No Black People On Seinfeld, Please

More

I think last night's Mad Men, again, made the case for how you talk about race on a show like that. You don't have Hollis and Hildie making out after work. You don't attempt to "address" race. You don't make speeches You make the world as believable as possible. It's not about the text, it's about the subtext--even when it seemingly isn't.

The most important part of that black-face scene, wasn't the scene itself, but the conversation between Don and the bartender. Don walks away, not so much disgusted at Sterling's racism, as at the whole pageantry and stupidity. But the conversation with the bartender, the sense of being outside, of not being able to use their bathrooms, is so black, and so black to me, of course, because it's so human. The scene between Peggy and her  secretary, when she gets that the older  woman is scared for her, was like watching Obama run for president. It was all of us talking to our parents.

I don't say this to take away from anyone. The class implications are clear and powerful, and I'm sure there are people on the web analyzing them. The gender implications, and the conversation between two generations, almost two styles of feminism (an ongoing conversation Peggy repeatedly has with older women,) is incredible and profound. And I'm sure people will weigh in on that too.

I don't racialize those moments to take away anything, but to say this--I am fucking sick of hearing about black people in the 60s. At least I am sick of hearing about in the way we discuss, like only Abraham Lincoln happened before Martin Luther King, like everyone marched on Washington, or grew an Afro. I am just tired.

I want to hear about white people, now. Not their mythologizing and blind glamor, and not their cynical, infantile backlashing against that blind glamor (No more whining about how much the suburbs suck, please.) I want to hear something humble about a world I can't even envision, because here is the thing: If you tell me about that world, if you tell me something I don't know, and tell me about it in all its lush beauty, and rank hypocrisy, I will see myself in you. You don't have to show me my pedigree. Just show me yours. Don't try to be "inclusive." Just try to be human. Just tell me a story.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Fascinating Short Film About the Multiverse

If life is a series of infinite possibilities, what does it mean to be alive?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In