2/16/08 Argus (Fremont-Newark, CA)
BARACK Obama has pulled forward in ways that are
inarguable, but the media still are wandering blindly through
Duhland, talking about tired black-and-white issues. These
people obviously are incompetent, because a good part of their
problem has to do with the fact that so many of the supposed
pundits do not seem to live in the same America that they are
paid to be experts on, to be able to predict and accurately
Not enough of my colleagues seem to have noticed that even in
the commercial advertisements that appear throughout the day, we
have seen a great shift from the older America of John Kennedys
era. Then everything was done, enjoyed and understood solely by
white people, who were thought to be the symbols of humanity at
large and were accepted as such by those attempting to sell
That is no longer true. The monoracial news teams, experts on
health, the stock market, fashion, technology and so on are no
more. We now are used to seeing multiracial teams of men and
women who know or are good enough to speculate about the
meanings of important events, trends and evolutions of public
Americans have become accustomed to having spent years looking
at the recently deceased Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes or the
reigning queen of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey, neither of
whom achieved national meaning in exclusively racial terms.
Bradley was thought of quite simply as one of the best and most
honest reporters on television, so much so that he was the only
one granted an interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy
McVeigh, who was a lunatic about just about everything other
than Bradleys quality as a reporter and an interviewer. Winfrey
is seen much more as Americas queen of good will than anything
else, although her background as a black woman fully from
deep-down Mississippi is never in doubt because you can see it,
hear it and feel it.
But those elements of distinction, of a particular ethnic style,
have become secondary to the power of human qualities with which
anyone can identify or reject. Those who identify with such
people no longer have to say, as it once was common to assert,
When I see so and so, I dont see color, I see him (or her).
During the era of identity politics, that was interpreted as an
attempt to deny the supposed blackness of the person under
discussion. The problem with that kind of thinking is its
simple-mindedness, because EVERY group has many different
versions of itself -- the simplest being an upper-class version,
a middle-class version and a lower-class version. Within each of
them, there are many variations, and, finally, there is the most
mysterious and unexplainable version of all: the individual.
That is, he or she whose talent makes everything else secondary.
That always transcends sociology.
I dont think many pundits understand that about Obama because
they are sunk in the mud and statistics of a past America in
which things were much less fluid. Young Americans and most
others have accepted the diversity idea because it fits their
experience. To them, e pluribus unum is a daily fact.
For at least 30 years, they have been meeting at public school,
in college, in the military, on sporting teams and on jobs of
every sort -- all manner of people from myriad backgrounds and
cultural styles. They are accustomed to sitting in diverse
groups and making jokes about how out of it their parents are
and how old-fashioned their ideas are about inevitable racial
alienation. They see themselves in generational terms and accept
their many distinctions as enriching elements of the human
reality in which they live. E pluribus unum.
Thats how it is, but most pundits keep driving forward with
their eyes glued to a mirror in which only the past is clear.
They dont get it any more than a television reporter did when
some black guys in angular hairdos ran toward a van that caught
fire and saved a couple of Jewish kids in Brooklyn during a
period of racial tension. When asked why they risked harm to
save the children, one of the black guys answered: Why? Because
a van was on fire, and some kids were trapped inside. Beside
that, we didnt think about it.
That is why Newt Gingrich said of Obama after Super Tuesday that
anyone who can take red states in which there are virtually no
black people cannot be looked at in racial terms. Millions of
Americans across racial lines obviously like him. Something else
is going on.
I think that something else is where the whole nation is going
at a time when human interest has trumped every other
consideration. That is a distinguishing combination of
discovery, of will and of our indelible American luck.
Stanley Crouch ( firstname.lastname@example.org) writes for King
Features Syndicate, Inc.