On Chris Matthews’ Forgetting

A lot has been written already on Chris Matthews’ declaration that he forgot for an hour that Obama was black. And I think Pam Spaulding may well be right when she writes:

What it boils down to is that there’s something about being “black” to forget—such as um, being articulate, or educated, or perhaps in his mind, standing up there and doing the whole SOTU thing in the wake of a whole lot of white guys and guess what? He’s not all that different from any of them

But one of the things I think is most interesting– and potentially useful, educationally/politically speaking– is Matthews’ tacit admission that Obama’s blackness is in the forefront of his mind the rest of the time. It’s refreshing to have someone not insisting that they don’t see race. The fact is we all do see it, and it affects us– if not consciously, then unconsciously. And the sooner we all acknowledge that the better.

3 thoughts on “On Chris Matthews’ Forgetting

  1. Matthews explanation is pretty revealing; he seems to have gotten the sense that Obama is “one of us” and so didn’t view him in terms of race. That suggests that race means “not one of us.”

    I suppose we should be glad he’s said this, and remind ourselves that we do a lot of covert “one of us” and “not one of us” dividing up. In comments on:
    Rob added a link to an article by Timothy Wilson about, among other things, how to act better when so much is outside one’s awareness.

    One suggestion concerns becoming aware of one’s actions and their consequences. One just cannot assume that since one thinks of oneself as honorable, one’s actions won’t be biased.

  2. I was kind of blown away by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post on the issue. Here’s the last paragraph:

    “This is why Obama will never be postracial–he can’t make white people face the lie of their ignorance, anymore than Jimmy Baldwin could make black people face the lie of our homophobia. It’s white people’s responsibility to make themselves postracial, not the president’s. Whatever my disagreements with him, the fact is that he is brilliant. That he is black and brilliant is pleasant but unsurprising to me. I’ve known very brilliant, very black people all my life. At some point that number of white people who still can’t get their heads around our humanity will have to accept the truth: the president is black, even if you don’t quite know what that means.”

  3. Neil, thanks so much for the link. I loved this para too:

    The “I forgot Obama was black” sentiment allows the speaker the comfort of accepting, even lauding, a black person without interrogating their invented truth. It allows the speaker a luxurious ignorance–you get to name people (this is what black is) even when you don’t know people. In fact, Chris Matthews didn’t forget Barack Obama was black. Chris Matthews forgot that Chris Matthews was white.

Comments are closed.