Friday, June 6

The "Bump" Heard Around the World

I was amused when I read the above headline in all its various forms today and saw the picture of the infamous "bump." But this article in The Washington Post got me thinking:

As Barack Obama walked onstage in St. Paul, Minn., to claim the Democratic nomination Tuesday night, he and wife Michelle hugged and then, gazing into each other's eyes with knowing smiles, gently knocked knuckles.
Dap, fist pound, whatever you want to call it-- it's definitely something we're not used to seeing on the national political stage.
Really? Maybe we haven't seen a fist bump but we saw Al & Tipper locked in a steamy kiss, Clinton jamming on Arsenio and every politician from here to there playing the part of comedian on shows like The Colbert Report, The Daily Report, and Saturday Night Live. We've seen intern dresses and chest bumping so I find it hard to believe that a little fist bumping is earth shattering. It begs the question 'why'?

"It thrilled a lot of black folks," said author and commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates, who blogs at Why? Because it's the kind of gesture that, while commonplace in the African American community, was generally stifled by earlier
generations of blacks working their way up into the corporate or political worlds for fears "about looking too black," he said. But Obama "is past that. . . . He wears his cultural blackness all over the place." (Remember his aping of Jay- Z's "dirt off your shoulder" move in a recent speech?) "It's liberating to be able to run for president as a black man. . . . Barack is like Black Folks 2.0."

I must not be up on my "Black Folks 2.0" because I thought the fist bump was a teenager thing, right up there with jeans that fall off their hips. But since I really don't know, I'll give the credit for the fist bump to the African American community.

It's the last two sentences that I found confusing. Isn't Obama half black and half white? Didn't his parents divorce when he was young and he was raised by his white mother until he was 10? Then he was raised by his white maternal grandmother or in Obama's own words, "a typical white person." It makes me wonder if Obama really identifies with the black community as much as they think he does.

Just thinking out loud today.


Kate of All Trades said...

I think you're asking a valid question but it's hard to imagine what it's like to walk through the world as person of color. If you saw Obama walking down the street, you'd quickly identify him as a black man. It probably wouldn't even occur to you to wonder if he were half white. The point is that he's lived with the label "black man" his whole life, no matter what color the people were at home. Sharing that label with all other African-Americans means they have something really huge in common that is really quite tough to quantify.

I guess that's why people are making points about bumps and Jay-Z, so they can try to figure it out. I think the "how black is he" line of questioning is probably a normal phase of this ongoing race conversation. But I hope nobody gets stuck there. He's a black man yeah, but obviously so much more.

PS - You gotta admit that bump picture is cute though. I like it when married couples are openly in love with each other.

Say Anything said...

My husband and I give each other a "pound" as we call it all the time. I think it shows their fun side. They seem to enjoy each other.

I never thought of the pound as something that specific races do more than others. We're a pretty mainstream white couple who give 'em all the time.

I liked it - unless of course it was something staged/planned - that I just think it's tacky.

Anonymous said...

I think it was probably a genuine moment. From all appearances, they appear to be a loving couple with a lot of respect for each other.

Regarding the fist bump thing, I associate it more with athletes than a particular race.

Shauna said...

I never knew the "fist five" as we call it, was attributed to any race. I think though, that too much is being made of race. People vowing to vote for Obama because he is black, are just as wrong as those who refuse to vote for him because he's black. The question that should be on our minds, instead of if he is black enough, or any moves inspired by Jay-Z is; do we want this man to be the leader of the free world. I don't care if he's black, white or purple - is he the right man for the job; and I don't think he is. Pardon the digression - back to the "bump" - it's great that he celebrates with his wife - the families of candidates suffer along with their loved ones on the trail, they should also get to celebrate when those noments arise.

Jessi said...

I agree with all the points of your post.

And the whole 'bump' thing (which, by the way, we are a white family and give bumps all the time...) reminds me of Pres. Busch patting Laura on the butt one time at an event (can't remember which one, but it may have been an inaugural ball)...but I doubt anyone thinks that made or broke his presidency. Admittedly, I loved when I saw the butt-pat, and I did enjoy the Obamas bump, because like someone said above, it shows some genuineness between the couple, but let's not get too caught up in it is all I'm thinking...

Anonymous said...

Way to take a very insignificant action and turn it into a racial one because of your ignorance. Many of my white family members "pound" it. I have even taught my 2 yr old how to pound it. And i think you are totally clueless by putting this in the same context with the Gores' kiss et al.

Anonymous said...

I guess anonymous (above) didn't really read what you wrote about you seeing the pound as a young person thing or that you really weren't turing it into a racial thing, but rather responding to the media who did. But then again, it's easy to be nasty when you shroud yourself with the "anonymous" label. I'll choose to be kind and use anonymous, though you know who I am because I was one who cheered with Junior the other day at Susan's. Great job, as usual, you political mom, you.


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