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How Far?


Next Monday, my two-hour special with Chris Matthews, “Obama’s America: 2010 and Beyond,” airs on MSNBC because in 2010, not only are we still bogged down with the issue of race; we’re still stuck on color! Turn on the news, and everyone is talking about Sen. Harry Reid’s comments about President Barack Obama, saying the then-presidential candidate was light-skinned with no Negro dialect.

The war, unemployment, the lack of a health care bill and security issues haven’t gone away, but right now, the question is should Sen. Reid have to step down from his majority leader post for his words about the president even though the president himself is ready to move on?

In a meeting of my staff yesterday, they went off-course for a moment and examined when and if they could get past race. It began when one of my producers asked when it would be okay for black people to seriously criticize President Obama. The consensus pretty much was right now in private, but publicly never. Most of the people, mostly black and female, felt very passionate about and protective of the president. Not only would they almost always defend him in public, but they couldn’t even bear to hear him being criticized, especially by white people.

Is this a healthy attitude? Maybe not. Will anyone be able to change their thinking? I doubt it. Should anyone try to change it? Probably not.

The reason racism still is on the forefront is because people pretty much feel the way they do and aren’t that interested in changing. If they were, we would have seen much more movement by now.

On the heels of Sen. Reid’s comments came perhaps the dumbest comment ever. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was quoted in Esquire magazine saying “I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where he lived. I saw it all growing up.”

What do you do with that? Where do you start? It’s wrong on so many levels that just telling him it’s wrong and hearing him apologize is a waste of time.

How far have we come on the issue of race? Pretty far. How much farther do we need to go? Pretty far.

But we keep talking about it – and people want to hear us talk about it. Roland Martin made an excellent point this morning on the show and last night on CNN. He said the only time mainstream media wants to talk to black folks is when there’s an issue involving race. I agree. Those same people are available to talk about health care, unemployment, the war – you name it.

I always say I don’t expect mainstream media to do much more than they have to do when it comes to representing African-Americans. That’s what we’re for. The TJMS, BlackAmericaWeb.com, TV One and other black media outlets are where you can always find black people commenting about important issues that are of interest to all people, whether it’s Black History Month or not.

I would be kidding myself to think MSNBC would have asked me to participate in the town hall meeting if we did not have a black president and there was going to be no discussion of race. But as they say, “It is what it is.” My job is to represent you, and that’s why I’ve asked you to send questions and comments – and you’ve answered the call.

This year, the all-important Census 2010 is an opportunity for everyone