ASPEN -- Sitting here with Matt Yglesias to listen to a panel on race and politics. All of the participants are members of racial minorities. 98% of the audience is white (and wealthy and liberal -- I am assuming.) The point of departure seems to be Shelby Steele's belief said that whites are enraptured with Obama because they believe that his election will expiate their guilt over racism. "White guilt" is his big phrase. The default liberal position is that Barack Obama's nomination should be considered along with evidence that structural inequalities are pervasive and in some cases growing. Steele started off: "White Americans have made more moral progress int he last 50 years than any group of people in the history of the human condition. You are examples of it [he said, pointing to the white liberal Aspen crowd]. And we don't give them credit for it." Richard Thompson Ford of Stanford mentions the tragedy of black men and the criminal justice system -- still the least talked about / most important racial problem in the country, I think. Ah, drat, but he moves on. "By every reliable sociological measure, white racism is on the decline and it gets better with each generation. But that doesn't mean there is no problem." Wow -- he's defending GWB on Katrina, blaming it on the legacy of racism. R.T.F. notes that folks on both sides of the racial progress debate sometimes use the issue of race strategically and cynically -- when is it appropriate to use the race card?

Note to the Aspen folks: much more valuable than a panel on race and politics would be a panel on black men and the criminal justice system.

Panelist Charles Kamasaki wants to talk about immigration. The debate about immigration., he says, is really a reflection of massive demographic and cultural changes -- there are now 45 million in Hispanics. 60% are native born. 20% of the school age population in the country.

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