I've just published an entry about this on my blog but it's something a feel pretty strongly about so I thought I might write about it as my first entry here at a common fire (hello!). It seems that all the cable shows on politics are fixated today on the question of the supposed "playing" of the "race card" in the presidential campaign, and whether Obama or McCain played it. I think this very metaphor may be a distorting and unconstructive one. Can one be serious about race in America by using poker metaphors? I suppose. But the figure of speech itself is trivializing. Even using it to talk about politics demeans political discussion.
Mike Barnacle on MSNBC just said again that the race issue is "tedious": he had earlier said he was "tired" of it. It's strange to hear this repetitious mantra from white commentators that seemingly unanimously agree that it's bad for Obama if race is in any way whatsoever spoken of in connection to the campaign. (From what I've seen, black commentators are of the same opinion.) So the issue is tiresome, tedious, etc., and we (we white commentators?) would prefer if it just went away, or -- a more precious view which I heard Heidi Harris offer on MSNBC -- we wonder 'Didn't we get past all this already?', and yet still categorically say that if there's any talk about race at all, well, that's bad for the black candidate. What does all of that taken together mean? It seems to be a pretty unequivocal admission by everybody that has this rather privileged position as a face and a voice on the cable networks that race is in fact a major factor in American life, so much so that the Obama campaign ought to do everything in its power to make sure it disappears. (I know I probably overestimate the talking heads as a measure of whatever the actual state of opinion about these things in America is).
How can people who hold that view then say the issue is tedious or tiring? It's silently an absolutely definitive one if it has that much power. As I said on my own blog, as I watched the rather loud and emotional exchange between Leo Terrell (black) and Heidi Harris (white) I was struck by the uncomfortable and sad realization about how childish we Americans are as a people regarding race in our country, both its past and its present. I don't mean to sound superior about this. I know we are all often rather childish about sensitive issues, even (perhaps especially) in our own personal relationships--I've been married for two years and I feel like I know very well that I often fail to really act how I imagine a mature adult acts. Yet it is even more important with respect to something that socially divides so much of the citizenry to be able to at least, say, half of the time, be able to talk without raising our voices and outright yelling at each other: which some of our leading lights in public discourse can't seem to manage for five minutes. I believe I've seen maybe one actual, intelligent, respectful discussion of these issues. If I remember right it was on some show on PBS; probably the Jim Lehrer News Hour. Which we all know is so representative of the American public.
A bit disappointed,
P.S. I've just read through some of the old entries y'all have written here, and I'm relieved to see that race has been a topic here already. I look forward to reading some more of what's been said here. Greetings again, everyone!