'I Just Remembered Chris Matthews Was White'

His comments about Obama underscore a bigger problem
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2010 4:46 PM CST
Chris Matthews in a 2007 file photo.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

(Newser) – Chris Matthews' unfortunate attempt at praise for President Obama—"I forgot he was black tonight"—prompts Ta-Nehisi Coates to ask white people to please stop saying things like that. In an Atlantic blog headlined "I Just Remembered Chris Matthews Was White," Coates maintains that such statements reveal just how little white people know about black people. Instead, they build up an "invented truth" based on ignorance.

"The 'I forgot Obama was black' sentiment allows the speaker the comfort of accepting, even lauding, a black person without interrogating their invented truth. It allows the speaker a luxurious ignorance—you get to name people (this is what black is) even when you don't know people." He adds: "That (Obama) is black and brilliant is pleasant but unsurprising to me. I've known very brilliant, very black people all my life."

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