Thursday, October 23, 2008

"But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?"

I'd like to think of this recent NYTimes Op-Ed Column discussion as a bookend with DMX's prior interview with XXL magazine:

Rebranding the U.S. with Obama

By Nicholas D. Kristof

The other day I had a conversation with a Beijing friend and I mentioned that Barack Obama was leading in the presidential race:

She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?

Me: Yes, exactly.

She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?

Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.

She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.

Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.

She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?

Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.

[Long pause.]

She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!


Kristof then rationalizes his friend's perspective by reminding us "that the one thing countless millions of people around the world 'know' about the United States is that it is controlled by a cabal of white bankers and Jews who use police with fire hoses to repress blacks. To them, Mr. Obama’s rise triggers severe cognitive dissonance."

So they're familiar with the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s (even if some details regarding Jewish involvement are off) but they haven't heard of the great successes of African-Americans over the past forty years? What an oddly selective memory. The ascendancy of Oprah alone would be hard to miss, I would think.


drew said...

I read that column- it made my head explode. I'd say he made it up, but why add the detail about his friend being Chinese?

Dave said...

I just have a hard time with his justification of why his friend is so out of touch with American society and politics. It's like he's trying to use her as an example for the 5.7 billion non-Americans on Earth. They know about the American racism of the mid-20th century, but they have no idea that a black man is currently on the threshold of becoming commander in chief (let-alone that African Americans hold all kinds of non-manual labor positions)? I feel like it should be both, neither, or the inverse.

drew said...

Or the fact that Kristof, this continent-hopping, pulitzer-winning journalist, has a friend who knows jack about American politics? Does he keep this friend in a cage in his basement in Beijing?

Or I guess it's conceivable that the mainstream Chinese media doesn't report these kinds of stories. But I think the cage thing is more likely.