There’s an interesting thread over at Alicublog about David Brooks’ comments about Barack Obama during the recap of his speech to the Democratic National Convention. Brooks is doing color commentary as a representative of the reactionary simpering moron bloc for PBS.
After Obama blew the windows out of the Fleet Center, the talking heads took over to sift through the rubble and spin it for the folks at home. In the course of his comments, Brooks managed to make two wholly inappopriate sports analogies about Obama, comparing him to Tiger Woods and saying Obama should be aware that “…this is not like sports where you leap to the front, it’s a long haul…”
There are some commenters that have taken Brooks to task for talking like Spiro Agnew in 1972, others thinking that, while he’s clearly a reactionary simpering moron, he’s not a racist. There were others that felt that Brooks is using shaded language to reinforce white sterotypes about black men and their role in society. Code talking the worst of the base of the opposition, as it were. I had to wade in. Here’s my comment:
I gotta interject here-
I don’t let Brooks off the hook for the sports references or the Tiger Woods comment, either, but for different reasons. Mostly, it’s just tasteless and clumsy. He may as well have said “He’s a fine boy, a credit to his race.”
If your antennae don’t go up when you hear a white man using terms like this to talk about a person of color, it’s because you’ve got a tin ear for racially biased condescension.
I don’t think that Brooks is “speaking in code to the base,” more that he is probably not blessed to have had real dialogue with people of color to point out these kind of linguistic pratfalls for him.
Black people, brown people, gay people and others who have historically been pushed back from the table in America have developed a sensitivity to the nuances of speech and action that might signal a person’s bias. You have to watch for these things in your boss, your mortgage officer, your child’s kindergarten teacher, that random Alabama cop- they affect one’s self-interests.
It’s not incumbent upon white people to parse their own speech to insure that they don’t give off these signals, but they ignore the issue at their own peril. People are listening and paying attention.
When David Brooks drolly offers these opinions in these terms, it says to someone like me “David Brooks thinks of Brack Obama as NOT WHITE and therefore OTHER and can only be evaluated within this criteria- Sports.” This may simply mean that Brooks just doesn’t have any black friends that have honestly told him “Look, David, it’s important to see Black Americans as Americans first, and it’s very Nixonian of you to prattle on about it otherwise.” It may mean something more. Anyone with their antennae up NOTICES, though.