Marc Lamont Hill, Huffington Post, October 8, 2012
Today, our nation engages in one of its most bizarre cultural rituals: the celebration of Columbus Day as a national holiday. Although history proves that Christopher Columbus was an immoral treasure hunter who merely stumbled upon a region that had already been “discovered” by indigenous non-whites, we continue to praise the vicious conquistador as a hero.
To honor the true spirit of Columbus Day, I have created my own list of overrated white people. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, as there are countless other White people who are equally underwhelming.
Ronald Reagan—You can’t have a conversation with a Republican without hearing Reagan’s name invoked as the patron saint of American politics. As a result, Ronald Reagan moves closer and closer to the Mount Rushmore of our public imagination with each passing year. How easily we forget that Reagan was largely responsible for shutting down mental hospitals, bloating the military, shrinking benefits for the needy, sparking mass incarceration, and declaring ketchup a vegetable for our children’s school lunches.
Justin Bieber—Sure, the kid can sing and dance. But is he better than dozens of black R&B singers? Nope.
Donald Trump—The Donald was always obnoxious, but he dipped to new lows this year by jumping on the Birther train. But that alone doesn’t make him overrated. Just racist and dumb. No, Trump is overrated because people actually look to the self-important hack for legitimate political insight. The only thing more inflated than Trump’s intellectual value is his net-worth, which is nothing close to the “many billions” he alleges.
Tim Tebow—At best, Tebow is a 2nd or 3rd string player. Sure, he’s led his team to some amazing 4th quarter come-from-behind victories. But that’s usually because his crappy play over the first 3 quarters put his team behind. Tebow’s celebrity—despite the fact that he couldn’t beat out mediocre Mark Sanchez for a starting spot—proves an old football axiom: Black men throw interceptions; White men are “gunslingers.”
William Shakespeare—There’s no doubt that Shakespeare has a rightful place in the Western literary canon. Unfortunately, thanks to sycophantic critics and narrow-minded educational systems, Shakespeare is the only person who seems to matter to the average person. Billy’s hulking presence in the Western literary imagination has led to the marginalization of other incredible writers of his era, such as Kyd, Middleton and Webster, whose work merits equal if not greater attention. Also, as a result of his deification, we ignore the fact that many aspects of Shakespeare’s work—such as the writing in Hamlet or the generally narrow range of female roles in his plays—just aren’t that awesome.
The Whole NHL (except Wayne Simmonds)—Has anyone noticed that the whole season is about to be canceled? Nope, didn’t think so.
Bill Clinton—Despite bombing Africa and the Middle East regularly, approving the Welfare Reform Bill, Prison Litigation Reform Act, and “three strikes” legislation, Black folk regularly regard Clinton as a messianic figure. He may have been better than Bush, but Slick Willie was far from a savior.
Eminem—Without question, Marshall Mathers is a dope MC. His first two LPs (particularly the second) will go down as classics and his latest releases, Recovery and Bad Meets Evil, are some of the best albums in recent years. Still, the “genius” and “greatest of all time” labels are too quickly attached to Em at the expense of more significant old school rappers like Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane, as well as contemporaries like Black Thought, Kool Keith, Jean Grae and Pharoah Monche.
Sarah Palin—Although her political career is likely over, Palin continues to be a powerbroker among Right wing extremists. Despite her lack of knowledge of policy or strategy, Palin is still a go-to pundit on conservative media outlets. No one destroys the myth of white supremacy more effectively than Sarah Palin.
Who would you add to the list?