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Wilmore, Obama, and Blackness

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Interesting essay about Larry Wilmore’s “controversial” White House Correspondents Dinner bit.

Every now and then, however, we’ll see President Obama being black. There was, of course, the famous campaign trail fist bump with Michelle in 2008. Then there were the different handshakes he deployed during a locker room meet and greet—one for a white guy and one for black basketball star Kevin Durant.

Certainly Obama’s singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a fundraiser at Harlem’s Apollo Theater was far more soulful than it would have been in a different setting, with a predominately white audience. And the president’s speech that culminated with a touching performance of “Amazing Grace” could have happened only in a Charleston church touched by racially charged violence.

Wilmore knows what all black men know: There are at least two guys lurking under the surface.

And after more than seven years, Wilmore wanted to be honest about it in a way that, while toeing a line between acceptable and objectionable, was culturally familiar.

Of course, the president had pulled off his own code switch at the end of his standup routine.

“Obama out,” he said, kissing the peace sign and dropping the mic.

In the final year of his administration, he reminded the room that even though eight years in the Oval Office may have aged him, he was still the cool black guy from Chicago.

And with Wilmore’s code switch, he was able to tell a president that has been criticized for being both “too black” and “not black enough” that black men are proud to be his brothers.

Also, Van Jones is a tool.

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