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“You did it my ni**a!”
May 1, 2016 1:41 PM / 1 Comment on “You did it my ni**a!”
The April 30th, 2016 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, also playfully known as #nerdprom, highlighted several key milestones for President Obama. Since 2009, he has been bringing the funny to this historic event, and last night he was his usual funny self. At this social gathering, often looked to as the “night off” for journalists and their guests, President Obama, in all of his basketball enthusiasm, took a line from Kobe Bryant when he closed his last White House Correspondent’s Dinner with “Obama out!” and dropped the mic.
Larry Wilmore, comedian and host of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, had a really hard act to follow.. After President Obama, Wilmore found other targets rather than the usual suspect—Donald Trump—he turned a good portion of this jokes to Ted Cruz as the Zodiac Killer, he sprinkled in some Trump jokes and he lambasted MSNBC, which he said, “actually now stands for ‘missing a significant number of Black correspondents.’” for getting rid of too many of its Black journalists. He was honest and he was funny.
Wilmore ended his speech and the correspondent’s dinner praising President Obama in a serious and sobering moment that allowed all of us to reflect on what Obama’s presidency actually really means. Wilmore said, “All jokes aside, let me
just say how much it means for me to be here tonight.” He added, “I’ve always joked that I voted for the president because he’s Black. But, behind that joke is the humble appreciation for the historical implications for what your presidency means.” Wilmore continued, “When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a Black quarterback. Now think about that. A Black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a Black man can lead the entire free world.” After the applause ended, he concluded by saying, “Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if I’m going to keep it 100,” the cliffhanging line he let dangle in the air of the moment as he did the pre-dap* chest pound, he ended with, “Yo, Barry, you did it, my nigga! You did it.”
Did he just say that? Turn the camera to President Obama, quick! I have to see his reaction!
President Obama showed all of his teeth and received Larry Wilmore’s sentiment by returning the chest pound and the dap*.
The one word that has polarized this nation since its race-infused beginning was delivered by Larry Wilmore to President Obama and received by the president in exactly the way in which it was understood between two Black men—two Black men who I know understand the ugly and vile manner that it has possibly been directed to them whereas, when delivered between the two of them, it is akin to love and acceptance.
The uncomfortableness of the moment, I felt. I knew that white privilege would have a hard time digesting what Wilmore said for many reasons: the fact that historically whenever Black men and people have been called “nigga” it has always been in the most disgusting, humiliating and dehumanizing ways, and because it was viewed as disrespectful to all of America to refer to the President in that manner especially for the world to hear. I understood the uncomfortableness.
But, I also understood what Larry Wilmore meant, especially when he prefaced his closing to President Obama by talking about the historical implications of an Obama presidency. I feel that Larry Wilmore was attempting to send a message to the masses, who in their anger and in the privacy of their minds and home may have defaulted to using that very same word to denigrate President Obama. But, not on this night. In the lexicon of Black vernacular, the most disgusting word in the world was the bond and the bridge of familiarity connecting Wilmore and Obama in the Black [American] experience that has been produced as a result of America’s unyielding system of white supremacy.
For some words, they will never really be “beautiful” or “positive,” and they will carry a double standard in which some groups will understand its “necessary” use. And, other groups will forever be linked to the uncomfortableness of it.
*a dap is the cool way in which Black men greet one another that involves the use of handshakes and embraces–now it is a universal greeting.