Super Bowl Racism

Elitism and Identity Politics at the Super Bowl Turn A Deaf Ear to Our Country’s Malaise

The intentions of ads and half-time entertainment of the Super Bowl were noble for the liberal cause of breaking the stereotypes that have contributed to black people not feeling equal to whites. Almost every ad was a statement about identity politics. An admirable endeavor and certainly ascendant in the liberal mind.

The entertainment and ads at the Super Bowl have long been seen as an opportunity to make a statement and this was no exception. Stereotypes were broken in sophisticated and original ways. Thirty black violinists, a black man on his yacht saying, like any arrogant white man, “Get off my boat”, a black insurance agent in bed with a white couple. In the ads the ratio of black people was 90% to 10% whites. The main performance was all black dancers and musicians by “The Weekend”. The issue featured is plastic surgery — the absurd preoccupation of people with changing themselves into something they are not. To that end all dancers, maybe 30, wore gauze on their faces.

“The Weekend” contributed $7 million to the performance and I feel a bit sheepish about criticizing them. If you spend that much shouldn’t you be allowed to do whatever you want?

But here goes…. Thousands of people watch the Super Bowl. This was a chance to heal a nation torn and wounded by divisiveness, riled up by thinking their democracy was being stolen by liberals, raw from an insurrection. The vision in the ads and show was myopic, elitist, actually damaging for the situation we are in now as a country, and so unconscious as to be appalling. This was not the time to play the identity politics card. It was the exact time not to.

Let me explain. There is a growing obvious malaise in right wing Americans, a malaise that many intellectuals say is similar to what the Germans suffered before Hitler came to power. Because of ignoring that malaise we have just passed through a brush with fascism that is far from over. What was Fascist about our situation? The near worship of a demigod, who started out destroying the press and who planted the seed that American elections are rigged starting in 2016, who quipped “I will be your last president” but who nonetheless got elected because he could see the plight of Americans who feel powerless, that their freedoms are being eroded, that their jobs are being taken over by foreigners, and who are suffering economically.

It was Michael Moore who predicted the rise of Trump in 2015. He pointed out that these people are not being listened to by Democrats and I fear we are doing that again. The ads and entertainment turned a blind eye to them and did things that would only rile them up further.

Here is how it might be seen by right wing viewers:
1) “Elites fret over plastic surgery. I can’t put food on my table. I can’t afford a Starbucks coffee. Now I have to watch black elites with a sophisticated message about changing themselves into something they are not through surgery. I don’t care.”
2) “I’ve lost my personal power and I get to see a spoiled black man on his yacht.”
3) “I’m an older Southern male and I have to see a black man in bed with a white couple? Black men were lynched for messing with white women, even if it wasn’t true. Why was he lying next to the wife? Why not at least the husband?”
4) “Mixed couples are all over the place in ads everywhere and this was no exception. My Bible tells me the races shouldn’t mix.”
5) “There was a majority of blacks in all the ads. About 10% whites. My biggest fear is they will take over and outnumber whites soon. Do I have to have that rubbed in my face?”
6) “I come from Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana. I wouldn’t miss the Super Bowl. What do I get treated to? A black man in a cowboy hat. Talk about identity politics? They can keep their identity but now they want mine?”

To present the black issue as if it is THE issue or elitist plastic surgery as so important it should be aired in front of thousands clearly tells right wing citizens that they and their issues will never be seen. To even make elective surgery a major focus when people are dying of the plague is insensitive and self absorbed.

There was even some horror, when we have enough horror with the pandemic. The distance shots of the first stage set of lit up fake skyscrapers looked like tombstones. WHAT was that message? The background musicians in that first scene had red lit up eyes. And then we see 30 black dancers with their faces covered in gauze. We do not need any more horror in the midst of this pandemic.

The show was cold as ice, unfeeling, compassionless, “sophisticated”.

What might have worked? Music with feeling. Scenes of showing some kindness towards each other. Scenes where blacks, whites, Asians, American Indians, Hispanics help each other in touching ways. Scenes of different races holding the dead of other races. Scenes of listening to each other when that is the hardest thing to do right now. That famous BBC picture of the strong black man carrying a white supremacist out of a mob so he won’t be killed would have been a wonderful backdrop.


Have you tried listening to your right wing friends? It is painful. But this performance, this focus on identity showed a colossal deafness, a not listening, a turning a blind eye to what is happening. They had an opportunity to heal the rift and they chose to widen the chasm and further open wounds.