Green Room

The RACE Is On

posted at 11:13 am on November 25, 2009 by

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

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Beneath all that bravado and the veneer of confidence, he really is cripplingly insecure. The hits are going to keep on coming, thick and fast, and I wonder whether his fragile ego will be able to withstand them all…

Track-A-'Crat on November 25, 2009 at 11:36 AM

How much beer in the pork chops? The corn bread and collards are just pay back to the world for serving the Won all their ethnic food on his many journeys.

Kissmygrits on November 25, 2009 at 11:43 AM

Cornbread, collard greens, and okra. WTF!! Didn’t Fuzzy Zoeller get a tsk, tsk, tsk for suggesting Tiger Woods would have fried chicken served after he won the masters ( the winner gets to choose the following years dinner menu)? Well ol’ Fuzzy had the right joke but the wrong person.

A black president is finally elected and he does this? At a state dinner? This is demeaning. You get a great chef and have him serve a meal that takes little to no talent to create? I have have this repeatedly, they do not respect the office.

Theworldisnotenough on November 25, 2009 at 12:40 PM

I wonder whether his fragile ego will be able to withstand them all…

Track-A-’Crat on November 25, 2009 at 11:36 AM

When we enter the next downturn and capital flees the stock market he will be holed up in the White House ala Jimmy Carter.

Theworldisnotenough on November 25, 2009 at 12:41 PM

…but such large portions!

CK MacLeod on November 25, 2009 at 12:58 PM

We be the president now!

1921 C DRUM on November 25, 2009 at 1:04 PM

Kissmygrits: 1 cup. Also 1 cup of chicken stock and 6 bay leaves. Flour center-cut pork chops, brown them in oil, pouring off any excess. Then add two large Spanish onions slices, the beer and stock, and simmer on the lowest possible flame covered tightly for 2 hours. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Howard Portnoy on November 25, 2009 at 1:05 PM

Plus it could have been worse. He could have sent the chef out for Mickey Ds, malt liquor, and a carton of Kools.

Or is that the next State Dinner?

CK MacLeod on November 25, 2009 at 1:07 PM

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.

Actually, I would object to the lobster in aspic because it isn’t kosher. I would object to the gefilte fish and chicken soup if it weren’t kosher either. Since nonJews are not forbidden to eat kosher food, I would say that a kosher state dinner would be an excellent venue to show that someone can cook gourmet kosher. In fact, the recipes that you mention could probably be cooked and served that way as well.

If someone serves “gefilte fish and chicken soup” because it is a stereotypical set of foods that non-Jews recognize as “ethnic” then I would agree with you. In fact your description of the menu seems to imply that the President does not know of or appreciate “soul food”. It looks as if he picked the menu because of how it would sound in the TV report.

sabbahillel on November 25, 2009 at 1:53 PM

I believe we can safely conclude from Mr. Portnoy’s comments that he ain’t super-strict on that there kosher thing.

CK MacLeod on November 25, 2009 at 2:12 PM

sabbahillel: I am not observant and not particularly fond of kosher meat because the choice of cuts are limited and the blood has been leeched out it. This is sort of beyond my point in any case.

Howard Portnoy on November 25, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Dare I ask if the dessert course was chilled watermelon balls?

GnuBreed on November 25, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Mr. Portnoy-

I think the Indian PM did not get to taste the greens as they were part of the dish made with prawns. He had to eat chick peas & okra – wtf with that mixture?

From ABC: “The First Lady’s office says that the menu “reflects the best of American cuisine, continues this White House’s commitment to serving fresh, sustainable and regional food…”

Okra is not in season, it’s a height of summer veggie. It had to be shipped in fresh from somewhere but not this region. Hypocrites.

and was this put on the menu for our enjoyment:

“White House Arugula with Onion Seed Vinaigrette”

what’s with this administration & lettuce?

batterup on November 25, 2009 at 3:58 PM

Racists.

:)

baldilocks on November 25, 2009 at 4:55 PM

GnuBreed: :-)

batterup: The First Lady, as far as I know, is actually responsible for many of these idiotic, race-centered decisions.

Howard Portnoy on November 25, 2009 at 5:50 PM

Imagine if Bush had done this…

SouthernGent on November 25, 2009 at 9:36 PM

No. HOWARD PORTNOY IS INDEED POST-RACIAL.

Cheers!

TheAlamos on November 26, 2009 at 4:57 AM

For a Black History month celebration earlier this year, the college in my neighbourhood dared to serve fried chicken! For that they were loudly condemned by various black organizations for feeding into racist stereotypes. Apparantly, when celebrating blacks, you’re not allowed to serve food that they might find delicious. On the flip side of that is the idea of a post-racial administration promoting a ‘black’ menu during a State Dinner.

I agree with your point which is that Obama is the President of all Americans, not just black Americans. The problem, as I see it, is that he has an ‘us vs. them’ mentality when it comes to race, and he needs to constantly prove that he is different from the white Presidents that came before him.

CityFish on November 26, 2009 at 10:23 AM

I’ve had it — up to here.

You ain’t the only one.

Lanceman on November 26, 2009 at 10:58 AM

It truly sounds like you have just had it with Black People, but they have been in this hemisphere for nearly 500 years, So I would just get over it. By the way I don’t care it you or anyone else is racist, that is your personal business. Merry Christmas :: ))

Observation on November 26, 2009 at 1:10 PM

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.

I did not read anything in your piece that directly lends itslef to your being a racist. I find most racists to be uninteresting and uniformly boring. You don’t come off that way at all. You seem pretty sober, if not thoughtful. I am very interested in the beliefs of those people who fancy themselves as truly fair-minded people.

I do find the cited paragraph to be disjointed. You refer to the Obama’s “abject failure” in this graph when the rest of the article is about his tiresome black “antics.” It’s as if your specious arguments about too much blackness need support from the logical argument against Obama’s liberalism.

I am curious. How much is too much black? As a black person how many accouterments of so-called black culture may I embrace before breaching your boundaries?

I got a lot of flack growing up from blacks for being involved in lots of “white” activities and sports. I got reciprocal crap from whites for simply being myself, which was too black for some at times. It’s a bunch of BS. Bias was the problem not my preferences.

Blahblahyadayadaenoughaboutme.

Referring to an archaic refrain from 40 years ago is odd. I have not heard anybody black utter the phrase seriously since I was a child. But you dredge it up as a reflection of contemporary black thought.

How soon before you tire not only of black life but of black people altogether?

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for clarity.

The Race Card on November 26, 2009 at 3:30 PM

I’m with you on this, Howard. Of course, you’re right–you will be called a racist. In fact, I’ll bet there is a wing in the White House dedicated to playing the race card, though I’m sure it’s called something else. And Obama isn’t the first President to play this game. Maya Angelou, for example, is a mediocre poet and yet she recited a poem (incited by Al Gore) to recite a poem at the Bill Clinton’s inauguration. A friend of mine once quipped that if Maya Angelou weren’t black, she’d be Rod McKuen. And you’d never see Rod McKuen reciting a poem at a Presidential inauguration. Anyone think it a coincidence that Obama and Michelle’s first date involved the movie “Do The Right Thing”? Supposedly they had an argument over the movie–undoubtedly over the moral ambiguity of the movie’s ending. I’d love to hear more about that. I’m thinking Michelle was with Mookie on this one.

Sean68 on November 28, 2009 at 11:20 AM

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.

Jews are more secure than blacks. Most Jews don’t need to engage in ostentatious self-esteem exercises.

Sean68 on November 28, 2009 at 11:23 AM