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White Pundits: Make Some Black Friends Before Opining on Obama Effect

12/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Gail Vida Hamburg Author, 'The Edge of the World,' & the forthcoming 'Liberty Landing'

To save us all from further excruciating meditations on the meaning of Barack Obama's capture of the Presidency to blacks, pundits like Maureen Dowd, Roger Cohen, and Frank Rich of the New York Times and syndicated opinionator, Kathleen Parker should be forced at pencil point to make some black friends.

This may be the deep background white pundits need to enable them to analyze Obama's win without sounding like, well, Archie Bunker. News flash for Roger Cohen and Kathleen Parker: black people will tell anyone willing to listen that they don't ever, ever, want to hear or read stories about your black nanny, no matter how much you loved these women who were forced to leave their own children to look after you. I mean it, keep your black nanny stories to yourself.

Dear Frank Rich, trying to explain Obama's rise through a 41 year-old movie about bigotry (Guess Who's Coming To Dinner) is as relevant as refracting gay marriage in California through Quentin Crisp's The Naked Civil Servant, a 41 year-old movie about homophobia.

In her Nov 8, '08 column, Dowd attempted to elucidate the stunning new history of our young country by talking about what Obama meant to African Americans.

By paragraph 3, Dowd, who clearly doesn't have any black friends of her own, is forced to rely on white strangers interrogating black people about their feelings on Obama's victory.

In Dowd's DC, white people don't know any black people except "a black waitress at a chic soul food restaurant," "a black bartender at the Bombay Club," and "a black UPS delivery guy." How is it possible that the only black people in Dowd's DC are in the hospitality and service trades? Couldn't she find a black lawyer, political scientist, or poet in all of DC?

After several paragraphs of this, she debates the pros and cons of asking the "black patron at a downtown restaurant or a movie or the Kennedy Center," how they feel. Would it be condescending, she wonders.

Finally, just when we begin to think that Maureen Dowd is really Archie Bunker wearing very red lipstick, she decides to prove us all wrong by reaching out to the black friends in her own life. She writes, "I heard my cute black mailman talking in an excited voice outside my house Friday, so I decided I should go ask him how he was feeling about everything, the absolute amazement of the first black president."

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