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"Barack the Magic Negro" is a satirical song by Paul Shanklin, which appeared on his 2008 album We Hate the USA. The song is a parody sung to the tune of "Puff, the Magic Dragon".

The lyrics of "Barack the Magic Negro" refer to President Barack Obama (who at the time the song was written, was a candidate in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries) as an example of the stock character of the magical negro for whom white American voters would vote in order to assuage white guilt.

The song was first aired on The Rush Limbaugh Show in 2007, prompting criticism of the show's host, the conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh; however, Limbaugh noted that he was not the one whom had originally coined the term in reference to Obama. The term was first coined by Los Angeles Times columnist, David Ehrenstein, in a column published on March 19, 2007.[LATimes.com, Opinion Section, March 19, 2007] A year later, Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent out CDs containing the song, also prompting a negative reaction.

Composition

The title is a reference to the magical negro, a stock character in fiction who commonly helps the white protagonist to get out of trouble. The song mocks David Ehrenstein's assertion in the Los Angeles Times that Barack Obama would serve as a "magical negro" to assuage white guilt, as well as the fact that these comments drew very little heat from the media. The song's lyrics explicitly refer to this:

"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.


In the song, the singer impersonates activist Al Sharpton by using a megaphone while singing the song.

Use of the term on The Rush Limbaugh Show

Political commentator Rush Limbaugh was criticized in 2007 for playing the song during his talk radio show The Rush Limbaugh Show. In response to reports about the controversy, Limbaugh defended his actions by noting that "If I were to think about Barack Obama being in any trouble — needing Secret Service — I would look into "Clinton, Inc." before I looked at me. Try that, drive-by media. Get that out there."

The term was originally used by LA Times writer David Ehrenstein in a March 19, 2007 op-ed titled "Obama the 'Magic Negro'"

Distribution of CDs by Chip Saltsman

In December 2008, Chip Saltsman of Tennesseemarker, a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, became embroiled in controversy when he distributed the song on a "Christmas CD" to RNC members. On December 27, 2008, incumbent RNC chairman Mike Duncan publicly criticized the song's distribution: "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction." Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich commented that "This is so inappropriate that it should disqualify any Republican National Committee candidate who would use it." However, Saltsman described the song as “light-hearted” and that it would be received in “good humor” by members of the Republican National Committee. Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state, dismissed the controversy as “hypersensitivity.” Camille Paglia of Salon.com called the song "very daring and funny", although she felt that Limbaugh overplayed the song.

Saltsman later defended himself by accusing the media of bias, of holding him to a double standard compared with Ehrenstein: "liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn't utter a word about David Ehrenstein's irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they're shocked and appalled by its parody on 'The Rush Limbaugh Show."

Peter Yarrow, co-writer of "Puff, the Magic Dragon", termed its use by Saltsman "offensive" and "shocking and saddening in the extreme."

Other uses

  • On December 31, 2008, during its New Year's Eve broadcast, the Fox News Channel allowed the viewer submitted text message "Happy New Year and let's hope the Magic Negro does a good job" to be displayed in the news ticker on the bottom of the screen. Fox News later apologized for allowing the message to be aired.


References

  1. David Ehrenstein Obama the 'Magic Negro'. Los Angeles Times Op-ed, March 19, 2007
  2. Drive-By Media Misreporting of "Barack the Magic Negro" Song. Rushlimbaugh.com transcript. April 26, 2007
  3. Latching onto L.A. Times op-ed, Limbaugh sings "Barack, The Magic Negro". Media Matters for America, March 20, 2007
  4. Limbaugh suggested Obama needs Secret Service protection because of "Clinton Inc.". Media Matters for America, May 7, 2007
  5. Obama the 'Magic Negro' L.A. Times, March 19, 2007
  6. Rebecca Sinderbrand. RNC chairman candidate defends 'Barack the Magic Negro' song. CNN, December 26, 2008
  7. Mike Allen. "GOP chair 'appalled' by 'Magic Negro' CD". The Politico, December 27, 2008
  8. Jason DeParle. G.O.P. Receives Obama Parody to Mixed Reviews. New York Times, December 27, 2008
  9. Camille Paglia. "Bow-ow-ow: Obama's painful missteps". Salon.com, April 08, 2009
  10. Tim Rutten. Chip Saltsman's 'Magic Negro' mistake. Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2008
  11. "RNC chairman condemns controversial Obama song". CNN. December 29, 2008



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