The Right (not Wright) Stories on Race


| 5/2/2008 10:00:09 AM


Tags: Media Criticism, Mainstream Media, Election 2008, Obama, race, race coverage,

At this point, it’s not even worth taking shots at the media over the Rev. Wright affair. It’s too easy. Too obvious. And, most disappointingly, too ineffectual. Put the country’s most uncomfortable topic on the agenda, mix in election season psychosis, and add a controversial black pastor who scorns the press, and reporters’ heads apparently explode. They end up asking questions like: “How do you feel about America and about being an American?” (National Press Club moderator Donna Leinwand to Wright) or “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?” (George Stephanopoulos to Senator Barack Obama).

There’s intelligent reportage to be done on Wright (brilliant megalomaniacs make for rich profile subjects). But that’s not going to happen any time soon; the press—and the public, too—seem to require a certain amount of distance from racially charged moments in order to make any sense of them. That’s what was truly novel about Obama’s Philadelphia speech: He was able to articulate the present moment, not just rehash the past or rhapsodize about the future.

So, given the current media blackout on reason, I’d recommend checking out a pair of recent pieces that give me hope that once the dust settles, we might learn something from this ruckus.

The first is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s profile of Bill Cosby in the May issue of the Atlantic. The controversy surrounding Cosby’s campaign for black responsibility is well-known but not necessarily well-understood. Coates sifts through the fallout to trace the divergent liberal and conservative intellectual traditions of black America, from their origins to their manifestations today. Along the way, he offers one of the more nuanced and original pieces of analysis on race in America that I’ve seen in print of late.

A sample: 

Part of what drives Cosby’s activism, and reinforces his message, is the rage that lives in all African Americans, a collective feeling of disgrace that borders on self-hatred. As the comedian Chris Rock put it in one of his infamous routines, “Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people really don’t like about black people … It’s like a civil war going on with black people, and it’s two sides—there’s black people and there’s niggas, and niggas have got to go … Boy, I wish they’d let me join the Ku Klux Klan. Shit, I’d do a drive-by from here to Brooklyn.” (Rock stopped performing the routine when he noticed that his white fans were laughing a little too hard.) Liberalism, with its pat logic and focus on structural inequities, offers no balm for this sort of raw pain. Like the people he preaches to, Cosby has grown tired of hanging his head.

quicksilver8
1/7/2011 3:35:31 PM

In order to really write about the truth on race,one must actually infiltrate and live and work amongst the pros and cons (aka whites and blacks) of the deep south. There you will find the reality. There is an imagined war. Whether it be brought on by television, music, environment or genetics. It is very real.It is sometimes frightening at best. No matter of what age color, creed or religion. Having lived in many areas of this planet, I have never seen it so harsh as I have seen it here. At times, it is mind boggling. The land is rich, the environment is beautiful in all of its characteristics, but the people are shameful with their hate and bigotry. Yet they put on those happy faces and show their southern hospitality with a dagger clothed in their pockets, so to speak. Over 8 years of work here and soon to retire and certain with even giving up my beautiful home and environment, I must take leave to keep my sanity, peace and well being to my end of days.For those that may think this to be drama or over exaggerated, come and try. You will soon think "not".


quicksilver8
1/7/2011 3:34:50 PM

In order to really write about the truth on race,one must actually infiltrate and live and work amongst the pros and cons (aka whites and blacks) of the deep south. There you will find the reality. There is an imagined war. Whether it be brought on by television, music, environment or genetics. It is very real.It is sometimes frightening at best. No matter of what age color, creed or religion. Having lived in many areas of this planet, I have never seen it so harsh as I have seen it here. At times, it is mind boggling. The land is rich, the environment is beautiful in all of its characteristics, but the people are shameful with their hate and bigotry. Yet they put on those happy faces and show their southern hospitality with a dagger clothed in their pockets, so to speak. Over 8 years of work here and soon to retire and certain with even giving up my beautiful home and environment, I must take leave to keep my sanity, peace and well being to my end of days.For those that may think this to be drama or over exaggerated, come and try. You will soon think "not".