During last night's State of the Union address, MSNBC's Chris Matthews made a curious remark about President Obama. Said Matthews: "It's interesting; he is post-racial, by all appearances. I forgot he was black tonight for an hour."
The entire passage reads:
"He's gone a long way to become a leader of this country and past so much history in just a year or two. I mean it's something we don't even think about. I was watching and I said, wait a minute, he's an African-American guy in front of a bunch of other white people and there he is, president of the United States, and we've completely forgotten that tonight " completely forgotten it. I think it was in the scope of the discussion, it was so broad ranging, so in tune with so many problems and aspects and aspects of American life. That you don't think in terms of the old tribalism and the old ethnicity. It was astounding in that regard, a very subtle fact. It's so hard to even talk about it. Maybe I shouldn't talk about it."
Matthews's remark is probably meant to be a compliment, albeit left-handed one. It's a stark contrast to the Democratic presidential primaries and the general election, where cable news commentators regularly asked if we were "ready" for a black president. (Matthews once suggested white voters would support Obama just like "they root for black athletes.") It seems like Matthews is saying 'only a year or two ago we wondered if this would ever happen and now ... it seems normal.' True enough but there is a slight, nagging paternalism that many "articulate" blacks can readily identify. It's like being told "You don't sound like the rest of them" or "You don't really act black." And sorry that's not post-racial or a compliment.
Matthews later clarified his remarks on Rachel Maddow.