Those who do not know boxing are always doubtful of a counter-puncher's skill—until they see him serve a resounding, high-classed, painful whipping. Negative comments about the counter-puncher are often generated if he does not huff and puff like someone's cartoon of a bad guy in professional wrestling. But after all of the criticism of President Barack Obama's first Oval Office speech, the president has shown he is perhaps the coolest political counter-puncher in many years.
We are all accustomed to seeing Obama accused of being too calm or refusing to act or talk as he should. They would be right if Obama had not brought all the executives from BP to the White House and given their hides a serious tanning. As all of his critics were harping on how the president's Oval Office speech had ground away public confidence in his ability to act, it was announced that BP had promised the cool one $20 billion in escrow for environmental damage and $100 million for the jobs lost or made impractical.
This must have come as a big surprise to lames who think they must be entertained by Obama. Such people want to see his hip-hop oats make their thugged-out presence felt in the presidential bloodstream. In jest, I once asked a film producer friend of mine why white people were so much better at playing aliens from outer space and androids than black people. I could not have imagined that my joke would be pushed to the back of the bus by all of the hip, enlightened rednecks who dubbed Obama ''Mr. Spock.''
Of course, there is nothing that makes certain kinds of white people feel better than being able to reduce a clearly superior black person into some kind of automaton. In other words, any Negro who is not always salivating a foam of blood and spittle or filling the air with impotent threats is either ''less black'' or ''not real.''
I was highly disturbed that Obama gave in to that pressure when, during an interview, an affable horse's backside advised him to ''kick some butt.'' His response was less than presidential and had a scent of the minstrelsy expected of one who embraces the truly absurd idea that he is a ''hip-hop president'' or that he should try to be to give the public more confidence in his leadership.
We all gain much more as a nation and as an ethnic group whenever a high-profile black person in a position of great power refuses to bow to stereotypes of authenticity and shoots for an individuality suited more to personal sensibility than sensation. Racists have, of course, described what they considered an inevitable hip-hop version of Washington under Obama—plenty of violence, prostitution, crack dealing and endless belligerence. That is not where Obama is coming from. Nor is it where any important person too dark to be mistaken for white ever takes to heart unless very naïve.
Stanley Crouch is an essayist and columnist based in New York. He has been awarded a MacArthur, a Fletcher, and was recently inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences. The first volume of his Charlie Parker biography will appear within a year.