After Barack Obama shined up his pipes to sing a little “Let’s Stay Together,” I asked my Facebook friends why we like it when he sings in public but hate it when Herman Cain does. The answers ranged from “because Herman Cain was singing Negro spirituals and therefore is a coon,” to “because Obama is cute, Cain is not, and we’re shallow,” to “because everybody likes Al Green and it’s a good song.” Not one of these explanations is easily applied to the case of Representative Allen West, who took the the microphone at a D.C. event and delivered a rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” that confused the Julia Roberts out of me.
Allen West has only been in office for two years, and in this short period of time he’s managed to live up to every negative stereotype I’ve always carried in my mind about black Republicans while delivering a sheer density of objectionable commentary that far outpaces the norm. This being the year in which politicians break out in song as part of the political process, West singing for his colleagues just comes across as gratuitous “black folk like to dance and sing entertainment,” unlike Mitt Romney’s attempt at singing “America The Beautiful,” which was just plain bad. I’m pretty sure that I was sat down for a lesson about when it is and is not appropriate to entertain in front of mixed-race company that West missed. Or maybe as an unpopular skin color in an unpopular political party the guy can’t win with me. Either way I find this performance genuinely disturbing.