Last week on the Huffingtonpost Website Max Blumenthal wrote an excellent piece on country music buffoon Toby Keith's emergence as an advocate for John McCain, lynching and unbridled simplistic assumptions about African-American behavior, demeanor and language.
The stereotypes of black Americans are so prevalent and ingrained in our culture that many people (of all races) like Toby just assume that all blacks talk the same, dress the same, listen to the same music and think alike. I'm black and I was raised in the suburbs of Bethesda, Maryland outside Washington, DC. My mom was born in Philadelphia and my father in Conway, North Carolina.
My parents were college educated and we did not speak in a manner oft-described as "Ebonics".
Remember the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" ? Well my family was more like that in mannerism, dress and speech than say, the Evans family on "Good Times".
I find it absolutely fascinating that I've had both whites and blacks tell me I "sound white" over the years. What does it mean to sound white? What does white sound like versus the sound of black? When I was 3 I knocked out my front teeth while playing and for years, I lisped words.
So my mother would constantly correct my speech, it became so ingrained that to this day I enunciate every syllable of every word, I'm an actor and I have a beautiful speaking voice and no trace of any kind of accent. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'll send you my voice-over demo oif you want to hear what I sound like.
Just because I don't sound like 50-Cent, doesn't mean I am not African-American; believe me, when a cab drives right past me to pick up a white passenger, I'm black. But when I read a speech I'm white?
During a July interview on Glenn Beck's radio show, Toby Keith made the suggestion that black people think Obama sounds and acts "white". Take a listen to the clip for yourself"
What that suggests to me is what I term a form of "linguistic racism". Why?
It's a sweeping assumption that if you sound educated, well-read and intelligent, which I am; then you sound like a white person. But if you speak in a broken English vernacular that you might hear on an urban ghetto street corner, then you're black.
It's incredible how judgmental our society can be. I don't assume that Toby Keith is a redneck because he speaks with a country drawl; oh speaking of rednecks, just check out the lyrics for Toby's song "Beer for My Horses", Keith's nostalgic look back at the way things were back in his dear old "Grandpappy's" day":
Well a man come on the 6 o'clock news
said somebody's been shot
somebody's been abused
somebody blew up a building
somebody stole a car
somebody got away
somebody didn't get to far yeah
they didn't get too far
Grandpappy told my pappy back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he'd done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street
For all the people to see
That Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon
And we'll raise up our glasses against evil forces singing
whiskey for my men, beer for my horses
We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds
too much corruption and crime in the streets
It's time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground
Send 'em all to their maker and he'll settle 'em down
You can bet he'll set 'em down...
You're intelligent enough to make your own conclusions about these lyrics. Just remember, Toby Keith sang them on The Stephen Colbert Show, and will sing them on the Jay Leno Show and other mainstream media platforms in the coming days as he promotes his own peculiar sort of patriotism and the crowd claps along to the beat.