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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, March 13, 2008


When I was a kid - a dorky kid, long before I became cooler than the other side of the pillow - I remember watching a Steve Martin comedy routine in which he was boasting of his amazing command of the English language.

But when it came time in the routine for Martin to throw out a word to describe just how special he was, he stuttered and stammered and eventually spat out "pizazz." That was his shtick, of course. That he was so smart, and yet he couldn't quite figure out how to say what he meant.

So I thought of Martin, over the past couple of days as former congresswoman and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro shared her opinion of Barack Obama and why he is where he is in the '08 race for the White House.

If you hadn't seen or heard about this issue, Ferraro basically said that if Obama wasn't black he wouldn't be getting so much attention, he wouldn't be leading in the Democratic race, and he never would have gotten as far as he has. She said the same would be true if Obama was a woman...of any color. Ferraro later said her comments were misconstrued.

Obama's camp said Ferraro was out of line. Some of his supporters called her racist. She said she was just calling 'em like she saw 'em and that those lashing out at her were being reverse-racist 'cause she's white.

Keeping in mind that the only horse I have in this presidential race is Dave Barry, whom I would campaign for if my bosses would let me, I have mixed feelings about Ferraro's jabs.

The first thing I wanted to do was go dance in the street with the Lion King soundtrack playing in the background, 'cause Ferraro taught me for the first time in my 35 years on this earth that being a black man in the United States is actually an advantage for me.

Who knew? I guess it is pretty far-fetched to think if Barack Obama was white, blond, blue-eyed and named Captain America that anyone in the U.S. would ever want to put him in power. I mean if he has an advantage with that name, I should be in the running for Emperor of the Galaxy. I'm plain old James Burnett, a name with good Scottish roots. How much more harmless could my name sound?

Seriously, while it is lame for people to use something so sensitive as race in a conniving, self-serving manner, it is equally lame for people who don't think before they speak to use out-of-control political correctness as a crutch and defense to their ill-chosen words.

We all have an advantage. We live in the United States of America. Had to say that. No one's gonna come in here after the fact and accuse me of not being proud to be an American.

Anywho, Ferraro isn't corny because she thinks Obama's not prepared to be president. It's her I'm sure she had about Bill Clinton when he ran for president with the experience of a small state governor under his belt. And I'm sure, if she's a history buff, she felt that way about the four or five other U.S. presidents in the last century who ascended to the White House with less than six years in elected state or national office.

And Ferraro is not corny for backing Hillary Clinton. More power to her.

Ferraro is corny for being a hypocrite and then falling back on a weak excuse like reverse racism to justify her use of race as a weapon in the first place. Take note you folks who think the only institutional political types who are in the dark about issues of race relations are crusty old GOP legislators. It ain't true.

So even though I'm not getting a million dollar a month consulting fee, I'm gonna give a valuable piece of thought food to Geraldine Ferraro: You were given the benefit of the doubt by members of your own party back in the day that in addition to your gender you brought brains and skills to the vice presidential candidacy. So who's being closed-minded if you're not willing to give that same benefit of the doubt to the people in your own party who are supporting a different sort of minority today?

Either way, vote Dave Barry!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to exercise my privilege in life by taking candy from a baby, skipping in front of an elderly woman...using a walker at the grocery store, and telling someone, anyone, wearing a badge to go and fornicate himself. These are the advantages of being a black man.

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  • Who knew, JB??? Who knew!

    Just imagine the advantages for me!

    By Blogger katrice, at 2:57 PM  

  • Katrice, I think Ferraro confused Obama with OJ.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:03 PM  

  • Oddly enough, my favorite Steve Martin line involves race:

    "I was born a poor black boy..."

    Nearly spat out my beverage when I heard him say that. I mean... he's a white dude.

    Anyway. Ferraro is entitled to her opinion... that's just too bad for the rest of us.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 3:23 PM  

  • Ferraro's statements about Obama weren't an accident and weren't misconstrued. She has said the same thing over and over and it just happened that a member of the media was in the room the last time she said it.

    The day she came out with the reverse racism crap, the Clinton campaign had Maggie Williams out there defending what Ferraro had said before anyone knew that she had done a second interview.

    This was all very carefully planned. Nothing is said or done by the Clinton campaign by accident.

    By Blogger Jay, at 5:17 PM  

  • GF has gotten her comeuppance by several in the last few days - but none with more class than you.

    By Blogger david, at 6:54 PM  

  • Geraldine has missed the truth of it: Obama has not succeeded because he is black; when you look at all the states he's one, you must acknowledge that he's exceeding IN SPITE OF being black.
    While I admit that I have my reservations about a Barack presidency, they have nothing to do with his his skin color, just as my reservations about another Clinton administration have nothing to do with her gender.
    Don't lose sleep on my account: I no longer vote Republican under any circumstances.

    By Blogger C.L.J., at 8:24 PM  

  • James, James, James.

    You know I love you but I'm going to tell you the truth. Barrack Hussein Obama would not be where he was had he not entered the U.S. Senate as only the third black member since reconstruction.

    As Pat Buchanan put it, his race is not the ONLY reason he is the front-runner but it is a FACTOR. Many folks, including whites, are voting for him b/c he's black. It's very, very, very simple.

    Look, I am going to vote for the black guy, too. But let's be intellectually honest. That's hot right now.

    By Blogger M@, at 10:18 PM  

  • Damn James, I was going to write you in, not Dave Barry. I mean, you are 35, and a citizen, which are the only Constitutional requirements. Would Dave Barry serve as your running mate?

    By Blogger The CEO, at 11:16 PM  

  • What surprises me is all these ultra left wing politicians and pundits throwing around race cards like it's a game of 52 pickup.

    Some people, when they see themselves as a dyed in the wool liberal they think they are incapable of being racist no matter what spews out of their mouth.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 2:31 AM  

  • What would be nice, just once, would be to hear that one of teh Candidates, or a anyone, had commented on a Candidate's POLICY - rather than merely on their appearance/gender/race & other surface stuff.

    Come on, America, there are some thoughtful voters, aren't there?

    By Blogger Bronchitkat, at 7:28 AM  

  • Go Dave!!!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 12:18 PM  

  • At first I thought I had misheard Ferrara because in my lifetime, being a black man in America has hardly been an advantage.

    She's a moron.

    I support Obama, as I have made clear in a couple of posts, but those who are voting for him because he's a "hot novelty item" need to grow a brain. Like all of us, he is a lot more than the color of his skin (or his gender.)

    There are many important issues to address in this campaign if we could get past the vicious and puerile playing of the race card.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 2:02 AM  

  • Well said, James.

    If race were the only factor in Obama's success, then other black presidential candidates would have been in similar positions too, and they historically have not been.

    There are other things contributing to Obama's success, not just race.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 12:04 PM  

  • This race really has brought a lot of racial stuff to the surface. Sometimes I wonder if this level of animosity isn't necessary before everything can calm down and we can all just be normal people.

    By Anonymous Steph, at 11:17 AM  

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