When Parody Fails: the problem with satire

 I have tried and failed to see the humor in Mark Williams’ Letter to Abraham Lincoln.  Many so-called “anti-racists” ( white, right wing/Tea Party supporters who are trying to “turn” accusations of  racism on traditional Civil Rights groups and discriminated against individuals (blacks) by calling them racist) insist the letter is parody, meant to call out the NAACP, a 100-year-old civil rights organization, for what they claim is its frequent overuse of the “race card”, race-baiting and  cushioning of the failure of blacks through blaming ‘Mighty Whitey’.

Naturally, they feel that anyone who doesn’t get the letter (blacks/ guilty white liberals) are stupid, and simply don’t realize that they (Tea Party) are defending the integrity of blacks through insulting the NAACP, which only helps to perpetuate the ‘victimhood’ of blacks.

 The letter, written from the perspective of NAACP president Ben Jealous, is addressed to Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. president who freed the slaves through the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862-3. The letter is a classic case of condescension through the use of stereotyping and racist beliefs dressed-up as satire/parody.

However, the problem with satire is not its intent to mock, but the subject of its mockery. Satire is the pretense of sacredly upholding beliefs about a subject, with the intent to expose the frivolity of the subject itself. That’s the ONLY way it works: you can not believe the things you’re “pretending” to uphold for the sake of mockery. In the case of Mark Williams, the same man who referred to President Obama as anIndonesian Muslim turned welfare thug turned anointed, he believes, wholeheartedly, like many white and non-white Americans, in the things he’s ‘parodying’ in the letter. He truly believes blacks, and “their champion,” the NAACP do these things.

The Tea Party, a group of typically white, middle-aged, middle-class right wing Americans,  was founded on the “mandate” of supposedly protesting big government. The Party grew to loudness in the wake of President Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency, and have garnered much attention for their outlandish and racist protest signs

Mark Williams is their leader, and he has been on CNN a minimum of ten times, mostly in 2009. Williams, along with the Tea Party’s main attraction Sarah Palin, travel from American city to the next protesting the president as illegitimate and dangerous.

The irony of Williams’ letter (below) is that it was in protest of the NAACP calling the Tea Party a racist organization. Williams responded using racist stereotypes of “lazy, uneducated, backward” blacks (the sentiment of his letter) to prove he’s not racist.

Like I’ve said: satire/parody only works when you don’t believe the things you’re parodying. When you believe them ( Joel Stein’s article ‘India’ in Time magazine), then it’s not parody, or at least, it’s not the funny kind, but the racist kind.

Dear Mr. Lincoln
We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!
In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.
The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.
And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!

The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.
Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?
Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.
Sincerely
Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person

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About TCDH

Blogger with an opinion.
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