After GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s rousing and effective convention acceptance speech last week, I found myself snapping my fingers as the GOP convention’s band in Tampa played that old hit, “Living in America.” Suddenly, it dawned on me: Team Romney might be transmitting racial messages.
I consulted my copy of the definitive reference on this topic, A Black Man’s Guide to Whitey’s Racial Code, by Jesse Jackson and Kanye West (Sharpton Books, 2010). I flipped past the highly apologetic introduction by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.). Just as I suspected, page 178 confirmed that “Living in America” was a Billboard Top 4 song by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. This, as Jackson and West teach us, is a subtle message designed to remind Caucasians that President Obama has brown skin. Also, the song was written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight. It doesn’t get any darker than midnight.
Sure enough, Romney said, “I grew up in Detroit.” Michigan’s chief city is nicknamed Motown and was the home of Berry Gordy’s legendary music label, Motown Records. Motown made household names of such enormous talents as Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. This reference very skillfully alerted white people that Mr. Wonder performed at the White House in early 2009, with President Obama clapping along with the rest of the crowd.
I also decided to review vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s soaring and inspirational acceptance speech. It proved to be a veritable NSA of racial code.
Ryan cited Solyndra, the half-billion-dollar monument to President Obama’s bankrupt green vision, commenting on Solyndra’s “gold-plated connections.” While some might think that Ryan referred to the busted company’s political ties to Obama, which yielded $528 million in now-rancid federal loan guarantees, Ryan actually tied Obama to the world of Gangsta Rap, many of whose stars wear gold-plated bling around their necks and even gold-plate their teeth. Some of them also have scored gold records, which drives the point home, oh so lightly.
Finally, at the end of his speech, Ryan kissed his blond-haired, blue-eyed wife. This was a covert signal to white Americans: Unlike Barack Obama’s better half, Paul Ryan’s wife is white, not black.
As a black man, it took me and my Jesse Jackson/Kanye West guide all night and most of the morning to decipher Romney and Ryan’s racial code. I truly envy my white readers who immediately could interpret the siren song of these dog whistles.