The RACE Is On
posted at 11:13 am on November 25, 2009 by Howard Portnoy
Obama is the country’s first black president — and don’t you forget it. Actually, he and the missus won’t let you forget it. Last night was his first state dinner at the White House. The purpose of the event was to welcome the Prime Minister of India. So what was on the menu? A cigar to you if you answered collard greens, okra, and cornbread, all prepared by “guest chef” Marcus Samuelsson, who is — surprise! — black. For guests’ listening pleasure, there were the vocal stylings of Jennifer Hudson, the singer and actress, who happens to be a person of color.
Don’t get me wrong. I happen to love collard greens and cornbread. I often serve both when I do my knockout smothered pork chops, falling-off-the-bone tender after hours of slow braising in onions and beer. I also am a fan of Marcus Samuelsson, who runs the kitchen at Aquavit in New York and is an enormously talented chef. (I’m at best indifferent to Jennifer Hudson, but two out of three ain’t bad.)
So what is my beef? It’s that I think it’s time to stop with the “black is beautiful” theme already. The White House has thumped to the sounds of hip-hop and rocked gently to the music of Stevie Wonder. There have been def jam “poetry” readings, and the walls are fairly covered with paintings by black artists such as Alma Thomas. Wherein lies the problem. Having ghost-written some dozen books on art appreciation, history, aesthetics, and studio, I can say without fear of contradiction that there isn’t much to say about Alma Thomas beyond the fact that she was black. The body of her work, which came well after the Abstract Expressionist movement ended, is largely derivative. It is probable she would not be represented in the White House gallery (or even the National Gallery, which also has some of her paintings) if it were not for her color.
The self-promotion of all things black by the Obamas is becoming tiresome. It is interesting, for example, that they brought in Marcus Samuelsson to cook for the evening, but missed out on his culinary magic, which includes such delectables as his foie gras ganache and his venison loin with parsnip röesti. These are the oeuvres that put him on the culinary map, not cornbread, which any fool can make from boxed mix.
Writing these things will, of course, prompt cries of racism from trolls who read my comments. The simple truth, however, is that I’m just bored with these antics. Barack Obama’s abject failure as a president has nothing to do with the color of his skin, but everything to do with who and what he is inside. And that’s a radical, eager to be loved and, as a result, paralyzed with fear of rejection in the face of critical national security questions that need to be answered now.
As a Jew, I wouldn’t mind in the least having a member of “the tribe” sitting in the Oval Office some day. But if he served gefilte fish and chicken soup, instead of lobster in aspic, at a state dinner, I think I would have the same reaction.
Obama said in his “race” speech when the Rev. Wright controversy caught up with him that the country needed a conversation on race. I think a year into his presidency, we have now had it. I know I’ve had it — up to here.
Cross-posted at Zombie Contentions