I mean . . . what kind of white mind is at work here?
Transcript (from TPM):
I was trying to think about who he was tonight, and it's interesting. He is postracial, by all appearances. Y'know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour. He's gone a long way to become a leader of this country and passed so much history in just a year or two. I mean, it's something we don't even think about.
I was watching, I said, "Wait a minute, he's an African-American guy in front of a bunch of other white people, and there he is, president of the United States, and we've completely forgotten that tonight, completely forgotten it!"
As TPM notes, Matthews continued: "You don't think in terms of the old tribalism, the old ethnicity. It was astounding in that regard."
He also said: "I shouldn't talk about it but I am. I thought it was profound that way."
It's as if competing common white tendencies in Matthews are at war with each other here. One part of him thinks that he "shouldn't talk about" Obama's race; another part wants to claim that he doesn't see Obama's race; yet another does see his race (otherwise, why mention it?); and still another wants to compliment a black man for presenting himself well, as if he did oh so much better than most black men seem capable of doing, by making white people forget that he's black.
Matthews' comments are such a racial train wreck that I find it difficult to tell just what he's getting at. Who knew that this man wears so many different Freudian slips at the same time?
For one thing, Matthews clearly means to compliment this black president, for (supposedly) making people forget that he's black. Because that way, you see, "we" can see him as America's leader, instead of as a representative of "the old tribalism, the old ethnicity."
If "we" had been watching Obama's State of the Union speech and kept in mind that he is, after all, black, then "we" wouldn't truly see him as America's leader. But then, if that's what Matthews is getting at, what does that say about his estimation of blackness? Of black people, that is, and their abilities and capacities to lead more than just some "tribe" of other black people?
Matthews makes me wonder -- shouldn't it be white people's responsibility to accept that black people can perform just as ably in positions of power as white people can? Rather than it being the responsibility of a black person in a position of power to convince white people that they can perform ably, despite their being black? and further than that, to also magically make white people forget that they're black, because apparently white people just can't get over their hangups about blackness?
At any rate, Matthews did manage to demonstrate that Obama is actually not postracial, if that means that no one, or rather, no white people, notice that he's black anymore. He himself didn't stop noticing that, despite his claims that he did. And anyway, why should anyone stop noticing, or try to forget, that Obama is black?
I think that what Matthews really demonstrated is that despite his own, apparently feverish wish, America itself isn't "postracial" either. And neither are most white minds.
And really, why should they be? Sure, those who make a big deal out of Obama's blackness, even unconsciously (especially unconsciously?) should learn to stop doing so. But the way to do that isn't to attempt the virtually impossible (and the undesirable), by forgetting that he's black.
What do you see in Matthews' comments?