Clint Eastwood Isn’t The First To Make A Black Man Invisible

I know I’m not alone in being confused about Clint Eastwood’s speech at the GOP convention on Thursday night in which he addressed an empty chair as President Barack Obama. I can tell you, I was completely offended and not because of anything Eastwood — hailed as the mystery speaker before Senator Marco Rubio’s introduction of Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance speech –said.

I was appalled that Eastwood or someone had decided that an empty chair could be used to represent Obama. Addressing the thin air, Eastwood seemed to be talking to an invisible man.

Invisible Man is the name of a 1952 novel by Ralph Ellison that is considered a canonical work of African-American literature. The unnamed protagonist, a young African-American male who grows up in the segregated deep south in the early 20th century, believes himself to be figuratively “invisible” to society. People do not see him as a person, as himself, but as all manner of stereotypes of an African-American man. In the course of the novel, the protagonist moves to Harlem in New York City and — continuing the invisibility metaphor — lives underground in an abandoned coal cellar.

I’ve no idea, and am inclined to doubt, that Eastwood meant to refer to Ellison’s novel. But anyone who is a person of color in the US knows, or who is “different”as in “not a white heterosexual male” (as have been quite a few of those on the stage in Tampa) — anyone who is a racial or ethnic minority knows what it feels like to be seen as invisible; to have someone look at you but, somehow, manage to act as if you are not there.

I’m a third-generation Chinese-American educated at some “WASP-y” institutions, who teaches the “dead” languages of Western literature, Latin and ancient Greek. I never felt so invisible as when, standing in my late in-laws’ kitchen, a visitor (he had come to give them communion), looked right at me but my presence did not register in his face, actions or words.

“I’m not going to shut up,” Eastwood said to the empty chair. He addressed the President in the third person:

“So I’ve got Mr. Obama sitting here and I just was going to ask him a couple of questions. But you know, I remember 3 ½ years ago when Mr. Obama won the election and, no, I wasn’t a big supporter.”

The actor seemed to put words into his imaginary conversation partner’s mouth, as noted in Politico:

“I’m not going to shut up. It’s my turn,” the actor blurted out a few moments later, still glancing over at the make-believe Obama sitting in the empty chair next to him. “I just wondered, all these promises, and then I wondered about you know,  … what do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him that. … Tell him yourself. You’re absolutely crazy.”

People reacted immediately over Twitter (“Wow,” Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter simply said.) Romney aides have been doing some furious damage control. While at least two of Romney’s top advisors cleared Eastwood’s appearance, the New York Times also says that

…another adviser said that several top aides had reviewed talking points given to Mr. Eastwood, which the campaign had discussed with the actor as recently as a few hours before his appearance. Mr. Eastwood, however, delivered those points in a theatrical, and at times crass, way that caught Romney aides off guard, this person said. Mr. Eastwood even ignored warnings that he had exceeded his time.

I am clearly biased. But I can only agree with what Obama campaign spokesman Lis Smith said: “Clint Eastwood’s speech tonight brought new meaning to the good, the bad and the ugly — but mostly just the bad and the ugly.”

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Photo by Siebbi


john byrne
john byrne1 years ago


Jenkins Malcom
Jenkins Malcom1 years ago

great stuff

Jenkins Malcom
Jenkins Malcom1 years ago

great stuff

Silvestr Vetchinin

Glad when the election is over, no one will be happy anyway.

Kathy Chadwell
Kathy Chadwell3 years ago

Bill R here are your libs

Bill Reese
Bill Reese3 years ago

Mr Eastwood is a very intelligent gentleman, more than we can say for the lib men on this site. He did say those things, and it takes intelligence to understand his comments and the proper use of the empty chair.

I only wish he had the whole story on the information how Obamacare will drain the Seniors Medicare of some billions of dollars as that too would have been a big hit.

Again the libs have nothing to refute of what Mr. Eastwood said in his message, so they must attack, attack and attack trying to degrade his message.

Kathy Chadwell
Kathy Chadwell3 years ago

Very interesting to read,, I did not know about the 1952 novel by Ralph Ellison . Thank you for allowing us to see through your eyes. I started to watch it,, but it was all so stupid to me,, I thought eastwood was going senile. I turned it off,, so glad I did

Lee Witton
3 years ago

From which planet did you just drop in from Bill? Eastwood didn't discuss any of those things, and is specifically why he's been described as any one of the things you just iterated in your own befuddled and redundant post. Eastwood didn't have anything to say and neither do you.

Bill Reese
Bill Reese3 years ago

It is really interesting how the Liberals all attack the man and not the problems. They have called Eastwood a racist, senile, moron, befuddled and too old, yet very few even mention what he was talking about, like unemployment, economy, Fast and Furious, or broken promises like Gitmo or illegal aliens or debt. What a country we have in America. Obama is the leader of Division and is trying hard to keep that hold on America.

nancy D.
nancy B.3 years ago

Steveo - If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck .. . .
Clint Eastwoods comments were racist. Just admit it. You know his speech was racist.