Saturday, March 29, 2008

See, this is what drives me nuts.

Tonight on ABC News, weekend anchor David Muir introduces a segment of campaign coverage by talking in his own narrator's voice about newly elected Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's "eyebrow-raising" decision to support Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama. Why does Muir regard this as "eyebrow-raising"? Because Nutter, shown, is Philadelphia's newly elected black mayor. Ergo, one assumes—apparently Muir does—that Nutter is "supposed to" support Obama.

Somebody please tell me why that's not at least a form of racism. And even if it's not outright racism, is that really the kind of identity-based thinking that we want to encourage? Above all, should our "objective" media be encouraging it?*

As it happens, Monday afternoon, candidate Obama is going to be in my neck of the woods; in fact, he's going to hold a town meeting at Muhlenberg College, where I was writer-in-residence for three semesters. Circumstances will prevent me from attending, but if I could be there, I'd ask the man a couple of questions based on my amended version of his speech on race:

"Senator Obama, we are told that in your most recent primary win, nine of 10 blacks supported you, whereas seven out of 10 whites supported Mrs. Clinton. Many observers interpret such skews as a sign that 'some Americans still aren't ready for a black president.' But could you tell me, please, why your overwhelming support from blacks is any less of a sign of racism than the opposition from whites? Also, are you prepared here and now to say to black voters: 'If you support me because I'm black, then I don't want your support. That's not the kind of support I seek.'?"
If anybody reading this is within driving distance of Muhlenberg, I invite you, no, I beg you to try to attend and ask those questions on my behalf. Or ask Sen. Obama when next he stops by your neighborhood.

We shall wait to hear back....


On a related note, my long feature about the sorry state of American broadcast journalism should be on the stands, in Skeptic, within days. Support the cause! Pick up a copy. No, not just because my article's in there—I get no royalties—but because Michael Shermer's Skeptic is simply one of our most high-resolution, wide-angle lenses on contemporary society and its foibles.

* And while you're thinking about it, ask yourself this: Would it ever even occur to Muir, or any other major network type, to suggest the opposite: that a white mayor would automatically be expected to support Hillary or McCain?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For years, the conservatives have been pointing out that the media assumes that blacks are supposed to be liberal democrats, and any who are conservative are "Uncle Toms".
If you've ever read "Uncle Tom's Cabin", then you know what a truly heroic, compassionate and sacrificing character Uncle Tom was. And yet it's an insult uttered by the ignorant.

What the country needs is more Uncle Toms. And if you find that idea insulting, then I suggest you read the book!

And that's what drives me nuts.