I'm a bit late on this but, I liked Garrison Keillor's recent article in Salon on Barack Obama's victory:
We threw the dice and we won the jackpot and elected a black guy with a Harvard degree, the middle name Hussein and a sense of humor -- he said, "I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher." The French junior minister for human rights said, "On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes." When was the last time you heard someone from France say they wanted to be American and take a bite of something of ours? Ponder that for a moment.
world expects us to elect pompous yahoos and instead we have us a
47-year-old prince from the prairie who cheerfully ran the race, and
when his opponents threw sand at him, he just smiled back. He'll be the
first president in history to look really good making a jump shot. He
loves his classy wife and his sweet little daughters. He looks good in
the kitchen. He can cook Indian or Chinese but for his girls he will do
mac and cheese. At the same time, he knows pop music, American lit and
constitutional law. I just can't imagine anybody cooler.
He’s skinny, biracial, has relatives in Kenya, attended Harvard University, used to live in Illinois and is obsessed with politics. Sound familiar?
It should if you know anything about Audioslave's Tom Morello. Check out this clip of Tom on a recent Tavis Smiley show where he also touches on his similarities to our next president.
Will Obama Make It Cool To Be Smart Again?
Ta-Nehisi Coates and John McWhorter are at it again. It all started with John crowing about the Revenge of the Black Nerd in New York magazine last month. He thinks "there’s a new weapon" for smart Black kids who are teased for "acting white" and "it’s Barack Obama himself."
Whenever a black nerd gets teased for thinking he’s white, all he has to say is four words: “Is Barack Obama white?”
Ta-Nehisi thinks that's "a quick way to get punched in the face at record speed". Then John comes back at the New Republic and says that Ta-Nehisi is "essentially on the side of the teasers" even though he seems to at least "feel the pain of the nerd." Ta-Nehisi responds:
None of my friends told me I was acting white for playing D&D, they
just thought it was weird. But they thought it was equally weird that
my parents didn't have a couch, that my house was basically covered in
books, that my Dad ran a business out of his basement.
I never had the whole goth/mohawk/black trench coat thing working. I didn't really hear Led Zeppelin until I was well into my 20s. I loved football and basketball, was about as hobbled as most boys I knew when it came to girls, and a mediocre MC. Perhaps most importantly, I was terrible at school--I mean really bad. I almost failed the eleventh grade, and I dropped out of college as soon as I saw a viable out. Does all this mean I'm not really a black nerd? Or is it just that the rules are different if you're a black nerd in a black community.
I think they are both right. While I don't think a black nerd needs to literally invoke the name of Obama if a not-so-bright kid accuses him or her of "acting white," but I think Obama's ubiquitousness will help make the point to an extent. For example, can I just say that I hate that "Steve Urkel" and "Carlton" from The Fresh Prince are the first images that come to mind when the topic of Black nerds comes up? I mean, I get it. Just like the fictional Claire Huxtable has been a proxy for Black professional women, real life Black nerds have not been very visible in our society - especially if they are not stereotypically socially inept. There is Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed astrophysicist who declared himself "the nerd who could kick your butt" in high school and has appeared on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but I haven't heard his name roll off of anyone's tongue just yet. Also, how does one qualify as a Black nerd? Is a degree required? Geeky science types only? Comic book fans? Do you have to be a guy? Does Dr. Mae Jemison count as a nerd? She entered Stanford at age 16, speaks fluent Russian, Japanese and Swahili and was, of course, the first Black woman to enter space.
I doubt that I would be considered a nerd. A bookworm? Absolutely.
I don't know if the fictional Alexander Scott, Rhodes Scholar, linguist, tennis ace and spy counts as a "Black nerd" but I Spy is now on Hulu. I am embedding the episode "Turkish Delight" which features one of my favorite actresses, the late and truly great Diana Sands. She plays one of the world's leading agronomists who is kidnapped with a group of her peers by a madman in Mexico City who is planning to sell them to starving Third World countries. Gotta love that. Here is a fantastic article by a blogger who shares my enthusiasm about Ms. Sands. I became friendly with her cousin, Kathryn Leary earlier this year when we volunteered for Barack Obama in Rhode Island. She is working on a biography and I can't wait! I know the feeling of trying to get out a book on an amazing family member.