Part 1—Capehart’s dream: Today, at the Washington Post web site, Jonathan Capehart has a dream for the coming year:
CAPEHART (12/29/14): All I want for the new year is the banishment of “post-racial” anything from all social and political discourse. From its first utterance in 2008 to herald the rise of Barack Obama, the concept was misguided and delusional. That giddy moment when Obama won the bitterly fought South Carolina primary and the audience chanted “Race doesn’t matter” is but a distant memory. News, polls and studies that emerged in the last half of 2014 made it painfully plain that race still matters.Capehart would banish the term “post-racial” from the national discourse. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be revealing our own dream for the coming year(s).
For today, we’ll limit ourselves. We’ll state our frustration with dreams and observations like Capehart’s.
Question: Did anyone ever actually say that Barack Obama’s election meant that our society had entered a “post-racial” state?
We’ll assume that somebody must have said that somewhere. That said, we conducted a brief search a few years ago trying to locate some major pundit who actually made that widely-referenced statement.
We didn’t have any success. As best we could tell, the term “post-racial” wasn’t thrown around by the nation’s intellectual leaders in the aftermath of Obama’s election.
Did anyone ever actually say that we were now “post-racial?” In our experience, this notion has largely been advanced by pundits like Capehart, though they never seem to quote anyone who actually made the claim.
Just for the record, American society isn’t “post-racial” in any obvious sense. It’s perfectly clear that “race still matters” in various ways, just as Capehart says.
Everyone of substance knows that, not excluding Jonathan Capehart, who seems like a good decent person.
Our point today would be different. As far as we know, no major pundit ever said that we were now post-racial. People like Capehart tend to advance the contrary notion to heighten the pathos of current complaints, whatever they may be.
In Capehart’s case, the current complaint may not always be entirely edifying. Before he’s done today, he laments the findings of a new study—a study he makes little attempt to examine or explain.
The study deals with reactions by whites to two different terms: “black” and “African-American.” (Reactions by blacks weren’t elicited.) After encouraging us to read the study, which is complex, Capehart offers a gloomy thought:
CAPEHART: This study alone should dispel any notion that ours will ever be a “post-racial” society. Before that could happen, we Americans first would have to deal with our “current-racial” society. But as I’ve written many times, we would have to talk to each other one on one, face to face, in an intensely personal and uncomfortable exercise.Will we ever achieve a “post-racial” society? Our own assumption would be that we will, at least to the extent that white Americans now largely live in a “post-ethnic” society.
We have no idea why Capehart thinks that this study, which he probably can’t explain, means that this will never occur. But then, Capehart is one of many frustrating players who help fashion our low-voltage national discourse.
We’ve never met Jonathan Capehart. We assume he’s a good, decent person, as so many people are. We’d also have to say that he can be a deeply frustrating intellectual leader. But then again, can’t we all!
In our view, Capehart has an extremely modest dream for the new year. He seems to want pundits to stop saying something which very few ranking pundits have ever actually said.
Our own dream would be larger than this. It would even require some changes on our own part!
Tomorrow, we’ll start presenting that dream. We’ll be adapting a famous dream from a person of vast moral brilliance.
We think that brilliance holds today, decked out with some adaptations. Capehart is feeling gloomy today. We think he should fill up with hope.
What we (re)read on our Christmas vacation: Decades later, so well-written! Just click here.