Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Obamas & The Pound: Reading the Dap

I'm not sure there is anything snarky left to say about the media coverage of the Michelle and Barack Obama dap.

Nor is there much to say about the dap/pound/fist bump itself. Media Matters & The Huffington Post ran a pictorial history of the dap; E. D. Hill called it a "terrorist fist bump" on her Fox News show, which has since been canceled; and many African American blogs have been educating all of the clueless white people about the long, storied history of the pound.

There is, however, a great deal to say about how much semiotic attention an apparently race-based gesture draws. Athletes, reality TV show contestants, and celebrities give dap all the time and Fox anchors keep their jobs. When Mr. and Mrs. Obama exhibit an act of intimacy and support, it draws fire from all corners, but Homeland Security turns a blind eye when terrorists like Ali G & Pat Buchanan seal their dark deals:

In fact, the truly astonishing media frenzy over a simple hand gesture that has been a rather tedious part of popular culture for almost two decades is itself a justification for SemiObama. Everything Obama does is news; every image iconic; every gesture symbolic.

Which is one of the arguments SemiObama makes: Obama is no longer just a guy. He's himself a walking archive of semiotic symbolism. Reading their pound means reading race; it means reading status; it means reading expectations for the least human job in the land; it means reading the nexus of popular and political culture, where Obama stands, like a lightning rod, at Ground Zero.

So, is the dap "black?" Well, I think the answer is, if a black man running for president of the United States gives a fist bump to his black wife in the middle of a stage with millions of white, black, and brown people watching, then I think there is a pretty good chance it's no longer a black thing.

The question is, will the media (and America) ever stop seeing him through that lens?

---D. R.

3 comments:

JaaJoe said...

Did you see Patrick Buchanan's rendition of world war 2?!?! AHAHAHAHAH. It very cute. Check it out if your intrested here -
Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War

bob b. said...

there have been alot of recent comments about the fist bump, but this is one of the best.

Jeffrey H. said...

You should post this on Huffington or Daily Kos. I like the angle of why its causing a buzz. Would the high five have been better? worse?