This is a temptation of the trade--and it's one I struggle with mightily. I try not to take TV and radio gigs if I don't know what I'm talking about. I try not to blog too much about areas where my understanding is thin. But I get caught out there sometimes. And I'm sure some missive I've authored, at some point, has been sent to some other blogger as an example of liberal "dumb shit."
Second, the perils of race-related opinion-journalism--particularly the sort that features no original reporting--are compounded by the demographics of this country. Black people are the most segregated minority in America. The people who interpret black people for the world are, in the main, white, and thus not likely to have spent much time in the company of their charges.
More than that, even if you're black, the nature of race in America is so complicated and so twisting, that being black isn't really enough. Writing about race requires walking and chewing gum, and yet often it's left in the hands of people who aren't particularly interested in either--be they black or white.
And then there's one final problem--people aren't convinced that black people are human. That's a pretty blanket accusation, but I think it bears out pretty well. I think it explains why the pathologies of poverty are so easily transformed into pathologies of blackness. I think it's why people actually believed that a handsome, Ivy-educated lawyer from the South Side of Chicago, whose married to a black woman, wouldn't be "black enough" for African-Americans. I think it's why people think Bill Cosby is saying something that's never heard in black communities. I think it explains why George Will believes that a guy who wrote a book subtitled "Why We Are Excited By Obama And Why He Can't Win," is nonetheless "America's foremost black intellectual."
In these sorts of intellectual debates, black people aren't people, as much as they are symbol of American sin. We are not discussing a group of loosely connected
human beings who drink, eat, shit, piss, fuck, kill, fight, laugh and love. We're discussing a thing--a club to inveigh
against liberalism gone amock, a sword to inveigh against the
backwardness of conservatives, a cudgel to beat on poor people
My job is to report and write. But so much of what informs my view of
race is shaped by the in between. I enjoy debating race, just like anyone else. But if you want to know about Negroes, don't read this blog. Come to 128th and Second on any given Saturday in the Fall. That's where
my son plays little league football, and where you can find blackness
laid out in all its requisite splendor. It's all out there--the single mothers,
the Puerto-Ricans, the Jamaicans, the kids on scholarship at Dalton,
the Muslim fathers fasting for Ramadan, the boys one step from the
corner. One big mass of conflicted and contradictory humanity.