City Desk

Forget Gov.-Elect McDonnell, Meet the New Secretary of Postracial Affairs

The best post-election piece I read today appears as an Op-Ed in the New York Times. In it, writer Colson Whitehead makes no mention of Bob McDonnell's win or Jon Corzine's defeat but, rather, reminds us of something much more important: It's been exactly a year since the United States became a postracial society.

And so, 365 days after Barack Obama was elected the country's first African-American president, Whitehead suggests it's time for a little oversight in the form of a new government position: secretary of postracial affairs. He selflessly offers to serve his country in that capacity himself.

He writes:

Call me presumptuous, but I’ve already bought three-by-five cards and jotted down notes. To wit: Sociologists say that racism is a construct, which means that our predicament is what we in the business world call a “branding problem.” Time and time again, attempts to reduce a wildly diverse community to an ineffectual blanket term have yielded diminishing results. “Colored” lasted 82.3 years, “Negro” less than half that. “African-American” was challenged by “People of color” after an even shorter reign. May I suggest “People Whose Bodies Just Happen to Produce More Melanin, and That’s O.K.,” or PWBJHTPMMATOK? It’s factually accurate, non-threatening and quite pithy. The N.A.A.C.P. says it’s on board if we pitch in for changing the letterhead.

Pop culture is the arena for our hopes, our fears and our most cherished dreams. It is our greatest export to the world. That’s why as your secretary of postracial affairs I’ll concentrate on the entertainment industry.

Some changes will be minor. In television, “Diff’rent Strokes” and “What’s Happening!!” will now be known as “Different Strokes” and “What Is Happening?” Other changes will be more drastic. “Sanford and Son” trafficked in demeaning stereotypes. In these more enlightened times, everyone knows that one person’s “junk” is another’s compulsive eBay purchase. A more postracially robust version features Sanford père as the genius behind a community-based auction site, with his son, Lamont, the reluctant Webmaster. Think of the opportunities for fleet-footed banter and sophisticated, pun-based aperçus. Like “Frasier,” but postracial.

Secretary Whitehead, get to work!

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  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    This guy is the stupidest man of 2009. Colson Whitehead is the stupidest man of 2009.

  • 1967dc

    Maybe he nailed it.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Colson Whitehead wrote a phenomenally stupid column. America will be "post-racial" when one of the two major political parties is not 99.9% white. America will be "post-racial" when the nooses, apes, & similar effigies no longer appear at anti-Obama rallies. America will be "post-racial" when black people can get taxis, jobs, & housing as easily as white people.

    That day is decades, if not centuries, in the future.

    Just because a bunch of fellow idiots researched "post-racial" many times in 2009 doesn't mean it's true. A lot of people also researched "vampires" last year due to the teen-age novel/movie series - "more than in 1982" - but that doesn't mean that vampires exist.

    Idiotic, banal column - & idiotic, banal thinking behind the column.

  • MN

    I think it was a humor column, Comrade.

  • Wilfredo Koelle

    In the beginning just remember it was darked and then someone smiled! try this:

    A man on a date wonders if he’ll get lucky. The woman already knows. :)