Apparently, Saltsman missed nursery school

Sometimes, I really have a hard time believing what I read. People continue to pay Scarlett Johansson to "act" in their movies. Paula Abdul apparently dresses in the dark. Jamie Kirchick is still writing like an eighth grader with a good thesaurus and a chip on his shoulder. While I have a hard time understanding why phenomena such as these occur, I have come to accept that they do.

On a whole other level, however, is this:

The controversy surrounding a comedy CD distributed by Republican National Committee chairman candidate Chip Saltsman has not torpedoed his bid and might have inadvertently helped it.

Four days after news broke that the former Tennessee GOP chairman had sent a CD including a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” to the RNC members he is courting, some of those officials are rallying around the embattled Saltsman, with a few questioning whether the national media and his opponents are piling on.


“Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.” the opening of the song goes. “The L.A. Times, they called him that ‘cause he’s not authentic like me. Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper said he makes guilty whites feel good. They’ll vote for him, and not for me, ‘cause he’s not from the 'hood.”
Lest you think that I am a humorless jack-ass, I will allow that people can use racial humor from time to time. Lord knows black comedians riff on race to great effect, often at the expense of other black people. Certain white performers are also known to use racial humor, though sometimes with more controversy. (I, for one, find Ms. Silverman distasteful, but then I'm secretly a 72-year-old woman in my heart of hearts.)

The trouble is, the folks to whom Mr. Saltsman sent the CD are not likely to be part of some audience wanting to get a frisson from dangerous comedy. They are a bunch of GOP bigwigs. The song was originally played on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and it's not like Rush is known to walk the fine line on race with much grace. And unless Saltsman would use the word "negro" and defend himself for doing so (and, for the love of all that is sane, I certainly hope he wouldn't), he doesn't get to skirt the issue because he was "just" distributing the CD.

But you know what really gets me? That people are rallying around this guy. Check these quotes:

“When I heard about the story, I had to figure out what was going on for myself,” said Mark Ellis, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party. “When I found out what this was about I had to ask, ‘Boy, what’s the big deal here?’ because there wasn’t any.”


“I don’t think he intended it as any kind of racial slur. I think he intended it as a humor gift,” Oklahoma GOP Committeewoman Carolyn McClarty added. “I think it was innocently done by Chip.”
Because, if there are two people to whom one could reliably turn for informed and thoughtful comments on racial sensitivity, it's the heads of the GOP in Maine and Oklahoma. I can't speak with much authority on the latter, but I'm willing to bet cash money that the outreach efforts toward blacks in Maine on the part of the GOP has been... limited.

I guess this needs to be said, but making jokes that offend people simply because you can and then expecting them to "take a joke" makes one less admirable, not more. It doesn't make you courageous. It makes you a schmuck.

Additional thought: As I mentioned over at Ta-Nehisi's blog, this isn't even funny satire. The word "negro" is far more inflammatory than "black man," but if you're parodying "Puff the Magic Dragon" then "Barack the Magic Black Man" works better. Have these people never listened to Weird Al?

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