VP Debate, Gwen Ifill, and the Monolithic Black Community

At this point, watching the American Right desperately try to win the election this year is just sad.

What's the latest, you ask?

Well, actually, it's an oldie but a goodie: media bias.

Ah yes, the tried and true.  I've stated again and again that the old calculus just may not work the way it did before when you got a Black guy and a White woman running.

But you know what, the Right will try it anyway.  I bet you could set your watch to it.

The video above is one of the pieces that is being touted as evidence that the media has a bias toward Obama.  Gwen Ifill, interviewed above, is modering tonight's VP debate and the Right is afeared that she will be biased toward Obama because she's written a book about the new generation of Black politicians to be released in January.

Here is an excerpt from the Michelle Malkin piece that sparked this "outrage:"

In an imaginary world where liberal journalists are held to the same standards as everyone else, Ifill would be required to make a full disclosure at the start of the debate. She would be required to turn to the cameras and tell the national audience that she has a book coming out on Jan. 20, 2009 — a date that just happens to coincide with the inauguration of the next president of the United States.

The title of Ifill’s book? The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Nonpartisan my foot.

Random House, her publisher, is already busy hyping the book with YouTube clips of Ifill heaping praise on her subjects, including Obama and Obama-endorsing Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick. The official promo for the book gushes: “In ‘The Breakthrough,’ veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power. … Drawing on interviews with power brokers like Sen. Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict and the ‘black enough’ conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history.”

Ifill and her publisher are banking on an Obama/Biden win to buoy her book sales. The moderator expected to treat both sides fairly has grandiosely declared this the “Age of Obama.” Can you imagine a right-leaning journalist writing a book about the “stunning” McCain campaign and its “bold” path to reform timed for release on Inauguration Day — and then expecting a slot as a moderator for the nation’s sole vice presidential debate?

The explanation of the book is key here.  Ifill is writing about a generational shift in how Black folks politicize.  How young Blacks come to public service differently than the civil rights generation.

How is this pro-Obama?

A book that talks about a generational shift in the Black community doesn't seem to me, on the face of it, to be pro-anything.  I can't imagine that Ifill wouldn't talk about some of the bad aspects of this shift — sublimation of any talk about (Black) race, for instance.  Because we all know "identity politics" is a problem because non-White identities are just no fun to talk about (if you are White). So I can't imagine that Ifill's book is just a fawning tribute to the Obama, Duval Patrick and Cory Booker.

Oh yea, sorry.  The book looks at other young Black politicians beside Obama.  You know, for balance, trends and stuff.

What strikes me about Malkin's piece is the implicit message that Gwen's race is why this is an issue, that a Black journalist writing about Black subjects is automatically incapable of being critical of said subjects.

Because all Black people are alike.  We all know each other.  Shit, we all look alike too.

Watching the video and reading the synopsis Malkin quotes I get the sense that if Ifill is praising anything its that the old rules for how Black politicians operate might be changing.  That, to me, doesn't automatically mean she likes or supports what these new Black politicians are doing.

Let's stop acting like Black people, all 13% of us in America, are the ones that got Obama this far. The whole point of Obama is that he doesn't really even need us.  But yes, because Ifill is moderating a debate where Obama will not even appear will mean that Palin will be disadvantaged.

Does the Right even know any Black people?  If they did, they'd know that no one is harder on a Black person than, that's right folks, a Black person.  We didn't even get on board en masse until he kept winning primaries.  We didn't allow ourselves to hope.  Even now we can be skeptical, yet hopeful. 

But doesn't matter.  A Black person is writing a book about a Black person (technically, four Black people, but eh, whatever.  We're all the same!). 

Her last point about the reverse is probably true.  I can imagine that the Left would be up in arms as well.  But that doesn't mean that what Malkin and the Right are doing isn't still dumb just because the other side has a propensity for stupidity in its zeal to win as well. 

All of this "outrage" only proves the point that politics as usual is something that should be interrogated as it seems Ifill will be doing in this book about Black politics. 

About tlewisisdope

I write. I live in DC.
This entry was posted in Books, Current Affairs, Obama, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to VP Debate, Gwen Ifill, and the Monolithic Black Community

  1. madupont says:

    I’ve got to tell you, I hadn’t run into Ms.Malkin
    in three or four years until day before yesterday and what I read was a disgrace. Now, this. I call it the Washington,D.C. syndrome or, “I live where it’s happening”; and, since I can remember when it wasn’t happening,why does this paternalist idolatry continue. Could it be that Malkin and Ifill just aren’t sisters? It’s a little too much of the classic worldwide tale about Cinderella’s sisters get ready to go to the Ball and someone has to stay home and do the housecleaning. Okay, maybe it is occupational rivalry.
    Sometime between late August,2005 and February,2006, I was reading the Washington Post on-line and ran into a forum about I know not what, when one post leaped out at me in an enumeration of about a dozen points On Why Barack Obama Can Not Be President. It made me so angry, because I’d heard it all before back in the early Sixties, and I spontaneously refuted point by point what was wrong with this attitude problem. Maybe I’d read too much Franz Fanon at the time but I think that it really goes back to this:
    “[E.Franklin]Frazier’s Black Bourgeoisie, the 1957 translation of a work first published in French in 1955, was a critical examination of the adoption by middle-class African Americans of a subservient conservatism that derived from the cultural style and traditional religion of the white middle class, viewed as itself intellectually and culturally barren.”(quote wikipedia)

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