Terrance Heath

Oh No You Didn't

Filed By Terrance Heath | February 01, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: African-American, Barack Obama, black, Chris Matthews, media, MSNBC, politics, race, state of the union

*Sigh*

Stuff like this gives me a headache Excedrin can't begin to cure.

Oh no you didn't, Chris. You didn't forget he was black. Not for a second.

That you felt the need to mention it at all shows that you didn't "forget he was black."

You couldn't "forget he was black" if you tried. It may have been temporarily pushed towards the back of your mind. It may have been momentarily put aside, and may not resemble the seething resentment displayed by conservatives when the the president spoke on health care.

From the stony-faced stares to those grimacing as if they'd just tasted something awful, it wasn't hard to read their reaction as resentment -- on some level, -- that they had to sit there and listen to this "boy" speak to them as the president (!), as their president (!).

You didn't "forget he was black" any more than you forgot your own name. Especially not after conservatives spent inordinate amounts of time during the campaign reminding the basest of their base that this black guy thought he was qualified to be their president.

At least he didn't say "That boy," but he was just one word off. I heard it, and I saw it. I saw it first, actually, during the first debate when McCain refused to look Obama in the eye.

I heard it again when that white Republican congressman from Kentucky referred to Obama as "that boy." I heard it before when that white Republican congressman from Georgia referred to Obama as "uppity," and the later said that he had never heard it used in a racially derogatory sense. (Even though he grew up in Atlanta during the 1950s.) I heard it again when a radio host promoted a video of a pastor calling Obama's mother "trash."

At least he didn't say "white trash," but he was only one word off.

I saw it again when a Fox News graphic labeled Michelle Obama a "baby mama."

I saw it when a Georgia bar owner sold t-shirts equating Obama with or portraying him as a monkey.

And again when boxes of "Obama Waffles" were sold at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit.

I heard it again when McCain referred to Obama as "that one." I saw it again when McCain refused Obama's handshake after the second debate.

Then, of course, there was Ann Coulter joking about lynching, following Bill O'Reilly's example. There was the noose at a Secret Service Training center. There was Pat Buchanan saying that African Americans "should be grateful" that slavery, etc., brought us here. There was Lou Dobbs nearly calling Condi Rice a "cotton picker" when she echoed some of Obama's thought about race.

A few weeks ago, Obama was hung in effigy by students at a small Christian University in Oregon.

Students and school leaders at a small Christian university expressed outrage Wednesday at the discovery of a life-size cardboard effigy of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hanging from a tree on campus.

A custodian at George Fox University discovered the effigy early Tuesday and immediately removed it, President Robin Baker said. University spokesman Rob Felton said Wednesday that the commercially produced reproduction had been suspended from the branch of a tree near Minthorn Hall with fishing line around the neck.

The hanging of the effigy around the neck is seen as racist symbolism because it harkens back to lynchings of black men by white mobs, especially in the U.S. South, decades ago. Obama is aiming to become America's first black president.

More recently, a (now former) member of McCain's leadership team in Virginia penned a racially-charged editorial aimed at Obama.

You didn't "forget he was black" any more than conservatives who produced a steady stream of racist imagery featuring Obama and his family.

You didn't "forget he was black" any more than the voters who responded to conservatives' overt race-baiting.

What made you "forget he was black" anyway? Was it that he was so articulate and non-threatening?

I'm starting to think that maybe there oughta be a law. Anytime someone like Chris Matthews says something this ignorant on national television, he should be required to have an African American sitting right next to him, on camera.

And, no, not someone of the Armstrong Williams/Michael Steele/Clarence Thomas variety. I mean someone from the Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson mode. Hell, even Chris Rock or Wanda Sykes. I mean someone who will respond to that kind of statement with a loud "What the $%#! was that supposed to mean?! What are you trying to say?! Huh?!"

Personally, I nominate this guy:

But not me. Like I said, this stuff gives me a headache.


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I love the parody end message "brought to you by Black people."

However, I've gotta let my bleeding heart hang out here and say that I don't think any less of Chris Matthews even after his statement. Yes, I cringed when he said it. I knew it would be blown into a big thing. And maybe it should.

But not because he's shown his nefarious racist underbelly for the first time, no, I don't believe that, but because as a Obama supporter from the start and as a man who truly wants our President to succeed (unlike countless others we could mention), Matthews is guilty of a deeply insensitive, an almost idiotic "WTF were you thinking!" moment. But that's all. He's guilty of the same racial insensitivity which we all exhibit more than many will admit.

But it was a telling statement. It said that we will never be a post-racial society. Never. And that even the good guys, like Chris Matthews, have grown up in the same wildly racist America we all know, and every now and then a little piece of it slips out.

He knows it was a ham-fisted statement and tried to clean it up. He can be forgiven because he's one of the good guys, just like you and I can also be forgiven when we briefly lapse into the same sort of insensitive speech.