Monday, January 23, 2006

But race has nothing to do with it

"Mr. Obama, you're black. So is Harry Belafonte."

Peter Daou has the scoop on Tim Russert's thinly veiled racism and not-all-veiled partisanship and stupidity.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me the charge of racism is a bit off here. I don't watch most news shows, and never watch the cable networks. My news watching is limited to the Newshour on PBS and to some BBC America. So, frankly, I don't really know much about Mr. Russert, but I rather doubt he is, as I am, a right-wing Republican. For one thing, right-wing Republicans do not tend to hide their ideology. Hell, for that matter, who does nowadays?
Mr. Russert seems to be accused of asking one african-american about his response to the comments made by another african-american. The one asked is, it seems, a politician, and the other is a singer, with a longstanding and honorable place in the african-american community. Why is this wrong?
If Mr. Belafonte were a renegade, a pariah, and acknowledged fool by all and sundry, then it would probably be wrong for a journalist to ask another in his community about his comments. But, last I checked, Mr. Belafonte was a respected member of his community, and as such it is not unreasonable to ask an elected official with ties to that community about his comments.
Perhaps the real question here concerns just how far we wish to understand the African-American community as a community, and under what circumstances. I rather suspect Mr. Russert would not ask Mr. Obama about the opinions of Thomas Sowell, or Walter Williams. Neither would be thought to be in any way representative of the African-American community, so the question likely would never come up.
We might linger a moment over something in that last point. Mr. Belafonte's comments were a topic to be raised by Mr. Russert because Mr. Belafonte was seen to be representative of a community. No doubt this is partly because of the real service he has done for African Americans. But it is almost certainly also because he is seen as someone who does not dissent much from that community. By the same token, Mr. Williams and Mr. Sowell are seen as dissenters, or rather less, as exceptions (in this case, an almost damning word) from that community. Neither is thought of as representing African-Americans, save in a very limited sense. So, of course, it would make little or no sense to ask Senator Obama about statements made by either, save perhaps to challenge any claims he might be seen to make to represent the people he perhaps claims to represent.
I don't really wish to take you to task over Mr. Russert and his ideas, because frankly I don't care much about either. Mr. Russert can take care of himself, I am sure, and if he needs my help, then he is truly lost. But, again, I am concerned that you have failed to make needed distinctions, that you have made simple what is complicated, that you have ignored distinctions that need to be made--and I am concerned because I suspect you could do better, and wish you would try to do better.

--Stephen Miller

Iggy said...

[[For one thing, right-wing Republicans do not tend to hide their ideology.]]

Unless they are trying to get on the Supreme Court, that is.

And yes, this tendency to ask one black person about what another black person said is a form of racism, although a mild, unthinking sort of racism, based more on an unconcious tendency to stereotype. And the reason the pundits don't notice it is because they aren't on the receiving end of it.

If somebody kept asking Sean Hannity his opinion about what some Irish extremist said, Hannity would lose patience with that in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

I've no idea who Sean Hannity is. But I did in my previous comments point out just how complicated these matters really are. To ask Sen. Obama about the opinions of Mr. Sowell and Mr. Williams would strike most people as rather odd, or as a prelude to a confrontation. To ask him about the opinions of Mr. Belafonte would strike most as no more exceptional than to ask a Republican about his opinions concerning Jerry Falwell.
The American politcal landscape includes some very odd shapes, and interesting culverts. It is rather silly to pretend they do not exist. Again, let's try to pretend we are actually speaking to persons here, rather than to representatives of a cause, a side, a movement, a party, or whatnot.

--Stephen Miller