If you were around last night at the amazing VL live chat of Obama’s State of the Union speech, you know that as things wrapped up, Chris Matthews (of MSNBC fame) got a little excited–and accidentally let his mouth go crazy. Now, Matthews is known for letting his mouth run a muck, but last night sorta took the cake.
I was trying to think about who he was tonight. It’s interesting: he is post-racial, by all appearances. I forgot he was black tonight for an hour. You know, he’s gone a long way to become a leader of this country, and past 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 here he is president of the United States and we’ve completely forgotten that tonight — completely forgotten it. I think it was in the scope of his discussion. It was so broad-ranging, so in tune with so many problems, of aspects, and aspects of American life that you don’t think in terms of the old tribalism, the old ethnicity. It was astounding in that regard. A very subtle fact. It’s so hard to talk about. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about it, but I am. I thought it was profound that way.
Forhead? Meet desk.
The “I forgot you were black/latino/a woman/etc” line is one that even the most conservative people of color/women don’t appreciate. Because what is our reaction supposed to be to this? A smile? A thank you? A “thank jesus we aren’t acting the negro” prayer?
Chris tried to clarify his comments later on in the night:
But I’m not necessarily feeling his explanation. At the most charitable, what Chris appears to be struggling to say is that Obama, by virtue of being black, carries a lot of baggage for white folks within his very body. In his skin. I think most of us colored folk get that. But for a white man to say that he *forgot* that baggage–that history of violence and resistance–I don’t know as if it’s his right to say so.
Again–the most charitable conclusion one could reach from this explanation is that Obama makes Chris comfortable. Allows Chris to forget that racism and violence are a part of US history. I don’t think Chris has the right to forget what white supremacy has done to the bodies and souls of people of color in the US. And I don’t think he has the right to use the body of a person of color in such a way.
The scrubbing away of color is not what sets the US free from racism. Ending inequality based on race is. It’s that simple. And I don’t think Chris is brave or talking about hard subjects when he tries to pretend otherwise.