Published: November 5, 2008
OVER the coming days and weeks, there will be many “I never thought I’d see the day” pieces, but none of them will be more overflowing with “I never thought I’d see the day”-ness than this one. I’m black, you see, and I haven’t gained a pound since college. I skip breakfast most days, have maybe half a sandwich for lunch, and sometimes I forget to eat dinner. Just slips my mind. Yesterday morning, I woke up to a new world. America had elected a Skinny Black Guy president.
I never thought I’d see the day. What were the chances that someone who looked like me would come to lead the most powerful nation on earth? Slim.
Skinny Black Guys of my parents’ generation pinned their hopes on Sammy Davis Jr. His was a big-tent candidacy, rallying Skinny Black Guys, the Rat Pack and the Jewish vote in one crooning, light-footed package. He won South Carolina, but he never gathered momentum. In the end, the Candy Man couldn’t.
No one stepped up for a long time. Michael Jackson was black and skinny, but also pretty weird, and after a while he wasn’t even black any more, although he did retain his beanpole silhouette. We thought we had a winner in Chris Rock, but then he started in with his infamous “There are Russians, and then there are ... Georgians” routine and we decided he was too raw for the national stage. So we waited. Some lost faith. Others gorged themselves on protein shakes, believing that America might accept a black mesomorph. And some of us kept hoping. We were hungry for change, if not brunch.
Like many Americans, I first saw Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic convention. I remember telling my wife excitedly, “This guy is probably stuffed after a cup of minestrone!”
We knew it’d be an uphill battle. America has a long, troubled history. Last summer, The Wall Street Journal came out and said what all Americans felt, but were too afraid to say aloud: “In a nation in which 66 percent of the voting-age population is overweight and 32 percent is obese, could Senator Obama’s skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.” Had he bitten off more than he could chew?
I voted for Mr. Obama, but don’t give me that “you’re racist” line. Skinny Black Guys vote Democratic 90 percent of the time, through thin and thin. Now our day has come.
On the right, there’s been much anxiety over what a Skinny Black Guy administration will look like. Will he paint the White House a warm, Cablinasian caramel, lop off the East Wing for a more svelte profile? Pack his cabinet with Garrett Morris, Dave Chappelle and Jimmie Walker? Such talk is ridiculous, although Mr. Obama doesn’t hide the fact that he keeps Urkel on speed-dial “because you never know.” I’m confident he’ll reach across the aisle to Skinny White Guys, Haven’t Been Able to Get to the Gym White Guys, and If They Were Women They’d Be Called Zaftig White Guys.
He is going to raise taxes on the middle class, though. They were right about that. Skinny Black Guys hate the middle class. No reason. Just do.
What else can we expect from a Skinny Black Guy White House? (I never thought I’d live to write those words!) We’ll turn the corner, or close the menu, as we like to say, on the war on terrorism. The time may come to sit down at the (under-catered) table with the Taliban. The president-elect has a lot in common with these guys. No, not that. It’s hard to get good takeout in the caves of Tora Bora, so you know they’re pretty lean by now. Nothing breaks the ice like, “Is that my stomach growling, or yours?”
There’s a lot of work to be done to get America back on track. There won’t be time for full meals, just light snacking. No problem. With the economy tanking, we’ll to have to tighten our belts. Again, no prob. When Skinny Black Guys say, “I’ll just have the Cobb salad,” it’s not a calorie thing. We’re cheap. It’ll come in handy when cutting the fat out of the budget in time for beach season.
A lot of bigots woke up yesterday to the reality of our modern world. To them I say, just because you have a high metabolism, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a fierce moral vision and the right ideas to fix this country. It just means that you don’t gain weight easily.Somewhere, the Candy Man is smiling.