Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chris Matthews: "I forgot he was black tonight"

You know, I was trying to think about who he was tonight. And, um, it’s interesting. He is post-racial by all appearances. You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour. You know, he’s gone a long way to become a leader of this country and passed so much history in just a year or two.

--Chris Matthews on Barack Obama's State of the Union speech

I am struck dumb by Chris Matthews'...well...DUMB assertions about Barack Obama and race last night on MSNBC. It's not that I don't know that many people actually think these things; it's just that modern-day race bias tends to be covert, sneaky, often disguised as something different. Matthews' bias was shocking in its shamelessness and nakedness.

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend weighed in:

What it boils down to is that there's something about being "black" to forget -- such as um, being articulate, or educated, or perhaps in his mind, standing up there and doing the whole SOTU thing in the wake of a whole lot of white guys and guess what? He's not all that different from any of them.

It's almost a child-like expression of wonder, like that classmate of mine at Fordham who asked me if I could tan. You just have to shake your head and think about how
just how far we have to go when it comes to race, even if the person believes they are paying a "compliment." That's not a post-racial America, Chris.

Yes. It is like the many classmates I had in college that assured, "You're not like other black people"..."I don't mean you; you're different"..."You're cute for a black girl." These comments, and Matthews' gaffe, reveal an inherent belief in white supremacy, an understanding that positive traits are the antithesis of blackness. They communicate that there is something that must be overlooked about blackness, that the ultimate compliment to a person of color is that markers of their color and culture have been erased--that for a moment, they have achieved the ultimate--whiteness.

Matthews defiantly tried to defend his statement, but didn't really succeed:

No, Chris. Thanks for "mansplaining," but race is sadly always in the room, no matter how high a person of color rises. Your reaction to President Obama proves that.


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