Intensification vs Intersection: “Metrosexual Black Abe Lincoln”

Intensification vs Intersection: “Metrosexual Black Abe Lincoln”
In this post I both unpack the slur in the title, and use it to explain how discourses of “difference” (race, sexuality) function in neoliberal Western democracies.
So some on the American right want to attack Obama by calling him a “Metrosexual Black Abe Lincoln.” In today’s NYTimes, Charles Blow does some preliminary deconstruction of the attempted slur. He talks about the ways that the term “metrosexual” feminizes and queers its object, and he hints at (but does not overtly name) the fact that Obama’s race contributes to this feminization and queering.[1]Blow remarks,
In its truest sense, President Obama of mom jeans infamy — as he told the “Today Show” in 2009, “I’m a little frumpy” — is far less metrosexual than Mitt Romney of the perfect hair, copper tan and Gap skinny jeans.
Frumpy but black Obama gets read as metro, while slick, painstakingly well-groomed but white Romney is not considered “metro,” even while practicing many of the behaviors, features, and stylistic choices associated with “metrosexuality.” So here we have an example of race and sexuality mutually intensifying one another: Obama’s racial unruliness augments his sexuality, pushing a rather, uh, vanilla style of masculine comportment into the register of sexual unruliness. This racialization-via-sexualization/sexualization-via-racialization logic is what Jasbir Puar identifies in her book Terrorist Assemblages. She argues that race is used to disaggregate “homonational” gays and lesbians from “queer terrorists.” The racial “ruliness” of white or white-conforming gays and lesbians qualifies or diminishes their perceived sexual unruliness, just as the racial unruliness of black or brown (mainly) men amplifies their perceived gender and sexual deviance. 
In the “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln” slur, race and sexuality don’t overlap so much as modulate one another, like two different frequencies who, when played together, produce specific sets of harmonics or partials, which in turn modify how we perceive the original tones. In this instance, race and sexuality are not overlapping identities, but “channels” (in the sense of a TV or radio channel, which is the name of a frequency, e.g., “97X” or “Power 98”) of or for patterns of relationships.  Or, as Jasbir Puar puts it, in instances such as this one, what is significant about “identities” like race and sexuality is “not the entities themselves [their ‘content’ or definition, e.g., the specific attributes of blackness], but the patterns within which they are arranged with each other” (IRBCTG 6). So, this slur does not use race or sexuality as the basis of inclusion or exclusion (right, b/c Obama is already president, he’s in the system, he is the system);[2]it does not say that he is ineligible for the presidency (as the birther movement did by appealing to his supposed failure to meet the born-in-the-USA qualification for POTUS), that he is already on the “outside.” Rather, it says he is too extreme (e.g., that he is “elitist”). In fact, this largely “Republican” attack compares Obama to a Republican president—Abraham Lincoln.  However, the adjectives “metrosexual” and “black” indicate that Obama is comparable to Lincoln (thus not “orange” to his “apple”), but just too extreme. Obama is not of a different “kind,” but of a different “degree”; this is what Puar talks about as the difference between classically liberal disciplinary paradigms (which work via “exclusion and inclusion” and neoliberal control paradigms (which work by “modulation and tweaking”) of race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of “difference” (IRBCTG 7).  So here race and sexuality aren’t used as the basis of inclusion or exclusion (racial identity as positioning BO alreadyon the outside), but are themselves the tools or instruments used to locate or transport a specific subject to the fringe.
So, not only does this difference between “intersection” and “intensification” help us understand how exactly the “metro black Abe Lincoln” slur works, but the slur also helps us understand how exactly discourses of difference function in contemporary neoliberal democracies.

[1] Blow also completely overlooks the queering work accomplished by the association with Lincoln. Regardless of its empirical/historical validity, people associate him with possible, alleged queerness—commonly enough to warrant a dedicated Wikipedia page.
[2] Puar rightly cautions against treating identity and intensification (or discipline and control) models as mutually exclusive, and acting like control has thoroughly replaced discipline: “discipline and punish may well still be a primary mode of power apparatus” (IRBCTG 8). The fact that Obama skips over “discipline and punish” can thus be seen as evidence of his relative privilege and inclusion—he’s not always-already excluded, but rather folded into life in some very specific (often class-based) ways.