Was Don Cheadle out of line for calling President Obama "gangsta?"
While you were seasoning the black eyed peas or popping champagne to celebrate the New Year, actor Don Cheadle was on Twitter clarifying remarks he made to Jet magazine about President Obama being a “gangster.”
“[The POTUS] inherited an impossible situation,” said Cheadle, who is the executive producer and star of “House of Lies” which premieres on Showtime on January 8th. “I wish he had not been so much of a consensus-seeker. I just wanted to see a more ‘gangsta’ president.”
After getting flack over his use of “gangsta,” Cheadle took to Twitter to explain what he meant.
“I realize that when speaking to reporters who are looking for the juiciest comments to print, a word like gangster in connection with a Black president uttered by a Black celebrity can almost be too much to resist,” the Oscar-nominated actor wrote. “I used the word gangster and I meant it. But I wasn’t talking about pants sagging and forties and ‘hoes’ or any of that other nonsense and I find it hard to believe that is what some people thought I was saying. I was talking about wish fulfillment; my own and my desire to witness something more than I had.”
Cheadle continued, “I still have a fevered dream of the POTUS smacking up [Speaker of the House] John Boehner in a public forum in middle America and making him defend support of tax cuts for the super rich. I want to see somebody go to jail over the financial crisis and not just black, brown and poor whites over humbles and minor drug beefs… I want him to stand in front of the haters and go all ["Menace II Society” actor] Bill Duke on them and say, ‘You know you done f***ed up now, don’t you?’ I kinda want a gangster president. I was about to write that in the future I would chose my words more carefully but I’m sure I won’t.”
Despite the flap over Cheadle’s comments, he didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said about President Obama in one way or another before. Countless critics have called the President “soft,” “timid,” “passive” and worse.
“President Obama is not an incompetent leader, just a weak one,” wrote Syracuse professor and social commentator Boyce Watkins, Ph.D. “The only thing worse than living on your knees is dying on them; but this may be exactly what happens to the seemingly weak Obama presidency. By tap dancing on territory where he should have been stomping, President Obama may be slowly digging his own political grave.”
Cheadle’s not even the first person to refer to the POTUS as a “gangsta." In May of 2011, shortly after the murder of Osama bin Laden, comedian Bill Maher called Obama “one Black Ninja Gangster President” on his weekly TV show "Real Time with Bill Maher.” In November, Chris Rock used the same terminology when he appeared on "WTF with Marc Maron" and critiqued the President.
“I’m like everybody, I want more action. But I understand that he’s trying not to p*** off a lot of people,” Rock said. “But I believe wholeheartedly if [Obama’s] back in, he’s going to do some gangsta s***.”
Was Cheadle out of line for advocating for a more “gangsta” President? And does Obama need to toughen up?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk