April 06, 2012 6:15 pm ET by Solange Uwimana
When Rush Limbaugh opens his mouth and makes an observation about race, whatever the topic, what inevitably tumbles out falls squarely into one category: offensive. Indeed, over his broadcast career, he has exposed a rampant hostility toward racial and ethnic minorities, largely through the use of coded language and other dog whistles. This is somewhat surprising considering Limbaugh's once stated aim to forbid jokes about people's religion, ethnic, and racial background, or tolerate anyone else doing so. How far he's come.
His show today was all about making fun of people's racial sensitivities. He repeatedly mocked the outrage elicited by the much-criticized Burger King commercial featuring Mary J. Blige, asking, "You people ever live in reality? Is everything a cliché or a stereotype?" He concluded: "Do black people not eat fried chicken anymore?"
He continued to deny the racial implications of the ad, saying: "A lot of people eat fried chicken. Fried chicken strips are one of my all-time favorite sports bar menu items." He added: "We know that Obama eats fried chicken; we got the photos. Every time he gets away from Mooch-elle, he starts chowing down. I think we've got pictures of Reverend Sharpton eating fried chicken."
He went on to say, however, "I know the stereotype exists, but, you know, fealty to these stereotypes is getting this culture in a whole lot of trouble it doesn't need."
This is critical race theory, Rush Limbaugh-style.
I'll let Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post, whose piece on the ad Limbaugh read on the show, explain:
I couldn't tell whether Blige and Burger King were spoofing themselves or being serious. After all, they have a spot up now with David Beckham dining out on his good looks to sell smoothies. So, what's the harm in Blige using her considerable vocal prowess to belt out a ditty about "crispy chicken wrapped up in a double tortilla"? Well, a lot."Mary J has always presented herself as a special artist and been received as such," culture critic and observer Toure told me in an e-mail. "She's the Queen. She seems to represent the people. To hear her sing the praises of fried chicken is a bit jarring because it's such a stereotype-heavy food." Renay Alize at Madame Noire slammed the commercial as "buffoonish" and wondered why Blige would "stoop to portraying a stereotype."
After playing a clip of the ad, Limbaugh attempted to list what he believed were "stereotypical foods" for African-Americans, including "watermelon," "collard greens," "poke salad," and "black eyed peas." But he couldn't decide whether "ribs" qualified. Seeming to reply to someone in the background, he went on: "Well, because Italians were never put on slave plantations, Dawn. That's why you can associate spaghetti and pasta with Italians all day long. But the Italians were never on plantations."
"Plantation" is a word Limbaugh seems to have an ornate fascination with. He dropped it into another conversation today while discussing the Trayvon Martin case with a caller. Repeating his contention that the "race industry guys" and the media have stoked racial tensions in the case, Limbaugh purported to show how "sealed-off-from-reality" the media were of race relations in 2012 America by giving this example:
LIMBAUGH: The National Football League has had black head coaches for a long time. The National Football League has had black quarterbacks -- it's an integrated league. The only thing it doesn't have yet is black ownership. That's -- yet, a black defensive coordinator -- a black assistant coach will get a head coaching job and the media will treat this as though the guy just got released from the plantation. They really do. It is -- it is as though this particular coach just got out off the plantation. No longer is he picking cotton. It's such a great day in America. It doesn't matter if the coach is qualified or not -- all that matters is his race.
Several days ago, in an attack on President Obama, Limbaugh claimed that Obama learned critical race theory from the late Derrick Bell, a civil rights icon and Harvard Law professor, and people for whom the legal structure is "a plantation."
This is what happens when Limbaugh brings race into a conversation: He inevitably looses the racial demagogue he strenuously argues he isn't.