Madea Gets Into Politics

Last Wednesday, there was a Democratic presidential candidate debate in a predominately Black city with a noted Black political stronghold on the grounds of a Black-owned production studio. All that Blackness — and little to no talk about the concerns facing Black people.

As disappointing and discouraging as that sounds, it is predictable and ironic that such a spectacle would take place at Tyler Perry Studios (TPS).

Debates are mostly political theater that build and gauge interest, as well as invite prognostication. What better and “Blacker” stage to have it play out than the house Madea built?

That isn’t a knock on Perry’s work. The idea of a movie such as “Madea Goes Into Politics” sounds intriguing. A real-life version might inspire Black folks even more with the knowledge that TPS sits on a former Confederate army base.

Is it picturesque? Yes, especially with the backdrop of Atlanta’s civil rights history?

Is it profound? Not so much. And therein lies the tragedy.

In the party’s efforts to unseat Donald Trump, there is talk of restoring the “Obama coalition,” which is a kumbaya way of summoning the Black vote.

That methodology is certainly more graceful than allegations of homophobia being employed as reasons why Pete Buttigieg is unable to entice Black voters. It is no less shameful, though.

Dems have no problem making distinctions with Hispanics, the LGBTQ vote or women. It’s only when the issue of the “Black vote” comes up are African-Americans corralled into “people of color” or the “Obama coalition.”

Lack of distinction isn’t the only problem. The Dems also lack decisiveness.

At the same time that Dems are invoking the former President, Barack Obama himself is revoking the spirit of activism and socialism within the party:

“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision we also have to be rooted in reality,” Mr. Obama said recently to liberal donors. “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”

These comments, in and out of context, are unfortunate. They are the words of a former president who went from “hope” and “change” to “whoa, not THAT much change” in less than a decade. They are also reflections into a party that doesn’t know whether it wants to ride a revolutionary youth movement and the focus on basic needs, or cozy up to corporations.

Say what you want about Trump, with his incompetence and corruption — his base is secure. The minority who voted for him are as rabid as ever. Meanwhile, the GOP establishment is scared to go against him — for now.

There is an important, yet rarely mentioned similarity between Obama and Trump, and by extension, Perry and the likes of Oprah Winfrey — theirs is the politics of celebrity.

Those politics are potent in any season, but especially in a season of hyper partisanship. Both zealots and fierce haters both leave with the wrong perspective. It’s hard enough to separate pageantry and policy as a sober critic. It’s near-impossible to do so as a victim of emotional bias.

One of the more radical civil rights icons — Malcolm X — decried celebrity culture in an 1963 interview at Cal Berkeley:

“Comedians, comics, trumpet players, baseball players. Show me in the white community where a comedian is a white leader,” Malcolm X said. “Show me in the white community where a singer is a white leader or a dancer or a trumpet player is a white leader. These aren’t leaders. These are puppets and clowns that have been set up over the Black community by the white community and have been made celebrities and, usually, they say exactly what they know the white man wants to hear.”

It may seem harsh, and X may have been wrong to name certain individuals. Despite the tone, it is still relevant and applicable.

There are issues which affect ALL of us — income inequality and access to healthcare — which still profoundly plague Black people. And still, there are issues that target Black folks specifically, such as police brutality.

Perry may have only been a host for the Dem debate, but Black people need more than hosts. In the biological sense, hosts adapt to the ways of parasites. In a more cordial, down-home sense, hosts make people feel important. And certainly, if you are hosting, you should have some input on what is on the menu. If not, then it may not be a matter of what is on the menu, but who is on the menu.

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