The day after April Fools Day, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Hillary Clinton supporter, downplayed any possibility of a national discussion on race. He argued that those who think that a Barack Obama victory will encourage a conversation between blacks and whites have another think coming.
This is why, according to Rep. Cleaver, mum will remain the word will it comes to race: “I think whites would say, ‘How could anybody say we were racist, that we have any racist residue when you look what we just did ?’ And African Americans would say, ‘Look at what we just did. So now we ought to have unblocked access to all of our dreams, all of our hopes,’” Cleaver said.
The Missouri congressman may have a point. It’s just that he wasn't very articulate in making it. I was much more impressed by the tongue-in-cheek commentary my old friend, Jack White, a former Time Magazine columnist, made in a piece he wrote in TheRoot.com. Amused, too.
Minus the set-up explanation, here’s how White opened up his discussion on the possibility of a national discourse on race.
A Nash'nul Conversashun 'Bout Race? O-Tay
By Jack White | TheRoot.com
Buckwheat and Kingfish weigh in on all the craziness.
March 26, 2008 -- Buckwheat and I were watching the NCAA basketball tournament on the big-screen plasma TV at the Home for Retired Racial Stereotypes in Hollywood when the Kingfish rushed in, excitedly waving a newspaper.
"Holy mak'rul, Brotha Buckwheat," the famous Amos 'n' Andy character exclaimed. "I think Brotha Barack done made a mistake by callin' fer a nash'nul conversashun 'bout race. He don't know what he gettin' into!"
"Here I is!" Buckwheat squeaked in reply. Then he dropped into the deep baritone and standard English he uses when he's not playing his Our Gang character.
"Drop the Ebonics, Kingfish," he demanded. " This is such an important subject. Please explain what you mean."
"Fine with me," said the Kingfish, slipping into a basso profundo version of his voice and taking on the demeanor of a wise old college professor. "I know you admired that magnificent speech Obama made last week about the need for all Americans to examine, honestly, the racial issues that continue to divide us. Well, he urged us to start a national dialogue about race."
"What in the world could possibly be wrong with such a high-minded proposal?" Buckwheat interjected.
"Not a thing," said the Kingfish in a weary tone, "except that this is America. A national conversation about race would almost certainly degenerate into a nasty airing of grievances and resentments, rather than a constructive exchange."
"Now Kingfish, that's too cynical," Buckwheat intoned. "Most people would like to put the race issue behind them."
To read all of White’s piece, click here.
And for those of you who have never been introduced to Kingfish or Amos ‘n’ Andy, thanks to the NAACP's efforts 30 years ago to get it removed from commercial television because of its negative images, here’s a taste on YouTube.