Act for Obama, and Black Americans
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Heaven only knows what black Denver singer Rose Marie was thinking when she stood at the microphone and belted out the lyrics of the black national anthem instead of the agreed on Star Spangled Banner. The event was Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s annual state of the city address and confab. Marie was engaged at no pay to sing the customary opening Star Spangled Banner. The black national anthem penned by civil rights legend and songwriter James Weldon Johnson a century ago is a beautiful, lilting, and powerful expression of black pride and dignity. It has been a virtual staple at any and every kind of black gathering down through the years. And that’s where it’s appropriate to sing it. The Denver Mayor’s event wasn’t.

Marie’s tortured explanation for switching songs is take your pick: it was a matter of artistic expression, her way of showing her pride in being black, a veiled protest against racial mistreatment and discrimination, and her personal statement against the alleged racial hypocrisy of America. Her explanations are facile and self-serving and just about everyone with an opinion on the issue appropriately blasted her and demanded a formal apology which she hasn’t as yet given. She should apologize publicly, and do it now.

Her ill-timed, totally inappropriate act has been fodder for speculation that it could have a possible backdoor blowback on Obama. Obama immediately rapped Marie for her wrong headed switcheroo, and said that there’s only one national anthem. Obama had to move fast and knock the singer’s act. The Democratic convention will be in Denver in August and Obama can ill-afford to have even the slightest hint that he approves anything that could be construed as an act that disrespects America’s number one, time tested emblematic expression of American patriotism, especially from a black singer. And even more especially given that Colorado with a Democratic controlled legislature, and rising numbers of younger voters and Hispanic voters could be ripe for the picking from the GOP orbit in the fall.

The bigger reason is that Obama more than any other presidential candidate in recent times is hyper sensitive to the patriotism issue. Republican rival John McCain has been scrupulously careful not to stoke any doubt about Obama’s patriotism. But others have. Conservative websites, chat rooms, and some writers have feasted off impugning Obama’s patriotism. They have slandered and ridiculed his name; dumped on his wife Michelle for her off the cuff, repeatedly clarified in context, comment about her lack of pride in America, and the one time absence of an American flag from the lapel in his suits.

This line of attack can’t be easily shrugged off as a below-the-belt slug by fringe ultra conservatives or professional political hit specialists. Despite his recent slog to the center, even right on some positions, Obama is still widely regarded by moderates and conservatives as a liberal Democrat. As failed liberal Democratic presidential contenders from Michael Dukakis to John Kerry have found out the hard and painful way, they are subject to ruthless, and sustained attack for being too liberal, and allegedly too willing to waffle and compromise on everything from crime and punishment to military preparedness, and especially national security. This always loosely translates out to doubt about the fervor of a liberal Democrat’s patriotism. A prime McCain campaign attack point against Obama is that he can’t be trusted to be the tough guy against foreign enemies and threats.

Conservatives have long since seized the high ground on the issue of what is or isn’t true patriotism and cast themselves as the protectors and defenders of the flag, the national anthem, and their read and interpretation of American traditions against the liberal defilers.

Obama has one more albatross that white liberal Democratic presidential contenders didn’t have. He’s African-American. There’s the inherent suspicion among some that African-Americans are eternal rebels, and chronic social malcontents who undermine conventional American values and traditions. It’s a short step from that false and bigoted notion to see blacks as less patriotic than white Americans.

Unfortunately this ridiculous tar of Obama as somehow less of a true patriot because of who he is and what his votes and stances on the issues have been is not just a taint him in the minds of some. Those same minds tar blacks with the same, broad unpatriotic brush. Marie was probably oblivious to the implications of her rash act. In a follow up remarks, she blithely blew it off as simply being a risky artistic act. It was much more than that. It was a risky act for Obama and African-Americans.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).


Unknown said...

People REALLY need to get over themselves. Too much emphasis is put on what people should and should not do, how people are supposed to act or not act. My goodness!! Whatever happened to letting people be who they are. Yes, Marie's act was definitely inappropriate. But what's done is done. GET OVER IT PEOPLE!! And poor Obama has to clean up after everybody's mess??? Wow!! He's not even President yet!! It's just very sad that he can't really focus on the truly IMPORTANT issues because he's got to clear old opinions, salvage his name and basically contend with people's stupid comments which have ABSOULTELY NOTHING to do with what he could ever possibly do for this country. GET OVER YOURSELVES PEOPLE!!

Anonymous said...

It appears on July 4, 2008 that we still have a significant distance remaining before complete healing of America's "Birth Defect"!

Perhaps the remarks of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ph.D., on the subject at:

may prove helpful.


Anonymous said...

Marie was a coward and I wouldn't invite her to my house. She is the type that would walk on your hardwood floors with hard shoes just because she knows you don't want her to.

Anonymous said...


The current Inglewood City Ordinance establishing a "Citizen Police Oversight Commission" is a sham, a hoax and an attempt to deceive and defraud the people of Inglewood.

The Ordinance claims to establish an "Independent Investigator" but examination of the Ordinance reveals that the so called "Independent Investigator" is required to be a Captain in the Inglewood Police Department and that he (or she) reports to and is supervised by the City Administrative Officer.

The "Oversight Commission" can recommend prosecution of problem police officers but only if the Inglewood City Attorney approves such recommendations.

The "Oversight Commission" can recommend disciplinary action against problem police officers but again only if the City Administrative Office agrees and the City Administrative Office "shall have final disciplinary authority"

In short the "Citizen" Oversight Commission is really only the same old story of the police and the city officials policing themselves

Unless an ELECTED Civilian Police Review Board is established we will not have a trustworthy mechanism to assure that the recent atrocities of police abuse resulting in the killing of three people by the Inglewood Police in the last three months will be stopped.


Any other type of police review board or commission is ultimately a servant of the political establishment and not a real solution to the problem of police abuse.

We need an Elected Civilian Police Review Board that is the actual boss of the police rather than a police "Oversight Commission" that is, in the final analysis, really just a powerless advisor to the police chief, the city manager or to the mayor and city council.

In order to establish such an ELECTED CIVILIAN POLICE REVIEW BOARD it must be approved by the citizens of Inglewood through a Charter Amendment. We need to propose such a Charter Amendment and begin the campaign to establish such an ELECTED CIVILIAN POLICE REVIEW BOARD immediately. Our lives and the lives of our neighbors and our children depend on a real and significant change in the powers that control the Inglewood Police Department. The Inglewood Police Department absolutely must be controlled directly by the people of Inglewood.


[Committee to Establish an Elected Civilian Police Review Board]

(310) 673-4302

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