Sunday, May 1, 2016

Was Larry Wilmore's Performance "Too Black" for the 2016 White House Correspondents' Dinner?

Obama did a "mic drop" and then Larry Wilmore proceeded to offer up a devastatingly funny and sharp performance at last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner. Wilmore was not playing to the room but rather to the black folks watching at home. Wilmore also did not engage in "code switching" (i.e. changing his language and jokes) to make white folks feel included. To that end we were treated to a performance that included references to cocoa butter, Sanford and Son, Good Times, and how "black don't crack". Wilmore doubled down by ribbing Don Lemon and calling out MSNBC's metaphorical purging and genocide against its black hosts.

Of course, this approach did not go over well with most of the attendees. His humor and critical voice also offended many other people as well.

The fourth estate does not like being told the truth about itself. Truth-telling about race is also none too welcome by either the general public and elites alike.

Of course, there will be a deluge of obligatory "think pieces" on Monday about Obama, Wilmore, race, and the use of the word "nigga" as the capstone moment of the country's first black president's last White House Correspondents' Dinner. Most of them will be tedious and uninteresting. Right-wingers will boo hoo and complain about racial "double standards" and how Obama has once again "sullied the Office of the President". Liberals and progressives possessed of thin skin and delicate sensibilities will take offense at Wilmore's biting humor and comment on how his jokes were not "inclusive" enough. And there will be some black critics who will be upset at the use of the word "nigga" and how Wilmore was not critical enough of Obama's failure to deliver specific and targeted remedies for the particular challenges facing Black America.

In all, I found the last correspondents' dinner of Obama's two terms to be a fitting end to a landmark presidency as a President who happens to be black was accompanied by a comedian who is unapologetically black and together they played with, subverted, and mocked the White Gaze. It was beautiful and glorious.

What did you think of Wilmore's performance last night? Could Obama be the first former President of the United States to successfully reinvent himself as a comedian?

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