06/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Discontents

"Jackie Robinson was a Republican," Clark said to Anwar, then he turned to the bartender. "Do you have white tea? Jasmine, then? Okay, let me get that. So, who do you think should be Speaker?"
"Clyburn," Anwar said.
"That's not going to happen. I think Pelosi is doing a good job. Besides, she's much more effective than Harry Reid."
"Pelosi is too liberal," Anwar said. "Let me get a Bourbon and water. You still not drinking?"
"Not since senior year," Clark said. "Locke doesn't let me drink."
"Locke's in L.A."
"Yeah, but I see his face when I think about drinking, so it's the same difference. And what do you mean she's too liberal? 'Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice.'"
"Who said that?"
"William Lloyd Garrison. You've got this, right?"
"I've got my Bourbon," Anwar said.
"What about dinner?"
"You offered."
"Yeah I offered. And now you should return the favor."
"You shouldn't give expecting to receive."
"Your girlfriend should leave you," Clark said.
"I told her she could," Anwar said.
"Which is exactly why she should. You can't say that to a woman: 'If you want to leave me, I'll understand.'"
"What? I'm being considerate. She wants to get married. I'm not ready yet. I told her I'll understand if she doesn't want to wait for me."
"You make it sound like you're going off to war."
"Life is war," Anwar said.
"Melodramatic," Clark said. "Maybe?"
"Maybe a little," Anwar said.
"Maybe. Look at this: a pot of hot water; one bag of tea."
"That's why when it's my week to choose, we always go to Charlie Mom. They always bring you a fresh pot of tea."
"The tea is definitely a plus," Clark said. "How long were we there?"
"Four hours at least."
"One of the many wonders of New York: when the restaurant runs you away, the bar is there to take you in. But back to what we were saying: the two Johns -- Boehner and McCain; Mitch McConnell; Eric Cantor. Old Man Rush and Michael Steele. The Republicans are going to criticize Obama just because. I agree that the Left has to be critical, but it doesn't have to start from a position of skepticism."
"Personally, I think you're in Obama's pocket," Anwar said.
"Well, personally and speaking for myself, I'm not in anybody's pocket."
"You don't even like Bill Maher anymore."
"I don't like his show anymore," Clark said. "I have nothing against Bill Maher. But his show is redundant. It's like cable news for grown-ups, which, frankly, is still not grown-up enough. Liberals, Progressives, Moderates, Conservatives--everyone who had some vision of love when they thought of the President needs to dial it back. But Liberals especially. We're a nation of three hundred and four million people. We've just extricated ourselves from a conservative quagmire of immense proportion--forget the last eight years; we're really talking since 1979, the last generation, longer than either of us has been alive. And people want Kum Ba Yah and kisses by bedtime? 'He's a hypocrite; he's a liar; he's a Conservative in Liberal's clothing; he's, shock of shocks, a politician.' He's President Obama, Number 44; not Emperor Barack I. And your pen pal Tavis Smiley...."
"See, here we go with Tavis."
"I know you want to bring him up, so I'm going ahead and raising the Specter of Smiley."
"I have no problem with Tavis, and I'll tell you why. Tavis and I are on the same page when it comes to Obama. We have to remember that, like you said, Obama is a politician. That's why Tavis' new book is called, what? Accountable."
"Tavis is just trying to position himself as the last great arbiter of African American aspiration," Clark said. "Since his performance in the primary, though, I don't pay Mr. Smiley any mind."
"You don't, but a lot of people do. And Tavis still plays an important role in articulating issues that affect black people to white people in a way that they'll understand."
"White people understand black people," Clark said.
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I said. This is one of the great myths of the Western Way: Black people are the people on the margins, the outsiders. And while it's necessary for the Marginalized to understand the Marginalizers, the Marginalizers can ignore the people on the margins. Make sense?"
"It's true," Anwar said.
"It's not true, and it's ridiculous. People say, 'That's just White Privilege. They don't have to understand us, because they don't even think about us.' My uncle works in a prison. He's a Sergeant, which just means that he supervises the guards. Now, it's a given that the prisoners are perceptive. After all, they're criminals. And they're in there: watching the guards; knowing their coming and going; their moods, who's nice and who's a prick; who they can get a few extra minutes of yard time from and who they'd better avoid. And you'd say, 'Yes, of course.' But if I also told you that my uncle and all the guards don't pay any attention to the prisoners, that they can barely keep track of who needs what medicine, yet alone their moods or behavior, you would call me a liar, because you would know that within a week those prisoners would have that prison and the guards, too. You can't enslave a people for two hundred-fifty-eight years, Reconstruct them for twelve and Jim Crow them another eighty-nine and not know anything about them."
"But that doesn't mean white people can't still be racist, which is what you said last week."
"Racism is about power. There's no requirement that I really believe you are inferior for me to want to dominate you, or for me to devise a system that allows me to dominate you. I still say, black people believe the stereotypes about black people much more than white people do."
"I think they believe it."
"And you probably believe whites are scared of blacks, too."
"Now they're not afraid of black people?"
"Whites in America have no reason to be afraid of black people. What have black people ever done to make white people afraid of them? When we riot, we tear up our own neighborhoods. So they can't be afraid of that."
"Fear isn't rational," Anwar said.
"Racism is," Clark said.
"I still say some white people are scared of black people."
"As a group? Sure, there are outliers in any group. But what have blacks as a group done to make whites so afraid?"
"They're afraid that blacks will want revenge, retribution."
"When? We haven't wanted it since 1607, so why are we going to suddenly want it in 2009? Look, say you discount what I've said; you think black people really are some great mystery to whites in America. If a woman walks into this bar and comes over here and starts talking to you, I mean really talking to you, you'll know that she likes you without knowing anything about her. You won't need a treatise to decipher how she feels. And black people really like white people. White people don't need the Annals of the Fallen to figure that out."
"Lots of black people don't," Anwar said.
"Don't what?"
"Don't like white people."
"That's what you think," Clark said. "I woke up one morning, maybe two weeks ago, and I realized that there aren't any black radicals in America."
"Malcolm X was a radical."
"Malcolm X was an idealist humanitarian and an exponent of freedom and peace. Jesus crossed that bridge two thousand years ago. Those aren't radical positions. But the fact that you think he's a radical just goes to prove how deep in the weeds we are. All those Black Power radicals trampling through your mind right now, what did they do after they put down their fists? Many of them moved into white neighborhoods and sent their children to white schools? Those dashiki wearing women sporting naturals in the Sixties got perms and white best friends after Integration, and their children hardly know their parents ever fought for anything. Black people don't want retribution. They want reparations and to be invited to some white person's barbecue. And they would give up the money for an invite. They want to be friends. That's all black people have ever wanted. And when marching and wearing suits and being peaceable didn't work, some people picked up guns, but the goal was the same. The last black radical was probably a slave."
"Well, I don't see why you dislike Clarence Thomas so much," Anwar said. "You both have opinions outside the mainstream. All Thomas ever advocates is his right to think for himself."
"Anyone who could have a conversation with a sexist, racist, misogynist homophobe from 1776 and be in complete agreement ought to be ashamed," Clark said. "Justice Thomas should be embarrassed to even talk about Originalism. Listen, Anwar, all I'm saying is: If you want to be a Republican, be one. But don't blame Nancy Pelosi."