Bill Maher makes this claim about half way through the video, which was a commentary about how Republicans failed to capture and kill Osama bin Laden, control the national debt during the Bush years, shifted attention from Afghanistan to Iraq in the name of national security and how the GOP turned a blind eye to the impending financial meltdown.
Maher mocks the Republicans for being unable to catch bin Laden and referred to Obama as being a “black ninja gangster president” as he produced his long-form birth certificate, comforted disaster victims in the Deep South, bombed Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in Libya and green lighted the raid that killed bin Laden.
I’m not a big fan of Bill Maher, but I do think he has some excellent points about the hypocrisy and ineffectual Republican leadership and the base it caters to: Tea Party followers, birthers, racists, Christian supremacists, homophobes who often cling to an era to which the United States was proud to go it alone and anyone with an ounce of intellectual capacity was deemed unpatriotic for questioning Bush and Company’s national security policies.
But the use of the phrase “black ninja gangster president” unnerves me because it magnifies a trend that’s become more pronounced since a black family has moved into the White House.
It’s become fashionable for mainstream America to define Obama as a “black [insert cool noun here].” The white majority’s references to Obama as being the black man who gets shit done–and can rock a mean swagger while doing so–points to the objectification whiteness allows its practitioners to place upon people of color. Referring to Obama as “gangster” not only deduces him as a legitimate presidential figure, but also upholds the idea of black folks succeeding or getting results is something out of the ordinary, something that is a reflection of blacks belonging to a subculture that’s somehow dark, mysterious and lethal.
I’m sure Bill Maher meant no harm by his dehumanizing characterization of Obama. Most whites who are in awe of Obama in fact don’t mean any harm by constantly referring to his race and his so-called super human, gangster powers as being part of his ability to act presidential. But whiteness allows the mainstream to use this type of demagoguery in the name of applauding and commending persons of color without recognizing and confronting the harmful, stereotypical nature these phrases are used to oppress POCs.
It’s a superficial way for mainstream America to praise persons of color, but cleverly reminding them that their skin color, nationality and race will always make them inferior and thus subjected to oppression.