November 24, 2008

"Optimistic on Obama's potential usefulness to black nerds."

John McWhorter still is. (Previous discussion -- with video -- here.)

How personal is this for McWhorter?
I was lucky as a black Urkel: Having inherited my mother's sharp tongue, I did not get called "white" for liking school. But I do recall one Asian kid who gave me a hard time for being "smart" once in eighth grade. Somehow I came up with "Okay, Rex"--yes, Rex, go figure--"but one day you're going to be asking me for a job." That did get to him somehow, and I received no slapping-up, beating-down, or snapping-upon.

But I still wish I could have said something about Barack Obama.

26 comments:

Freeman Hunt said...

No doubt. If someone teases you for being a nerd, now you can say, "Well, the President is a nerd too!" That'll shut them up.

Joan said...

Optimistic...John McWhorter still is.

Good morning, Yoda.

My Cornell-grad, sports fan husband was instructing our kids in the subtleties of Ivy League cheers (jeers) the other day:

That's all right, that's OK
You're gonna work for me some day


...used when the score was lopsided against the home team.

I think there would be some benefit for black nerds if Obama is perceived to be black enough. He was raised in a white household, after all -- and The Atlantic's Coates' response to McWhorter's scenario seems to indicate widespread belief that Obama is an oreo. I would have thought (hoped) that Clarence Thomas would've been inspirational but that didn't happen, but Obama's a Democrat so maybe there is reason to hope.

Chris Wren said...

Obama even likes Star Trek, apparently, so there you go.

PoNyman said...

Nerds of the world unite!

mcg said...

That's all right, that's OK
You're gonna work for me some day


Yeah, I went to a nerd high school and we tried stuff like that. We still lost, pretty much every time.

AJ Lynch said...

In Philly, one of the area's topnotch prep schools was losing a big game to a middle class rival.

The winning team started chanting "start your beamers (i.e. BMW's)" and the prep school kids quickly responded "start your subway"!

Freeman Hunt said...

I would not recommend taking advice from McWhorter on this subject because it seems that he never got the other kids to stop teasing him, and it still bothers him to this day. The first kid that uses the I'm-like-the-President defense against bullies is going to be tossed into the cafeteria trash can.

Get advice from someone who successfully stopped bullies from teasing him.

Ann Althouse said...

"Good morning, Yoda."

That was my embedded, implicit nerd joke.

Eli Blake said...

Reminds me of Cal-Poly Pomona's football team (at least pre-1982, when they had a football team.)

They lost almost every game, but they had a great cheer:

Cosine, secant, logarithm, sine!

Fight, fight, hold that line!


Their fans also really showed their support with the cheer they had every time the team made a first down:

Punt! Punt! Punt!

laura said...

Yeah, and Cal-Poly almost (shoulda) beat the Badgers, Saturday.

Not to rain on the whole nerd persona, but Obama's jock credentials are pretty strong, too. I think his high school basketball team won the state championship his senior year.

Meade said...

"Is Barack Obama white?"

"No, he's a mutt. Don't you watch YouTube, punk? Now gimmee all your lunch money before I put a little baracko bomba on your mutt ass, sucka."

Lem said...

If this the best McWhorter can summon as to why an Obama presidency might be good for blacks.

It must mean that his expectations are just about right ;)

Chris Wren said...

"Obama's jock credentials are pretty strong, too."

So he's actually more like Clark Kent without the plaid and the mopiness and the passive aggressive girlfriend and the annoying background alt/rock

Bissage said...

Mr. McWhorter can't write for shit and he thinks you can cast a spell on thugs by saying something about Barack Obama.

Clearly he spent too much of his time at Friends Select and Simon's Rock playing Dungeons and Dragons.

PoNyman said...

I was lucky as a black Urkel

Yeah, and I was was lucky as a white Bill Gates.

Freeman Hunt said...

A better anti-bully strategy:

I remember a boy in junior high school who joined the cheerleading squad. He was being teased by some football players, so he walked up to them and ripped the face mask off of the lead bully's football helmet. He was never teased again, and the story was told with awe all over the school.

dualdiagnosis said...

I think his high school basketball team won the state championship his senior year.

Palin.

dualdiagnosis said...

Obama was a bench warmer on that team.

Palin's first attempt at the championship, they came in second. The next try they won.

Tim Berglund said...

I've actually appreciated McWhorter's thoughts on Obama and black identity—not enough to support the actual candidate, mind you, but enough to harbor some hope that McWhorter ends up being right.

And how personal is it for him? My guess is quite a bit. Growing up as a white nerd is formative enough; adding in the dynamics McWhorter describes probably makes it much more so.

If John's whole pro-Obama apologetic came down to "enabling black nerddom," that would indeed be too a thin gruel to sustain the whole political philosophy that comes with the new President. Still, this is an interesting dynamic to watch. I really hope McWhorter is right.

Tim

P.S. Can't talk about McWhorter without plugging his Teaching Company lectures on linguistics. The series is called "The Story of Human Language." I won't actually link to it, lest my fanboyism be complete, but really: it rocks.

Richard Fagin said...

95%+ of African Americans voted for Obama, so it seems a stretch to say belief that Obama is an oreo is widespread. Let's hope not.

The reason "acting white" is given opprobrium in the black community is in large part because white liberals don't demand otherwise. You know, that whole "soft bigotry of low expectations" thing. Maybe electing Obama will expunge enough white guilt, and yes set an excellent example for African Americans to allow some much needed opprobrium to be cast on the social pathology of rejecting education and personal responsibility.

Shawn Levasseur said...

As much as I dread the actual Obama administration, I do have to appreciate the cultural side effects.

I've heard lots of comments here and there that show me that lots of the lingering skepticism about the social progress made over the decades, the residual victim status to put it another way, is fading away faster with the election of Obama.

---


As to Obama's "geek cred": After the election, I was surprised to hear that he has a comics collection. Suddenly, despite my opposition to his politics, I learn he's one of "my people".

I've said it time and again on my blog: Sooner or later, EVERYTHING comes back to comics.

Cincinnatus said...

The reason "acting white" is given opprobrium in the black community is in large part because white liberals don't demand otherwise. You know, that whole "soft bigotry of low expectations" thing. Maybe electing Obama will expunge enough white guilt, and yes set an excellent example for African Americans to allow some much needed opprobrium to be cast on the social pathology of rejecting education and personal responsibility.

Richard,

If it's true, then it's the lack of guilt expunging SBOLE racism.

It seems to be a cart in front of a horse. But mental gymnastics from whites will never be as important as real progress.

I love McWhorter's story at the end. Being a bully should carry dangers of getting a real smackdown.

Mitch said...

That Cal-Poly cheer is about all their tiny minds could encompass of the original MIT cheer:

I'm a Beaver! You're a Beaver! We are Beavers all,
And when we get together, we do the beaver call!
e to the u, du dx, e to the x, dx;
cosine, secant, tangent, sine, 3.14159;
integral, radical, mu, dv;
slipstick, sliderule, MIT! Go Tech!

Obama used the term "mutt," but we prefer to speak of hybrid vigor.

Juba Doobai! said...

I see no proof anywhere that Obama is nerdy. Marxist?Yes. Nerdy? No. He has published two books but it is likely that one was written for him by Ayers. He has published little of interest anywhere else and is not known for engaging in challenging discussions of any sort (see his colleagues at the law school in Chi-town). In fact, Obama does not appear to like to be challenged on his point of view.

Juba Doobai! said...

"95%+ of African Americans voted for Obama, so it seems a stretch to say belief that Obama is an oreo is widespread."

Before Obama won in the primaries, that's how he was viewed by many blacks. Remember the black columnist in LA who called him "Barack the magic negro"? No, it wasn't Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh just made a song out of it. The issue for many blacks was whether Obama was black enough. Well, that was answered when he began to win primaries and folks saw they could have a "black" guy in the WH. In fact, Obama's reason for Chicago, for Michelle, was to prove his black street creds. That boy's been running away from half of himself for a long time now.

"The reason 'acting white' is given opprobrium in the black community is in large part because white liberals don't demand otherwise."

Actually, you're saying here that blacks are morons who have to be told how to act by white liberals. It's not up to whites, liberals or otherwise, to tell blacks to man up and start taking books seriously. The history of black America is a history of hunger for learning. The shame of contemporary black America is their disdain for learning, which is leading them back into bondage. The slave knew the importance of learning; the young black kid in the classroom, enslaved by liberal programs and assurances that Uncle Sam's your daddy who will take care of you from cradle to grave, is indulging in pure and simple laziness. He's got brains, free books, but he doesn't give a damn. Worse yet, he's hell bent on not having the kid next to him show him up.

knowitall said...

The liberal illuminati really believe that he will be a big influence on nerds or thugs? Stop with the wishful thinking.