My main man Joe

No equivocation. No sitting on the fence. I’m hereby declaring that Joe Biden is good, very good. For a laugh, that is.

Biden his time

I can understand my American friends who expect more than just entertainment value from their chief executive. That’s fair enough.

However, since I don’t live in America, the person of a US president affects me only indirectly. Hence I’m less interested in such boring qualifications as sagacity, statesmanship and leadership. I don’t want to be led. I only want to be amused.

Given such frivolous requirements, Joe Biden fills the bill perfectly. In fact, if elected, he’ll break new ground in the history of American politics.

First, at 78, he could become history’s oldest president at the beginning of his first term. And we know that age has more than just its privileges. It also has a rich potential for other things as well, such as senility.

Now, some US presidents developed age-related mental problems towards the end of their tenure, usually in the second term. Off the top one could mention Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, who none of them were quite compos mentis towards the end.

Yet Joe may claim the distinction of becoming the first president to start out that way, which promises many a delightful moment. While acknowledging that laughing at other people’s misfortunes is wrong, a part of me looks forward to four years of Joe’s gig, complete with memorable one-liners, pratfalls, bloopers and general hilarity.

However, in his rare lucid moments Joe is capable of deep, if inadvertent, insights. For example, the other day, addressing a predominantly black audience, he unintentionally vindicated one of my cherished observations.

“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump,” said my main man, “then you ain’t black.” That’s it in a nutshell: negritude has no more to do with race than womanhood has with sex. Both are above all political categories.

I cracked a joke about that shortly upon arriving in England. Talking to a perfect English gentleman, I said that most American blacks are left-wing. “They are left-wing because they are black,” replied my interlocutor. “It’s the other way around,” I said, pleased with myself. “They are black because they are left-wing.”

Thus Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas or philosopher Thomas Sowell may be black in colour, but not in essence. Because they aren’t left-wing, they aren’t black.

I also admired Joe’s use of the vernacular “ain’t”. That takes a long stride towards being accepted by blacks as one of their own.

Yet that’s only a first step. For even greater verisimilitude, Joe should fashion his speeches along jive lines more comprehensively.

False modesty aside, I think my speech-writing acumen could swing the election his way. After all, Joe has used British scribes, such as Neil Kinnock, before. And anything Neil can do, other than being an EU Commissioner, I can do better.

For example, the phrase “they ain’t black” shouldn’t have been allowed just to hang there. Joe should have tackled head-on the issue of the 1.6 million blacks who voted for Trump four years ago. This is what I would have had him say:

“Y’all wanna strive and thrive, it ain’t no jive. But I ain’t neva lied, them folks ain’t got no pride. They ain’t black, brother man, they’s coconuts, black on the outside, white on the inside.

“How come I’s the first Biden who be black inside? That peckerwood cracker Trump, he say, ‘What are the five most dreaded words in the English language? Hello, I’s yo new neighbour.’ I say, ‘Yo, Trump, you be one jiveass. I report yo ass to the po-lice.’

“When I be pre-si-dent, ain’t no whitey mofo say something wrong wi’ brothers for neighbours. I have a dream, man, that one day bloods live on Fifth Avenue. An’ I have a dream that one day… Well, can’t remember no dreams no more, there be too many. But you dig, yeah?

“My cam-paign go on, man. One monkey don’t stop no show, and this monkey be yo pre-si-dent. You crack the whip, home, I make the trip.

“As my main man… can’t remember his name… wrote, ‘Got a quarter tank of gas// in my new E class// But that’s alright,// cause I’m gon’ ride.’ I sure is, and I’s gon’ take y’all for a ride too.

“You don’t want no racist honky for pre-si-dent. So stay cool, bloods, keep jumpin’ and thumpin’ but no trumpin’ – and maintain.”

There, I hope I’ve established my credentials. If Joe’s got a plan, I’s his man.

11 thoughts on “My main man Joe”

  1. It was early noticed that Obama spoke American English without the black man dialect. That made his appeal to whites easier. So it is said. Hillary too was fond of trying to talk black when addressing a black church gathering. Ya’ll.

  2. Black on the outside, white on the inside – Coconuts.
    Green on the outside, red on the inside – Watermelons.
    White on the outside, black on the inside – Mushrooms?

    Many years ago, during the popularity of the TV show The Wire, I greeted my academic mushroom associates with “ Yo, Y’all”. It fell rather flat.

    1. In the US ‘watermelon’ is a pejorative term for ‘black’, one of dozens. Divided by the common language, indeed. Anyway, I once said at a boozy party that, though I’m white, one part of me is black. “Yes, your heart,” said my darling wife Penelope.

  3. “How come I’s the first”, “Y’all”, “ain’t”. This glorified illiteracy of American black English was lifted, according to Sowell, from poor 19th century southern whites. ‘White trash’.

    1. That’s true, what with most of the black population then concentrated in the South. Their native African languages had a role to play too, for example because they didn’t conjugate verbs like ‘be’ (hence the cavalier treatment of the verb in today’s black slang). But then ideology barged in, in the ‘1960s. Black slang got a life all its own, along the lines of ‘black’s beautiful’ and ‘the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice’. Black walk and talk became a badge and a gesture of defiance. Jazz was also linguistically influential, and in fact the first glossary of jive slang was compiled by the blues singer Cab Calloway. Towards the end of the 20th century, black slang became a significant part of the negrification of pop culture, exerting a reverse influence on certain classes of teh white population. All in all, the matter is quite complicated. Sowell is a great social thinker, but he’s no linguist. Hell, a man can’t be brilliant at everything.

  4. Sorry, Mr. Boot, but I find your credentials somewhat lacking. Some rather obvious examples: “I have”, no no no – “I gots”; “They” – “dey” (no “th” allowed, so no “the”, “there”, etc.); “brother” – “brudda” or “bro” (no “er” allowed).

    We must formally reject your application, but encourage you to keep trying. We need all the help we can get on this side of the Atlantic. Dumbing down our politics (and our electorate) is a priority. I would suggest “Huckleberry Finn” as an excellent primer on the vernacular – if it has not been banned in your country.

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