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On African American Blogs, Sharp Words for Candidates

By Jose Antonio Vargas
These are busy -- and impassioned -- times in the Afrosphere.

Five days before polls open in South Carolina, where half of the Democratic primary voters are expected to be black, blogs such as African American Political Pundit, Jack and Jill Politics, The Field Negro, and Black Prof, to name just a few, are, like many South Carolina African Americans, sharply questioning Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign strategy against Barack Obama -- especially in the wake of last night's debate slugfest in South Carolina -- as well as John Edwards's claims of electability.

After last night's debate, in which Obama and Clinton traded their most aggressive and personal barbs to date, Christopher Bracey of BlackProf wrote: "Looks like Barack won this round in convincing fashion, with Edwards and Clinton tied for runner up. Funny how the press wants to concede S.C. to Barack now. I don't think this was the case a week ago."

Added the blogger who calls himself L.N. Rock, a Silver Spring-based IT professional and founder of the African American Political Pundit blog: "Let us not forget John Edwards, and his under the radar seemingly racial and sexist comment....when he said, 'The ONLY thing I would say -- and I think it has nothing to do with race and gender. Let me be really clear about that. It's amazing now that being the white being able to go everywhere in America and campaign and to compete -- and...I think I can go everywhere and compete head-to-head with John McCain."

Viewed from the Afrosphere, the now open political warfare between Obama and the Clintons takes on a heightened intensity. First came Hillary Clinton's comments about Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by President Clinton's use of the phrase "fairy tale" to criticize Obama's position on the Iraq war. Then BET founder Bob Johnson, a longtime Clinton supporter, seemingly alluded to Obama's past drug use. All this was compounded by Obama's comments about President Reagan -- and how the Clintons reacted to it.

Baratunde Thurston, a Harvard-educated professional comedian who blogs at Jack and Jill Politics, has been so dismayed by the Clintons' attacks on Obama that he created the "Clinton Attacks Obama" wiki, where users can track, as he describes it, the "pattern of race-themed attacks against Obama by Bill, Hillary and other members of her campaign."

Incidents are tied to direct quotes published in newspapers and blogs and rated by "racialiciousness" -- "how racist was the statement and why," as Thurston explains it. Some 25 incidents have been logged by contributors to the group effort so far, including this quote from Andrew Cuomo, the New York Attorney General and a Clinton backer: "It's not a TV-crazed race. Frankly you can't buy your way into it. You can't shuck and jive at a press conference." The wiki rated Cuomo's comment as "high" in racialiciouness. "[I've] never heard of shuck and jive- a) be used in reference to anyone BUT a Black person, and b) it's NEVER a compliment," a user wrote in the wiki.

"In general, there are two blogospheres: the whiteosphere that everyone else links to and knows about. Then there's us -- black bloggers, Latino bloggers, Asian bloggers -- who are trying to make sure our voices get heard," Rock tells The Trail. "In many ways, black bloggers see themselves as an alternative to traditional media coverage, in which blacks can rely on other blogs to honest and give constructive review on the pros and cons about one candidate vs. the other."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 22, 2008; 7:31 PM ET
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