Last week someone posted a link on my social media page about how White people want every Black person in their lives to be “Magical Negroes.” Of course Hollywood has fostered this notion in films like “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” with Will Smith, “Ghost” with Whoopi Goldberg, “The Green Mile” with Michael Clark Duncan, or “The Matrix” with Laurence Fishburne. Perhaps if Black people are magical that means they aren’t real and the society doesn’t have to deal with their real problems.
Of course, these magical qualities seem to extend beyond the mystical portrayals in the films listed above. How else can you explain “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope if she is not magical. She can fix ANYTHING! Even when we end up in subservient roles we are magical. Viola Davis’ portrayal as the maid in “The Help” was as a magical woman capable of loving a neglected little White girl despite having lost her own son to violence. Taraji P. Henson could magically love a wrinkled up Brad Pitt in “The Strange Case of Benjamin Buttons”
And, perhaps the sense of the magical Negro wouldn’t be so upsetting if it remained solely in the realm of art–movies, television, and literature. But increasingly I encounter this sense of requiring a Magical Negro in real life. Every broken school system or city I see brings in a Magical Negro to be superintendent or mayor to fix it. Of course after they fix it they must hand it back over to a White person who will claim credit for the fix.
I have even had to be the Magical Negro in my own professional life. I am the one who is supposed to have the higher sense of ethics and mediation skills. I am the one chosen to get the badly behaved Whites in order to the satisfaction of the “good” ones. Being the magic Negro is wearying. Your concerns are never the first order of business. There is no one to comfort you. Instead, it is your job to wait for the next emergency or the next mess to straighten out. And, if you turn out not to be not so magic as imagined, you are thought to be a miserable failure.
So it is with President Obama. He was indeed the Magical Negro the nation–the whole world–was waiting for. The country was spinning into an economic abyss. There were wars ranging and we weren’t winning. We needed a Magic Negro to fix this. And, because he actually worked on fixing this mess it’s probably time to hand the reins back to an ordinary, mediocre White person who will claim that s/he actually fixed things. And the magical part is that we will all forget about the work of the Magical Negro until we need another one to save us!
Stay Black & Smart!