Buckwheat's Road to the Inauguration

T-shirt featuring an image of President Barack Obama in a Washingon, D.C., gift shop (Jewel Samad AFP); Buckwheat (Wikipedia)
T-shirt featuring an image of President Barack Obama in a Washingon, D.C., gift shop (Jewel Samad AFP); Buckwheat (Wikipedia)

(The Root) — An enormous stretch Humvee limousine — with an American flag waving from a rooftop antenna and red, white and blue bunting decorating the hood — was pulled up at the door of the Home for Retired Racial Stereotypes. Charlie Chan, Tonto and the Frito Bandito were loading suitcases into the trunk, while Kingfish gallantly lent an elbow to his wife, Sapphire, as they descended the marble stairs at the building's front entrance. Buckwheat stood at the door, holding it open for Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. All of the men wore dark suits, and the women wore elegant designer dresses.


"So, where are you stereotypes going?" I inquired.

"Why, to Washington for President Barack Obama's inauguration," Buckwheat replied in a Barry White-style basso profundo.

"Answer a question first," I demanded. "What happened to your squeaky voice and Ebonics speech patterns?"

"Brother White, we only use that ridiculous dialect when you are making another one of your lame attempts at satire," Kingfish admonished in a mellifluous baritone. "The rest of the time we speak standard English in normal voices. Even a stereotype gets tired of behaving stereotypically."

"That's right," Buckwheat interjected. "This is a time for celebration and quiet resolve, not verbal slapstick or buffoonery. We stereotypes are more than laughably distorted symbolic figures. We're proud Americans who want to help make Obama's second term a success and assure his place in history as a great president. We want him to end up as a face on Mount Rushmore, not in here with us."

"But I didn't know that stereotypes paid any attention to politics," I gasped in astonishment.


"Of course we do," the Frito Bandito chimed in from the back of the limo. "We read the papers, watch cable news channels and surf the Net to keep up with current events, and we know that Obama needs our help even more now than he did when he was first sworn into office. In two years he will become a lame duck, and he won't be able to embark on any new initiatives, so time is of the essence if he wants to get anything done."

"But why do you think he needs more help now than he did during his first term?" I persisted.


"Well, first of all, the euphoria that attended the election of the first African-American president four years ago has dissipated," Sapphire replied. "Remember that article you wrote for The Root about Obama's first inaugural? You were so happy about him getting the job that you couldn't stop singing!"

"You're right," I replied somewhat sheepishly.

"You and a lot of other folks were flying so high that you forgot how inexperienced, maybe even naive, Obama really was and how determined and ruthless his opposition could be," Buckwheat said. "We thought he could walk on water and reverse the calamities caused by the fecklessness of his predecessor overnight and all by himself. So even though he accomplished plenty during his first four years, we felt a little let down. The simple truth is that his performance wasn't disappointing, but our expectations were unrealistic! "


"Luckily, enough of us got a grip on ourselves to send him back to the White House for another four years," Kingfish said. "And this time around, both he and we have changed. Since the election, he has been playing hardball with those loony, right-wing Republicans instead of trying in vain to find bipartisan compromises with them. He has been one bad mother—"

"Shut your mouth," a deep voice thundered from the top of the stairs.

"About time you showed up, Shaft," Tonto declared. "But to continue the point Kingfish was making, we're different as well. We know that no president can accomplish what needs to be done all by himself, no matter what he intends. America is a democracy, and that means it's up to the people to organize and keep pushing for change, to be insistent and persistent without becoming shrill or personal, unlike some of the loudmouth public intellectuals who've been giving Obama a fit.


"Obama is not the enemy and never has been," Tonto added. "Our job is to outorganize and outpolitick the Republican right-wingers who want to thwart our progress on every issue from gun control to tax reform and ending the war in Afghanistan. They're not going away just because Obama won the election. We've got to beat them!"

"Come on, we don't want to be late. CPT is such stereotypical behavior," said Charlie Chan, sliding into the driver's seat as the rest of the crew piled into the passenger compartment. The famed fictional detective stomped on the gas and the Humwee sped away, en route to Washington to witness history.


Jack White, a former columnist for Time magazine, is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va.

is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.