The comments were made shortly after the State of the Union Address ended last night.
I am not sure where Chris Matthews was coming from with these comments. To some extent, his remarks were shocking, and I wasn't exactly sure why they shocked me until I'd had a chance to sleep on it. During my rest, I realized that Chris Matthews' words were hurtful and irritating because they represent the kind of paternalistic racism that might come from liberals in an historically racist society. With his words, Matthews was practically applauding Obama for rising above his blackness, as if merely mentioning the words, "I am a black man," would have completely ruined Obama's brilliant speech. No one asked Matthews what he thought about the fact that the president was black, so Matthews going out of his way to mention Obama's blackness is a reminder that Matthews himself was focused on the fact that he was listening to a black man.
It's odd and interesting that in a so-called "post-racial society," the way to applaud the fact that you didn't notice something is to mention the very thing that you're claiming to not have noticed. If Matthews had been truly unaware that he was listening to a black man, he would have spent his time commenting on Obama's policies rather than the color of his skin. To be relieved that President Obama did not force you to notice that he is black is a subtle reminder of the implicit threat of putting blackness on the table for even one second during political conversation.
A note to other liberals like Chris Matthews: Please stop saying that a post-racial America means that blackness disappears. While I can't speak for everyone, I can personally say that I don't want the beauty of blackness to go away. Instead, I would rather have blackness be respected. Also, the easiest way to bring the racial roaches out of the closet is to keep declaring your nation to be "post-racial." America is nowhere near being post-racial and nor would we want to be. What's most interesting is that not only are we driving to the wrong racial destination, we don't even know how to get there. By constantly forcing all Americans to forget about race, we are only asking them repress the obvious from their collective psyches.
Chris Matthews attempts to clarify his comments here:
"I grew up in a country that was driven apart by race right until the '60s. You couldn't have a black member of the U.S. Cabinet. There were no black cabinet members in the Kennedy administration. It has been such a big part of our life.... To see a president of the United States who is African Amercan, I was thinking tonight, this isn't even an issue tonight. How far we've come in just a year.... President Obama has done something wonderful. I thing he's taken us beyond black and white in our politics...and I'm loving it."
Personally, I argue that a post-racial America is not one where blackness is expected to disappear in an ambiguous melting pot of watered down assimilation. It is one where the president can say, "I am proud to be a black man," and not have white people run for the door.
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