Thursday, January 28, 2010


Chris Matthews is justifiably being attacked from the left, right, and center for saying this about President Obama last night on MSNBC -- in response to a question about bank taxes, for Pete's sake:

"I was trying to think about who he was tonight. It's interesting: he is post-racial, by all appearances. 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. I mean, it's something we don't even think about. I was watching, I said, wait a minute, he's an African-American guy in front of a bunch of other white people. And here he is president of the United States and we've completely forgotten that tonight -- completely forgotten it. I think it was in the scope of his discussion. It was so broad-ranging, so in tune with so many problems, of aspects, and aspects of American life that you don't think in terms of the old tribalism, the old ethnicity. It was astounding in that regard. A very subtle fact. It's so hard to talk about. Maybe I shouldn't talk about it, but I am. I thought it was profound that way."

This is appalling, obviously -- but I think I more or less understand how he's thinking.

Matthews is a would-be anti-racist of his generation -- he was born in 1945 -- whose mind was quite effectively colonized by racism. The racists of his formative years believed that blacks sure didn't seem capable of many of the achievements of whites. For Matthews (and, I think, some others of his peer group), being anti-racist means accepting that premise about appearances -- but spending a great deal of time looking for evidence that disproves it, and gasping with amazement every time such evidence is spotted (and, needless to say, feeling very self-satisfied after spotting and pointing out such evidence).

That might have been (barely) justifiable in the early 1960s. It might have actually worked as some sort of corrective to the predominant thinking of the era. But Matthews has had decades to shift his thinking. And he's still stuck in his time warp.

No comments: