On MSNBC Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, Hiram College professor Jason Johnson and Jimmy Williams of Blue Nation Review discuss Donald Trump’s presidential campaign announcement.
The prototypical corporate titan in American business is a jerk.
From elementary school on, we’re taught about Andrew Carnegie’s abusive leadership; as adults we’re told that the obnoxious Steve Jobs was a genius and that Donald Trump, for all his hubris and excess, is the American dream personified. And while there was a brief period in the 1990s of praise for the nice corporate boss, who was great at “team building,” the shark in the $3,000 suit has made a comeback in recent times, now backed by research.
The Atlantic published a piece this week by Jerry Useem called “Why It Pays to Be a Jerk,” citing recent research from Amsterdam showing that narcissists who take credit, step on people and are abrasive climb to the top of the corporate ladder. In the piece, The Atlantic distinguishes between the mean bosses of old—labeled narcissistic takers—with the new “disagreeable givers,” who are jerks who temper their rudeness with rewards and benefits.
The Atlantic makes this sound like a positive, when it sounds a lot like the main character in Mommie Dearest: one minute berating underlings—in that case, her children—and the next, throwing them a lavish party. The jerk giveth, but … still a jerk, so can’t he or she taketh away? Still, who can argue if it works—allegedly? But in a world where black folks’ most basic behaviors are often viewed as threatening, aggressive or downright dangerous, does all of this corporate badassery really apply to us? The real data says no.
The return of the abrasive business leader is a sign of the growing confidence in America’s economy again. Consider that even in pop culture, Mad Men’s Don Draper represented the unassailable American power of the 1960s; Michael Douglas in Wall Street was the ultimate corporate raider-monster in the 1980s; and prickly but brilliant Tony Stark from Iron Man is the new business scion of President Barack Obama’s rebounding economy. So on cue, the return of praise for white male arrogance and aggression is bolstered by social science.
From The Atlantic: “Researchers have found that semi-obnoxious behavior not only can make a person seem more powerful, but can make them more powerful, period. The same goes for overconfidence. Act like you’re the smartest person in the room, a series of striking studies demonstrates, and you’ll up your chances of running the show.”
In other words, the guy who pushes people around and cuts you off during meetings probably also takes credit for ideas he didn’t fully come up with. But just when the whole project team is about to mutiny, he busts in on a Friday, gives everybody the day off and offers a free round of drinks at the local bar—and all is supposed to be forgiven. This guy is the model for corporate success?
There is some legitimacy to this, even across race and gender (you think Oprah Winfrey was so generous to her staff for no reason?). But let’s not be naive. White men who have dominated most professions—especially the higher echelons of management and business—were acting this way long before it was deemed “successful” by academics. The real question is whether this corporate model is actually applicable to anybody else.
White women have tried it, with reasonable success. The “Lean In” movement is basically an attempt to take the same straight-white-male corporate behavioral model and fit women into it. But can a black man get away with acting like a thesaurus full of synonyms for “a–hole” and rise to the top on the backs of white guys who aren’t as bold as he?
Of course not. It’s a ridiculous myth, but one that continues to confuse and constrain African Americans who are still making their way into rarefied areas of management and business that a generation ago were completely closed off to us.
The national media have finally caught on in the last few years to the fact that just living while black can be perceived as hostile by a large number of white Americans.
Black folks who move into a neighborhood are perceived as threatening; black folks who cheer too loudly at a graduation are seen as punishable—and that’s before we get into life-and-death situations. In corporate culture, which is so driven by the male ego, stratification and social norms, “assertive” behavior by African Americans—especially men—is not often seen as a positive trait. It’s viewed as disruptive, combative or aggressive.
Remember back in 2005 when The Apprentice was a legitimate hit show (before the addition of “Celebrity” turned it into a joke)? Randal Pinkett was a brilliant contestant who both charmed and outsmarted everyone else during the challenges. But during the live finale, Donald Trump, playing his role as the prototypical white business titan, threw a wrench at the black winner. He said that Pinkett was hired, but he went on to praise the first runner-up, Rebecca Jarvis, a 23-year-old white woman.
Was Pinkett praised for his actions? Was he heralded as taking what was rightfully his? Nope. He got booed on live television. He was called “seflish” and ungrateful and was criticized loudly by frosty-highlighted-hair talking heads for weeks. See, all of that aggression and assertiveness is good—until it comes in conflict with the desires, needs or expectations of a white person.
And Pinkett isn’t the only example. But for every Reginald Lewis—who wrote Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? and who kicked, fought and abused his way to owning a $900 million company by age 50—there are many more examples of black assertiveness in business being shut down, viewed as threatening or downright attacked.
So what’s the solution? Is there a space for African-American assertiveness in the workplace between the mythic ideal of while male privilege and Uncle Ruckus? Yes, it’s in entrepreneurship. For every Randal Pinkett, Reggie Fowler or other black man who has been told that he wasn’t ready for prime time or has had to scrape and grovel to get there, there are thousands of others who realize that the way to beat the corporate-culture game is to get out of it. Black folks have always become more successful in America by launching their own businesses, buying their own property, and creating their own ideas and projects than by trying to fit into a game that continues to be, if not rigged, then highly tilted against them.
This is not to say that you can’t be aggressive at work or stand up for yourself, but know that while we all read the same rulebook to get into that corporate world, there are some hidden pages that we seldom get to see. The Atlantic can praise those “disagreeable givers” all they want, but African Americans know that our best route has always been to take what we can and run with it on our own.
This article originally appeared online at TheRoot.com.
Hiram College professor Jason Johnson and Blaze Contributor Will Cain discuss Senator Ted Cruz, his campaign to defund Obamacare, and the release of his birth certificate and his Canadian citizenship.
In a move befitting his months long flirtation with the Republican nomination Donald Trump announced he would not run for president in 2012 at a Hollywood event.
The NBC “Upfronts” where the network announces the fall line-up featured Trump announcing that he would not run for president by simply saying:
“After getting so many calls from (top NBC executives), I’ve decided that we are going to continue onward with Celebrity Apprentice. I will not be running for president, as much as I’d like to, and I want to thank everybody very much.”
Rumor has it that NBC executives were also pressuring Trump to give an answer sooner than his season finale so that they could re-arrange the fall schedule or replace him on the show if necessary. Apparently the lure of belittling people on television for another few years, as well as somewhere close to a $60 Million television deal, was enough get “The Donald” to not throw his hat into the ring.
It’s a shame to think that something as seemingly trivial as keeping a television contract could be a deciding factor in whether or not someone wants to seek the highest office in the world. Unfortunately the lure of being a Political Celebrity has claimed other potential 2012 GOP candidates before Trump. Being a Political Celebrity has all of the perks of politics without the stress of accountability and having to show any results. Political celebrities just talk about politics. In fact they almost never stop talking or tweeting or babbling about issues in the public domain, but they never actually solve anything and have shown a penchant for flirting with public office but never actually running, just enough to stay relevant. Trump is just the latest to be bitten by the Political Celebrity bug but he won’t be the last.
The first in the recent crop of political celebrities was Sarah Palin. Since losing in 2008 and quitting her job as Governor of Alaska, Caribou Barbie has run her mouth about every single issue facing the country from the oil spill in the gulf to the economy to sugary snacks for kids. However there has been a surprising lack of effort on her behalf to actually make any moves to become active in real politics again, either locally or nationally. Palin hasn’t bothered to visit many of the major primary states, and she’s been uncharacteristically silent as Michelle “Chewbachman” has slowly but surely taken away her title as pin-up girl for the Tea-Party movement. After just about every candidate she endorsed in 2010 lost in the primary, I was sure that Palin would at least pretend that she was running for president in 2012 just to keep herself relevant and not become a self- parody.
Instead she’s just gone full bore into reality t.v.
shows, overpriced speaking engagements and any other money making venture that she can get into. I fully except baby Trig to be on Toddlers and Tiaras before the year is out. Sarah Palin is simply enjoying her waning status as a political power broker and parlaying that into cultural money maker. Sound business but lousy politics.
Then there’s Mike Huckabee, whom by many accounts was considered the strongest most electable of the potential Republican candidates. Huckabee is a Christian, but he doesn’t hate anybody. He’s a fiscal conservative but believes that heating oil subsidies to the poor should be protected. He had the temerity to stand up to Sarah Palin’s pointless attacks on Michelle Obama, and overall he had a good sense of humor. However, he decided not to run with the lure of TV money and FoxFame tapping on his shoulder. To be honest, I knew Huckabee wasn’t running a month ago when I saw him interviewed on the Daily Show with John Stewart.
He looked happy, relaxed and had gained about 40 pounds since his ‘running weight’ in 2008. All he did was talk about how he was making more money now than he ever had, the house he and his wife were building and how hard it would be to beat Obama. Anyone who’s biggest joys are interviewing Mario Lopez and creating conservative cartoons for kids isn’t going to run for president.
And now Donald Trump, the latest of the celebrity polls to drop out of the race. To be fair, by most accounts Donald Trump was not going to be a major factor in the Republican primary since his chances of beating the president were slim. However he did promise to bring a certain amount of notoriety to an otherwise dismal field desperately in need of some passion in order to gin up interest. But Trump eventually bowed out because of the money and the fame. Let’s be honest, by all accounts, he could’ve pushed to announce his decision on the season finale of the Celebrity Apprentice, but executives at NBC drove a truckload of money up to his house and insisted that he give them an answer now. Such powerful decision making in the face of pressure surely would’ve served him well on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Outside of Huckabee, these other two ‘contenders’ weren’t likely to make the final cut heading into the nomination of 2012. At best Sarah Palin might’ve stayed in until Super Tuesday and I believe that Donald Trump likely would have dropped out of the race before Iowa. Nevertheless the fact that a relationship with fame and television is the overriding reason behind why these individuals didn’t seek the world’s highest office is something to keep an eye on. In the end we’ll never know what quite led to the decisions of these three candidates but we do know this. That unlike politicos of the past they will not fade quietly into the sunset but will be part of our regularly scheduled broadcast.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “Celebrity Trumps Presidency: Why The Donald, Palin and Huckabee won’t run in 2012.”
President Barack Obama has one amazing and infuriating trait for every political analyst following him and everyone who ever voted for him and everyone who’s ever worked against him: Incredible timing.
Obama gets beat up over and over again in the press and from Republicans and their minions in the public. Then somehow some way, just when it looks like he’s never going to recover, he gives a speech, makes a deal or pulls off a stunt that puts everyone back on their heels collectively, asking “How long has he been planning that?”
With his announcement Sunday that U.S. special operations forces had hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden, Obama proved once again that he is the master of the last minute political save.
Heading into last week Obama’s political fortunes seemed at their usual tenuous level. The Democrats had survived the budget battles with Republicans without totally capitulating everything they claimed they stood for, but at the same time bigger problems were just over the horizon. In late April gas prices started surging unexpectedly, slowing our sluggish economic outlook, even worse race baiting reality T.V. toupee salesman Donald Trump was gobbling up all available airtime again dredging up the boogeyman that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. What’s a president to do?
Obama broke out with the triple political karate chop laying waste to his political foes and they still don’t know how he did it. He started last Thursday by releasing his “long form” birth certificate, which effectively made “birthers” look even more ridiculous. It’s one thing to claim this is a movement of junior genealogists who figured out where Obama was born when no one else had, but now in the face of even more evidence they have to become part time forgery analysts as well. No one is going to believe that one.
Then Obama went to the White House Correspondents’ dinner and laid so much wood to Trump in the president’s comedic speech that The Donald will be pulling splinters out of his face for months. Which will give him just enough time to find an excuse to drop out of the race. Finally on Sunday night Obama releases the final salvo of his “Take ‘em to the bridge” political tour and takes credit for killing Osama bin Laden. The facts are clear, Obama managed to do in two years what Bush couldn’t figure out in eight.
Military intelligence had long assessed that Osama was more of an ideological leader than a field general and mastermind so even if he is still alive, as some believe, he’s no more dangerous now than he was for the last five years living in a cave. No matter how you spin it, no matter what realistic or conspiratorial perspective one has on the announcement of bin Laden’s death it ultimately will not affect the fact that we won’t see him again in the public eye.
So the real question now is what happens next? With Obama having taking out Osama bin Laden it radically improves his already formidable chances of being re-elected next year, so that’s off the table. However what we can hope for is that perhaps this surgical military strike against America’s most wanted will give us time to consider the relative merits of the two wars and millions of lives we’ve cost America and the world in pursuit of this man and his supporters. Over 40,000 men and women have died in Afghanistan or Iraq on our side and another half million in the home country. With the death of bin Laden wouldn’t it be a good time for the nation to settle down and re-evaluate our Middle East policy? Perhaps trim some military fat?
In the end the president has been busy fixing the economy passing health care reform and fending off oil spills. I think I can wait a while for him to make his next move. They’re usually pretty good.