Monday, April 14, 2014

last gasp struggles of the black public-intellectual...,


msnbc |  New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait responded on Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry to criticisms of his new essay about race in the Obama era –including several from the host herself.

Chait’s essay, “The Color of his Presidency,” makes the argument that race not only “has been the real story of the Obama presidency all along,” but that it “has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world.” Chait insists in the essay that both liberals and conservatives use justifiable paranoia about race for their own political purposes. In a portion excerpted Sunday by host Melissa Harris-Perry, he elaborates:
And even when the red and blue tribes are not waging their endless war of mutual victimization, the subject of race courses through everything else: debt, health care, unemployment. Whereas the great themes of the Bush years revolved around foreign policy and a cultural divide over what or who constituted “real” America, the Obama years have been defined by a bitter disagreement over the size of government, which quickly reduces to an argument over whether the recipients of big-government largesse deserve it. There is no separating this discussion from one’s sympathies or prejudices toward, and identification with, black America.
Critics like Slate’s Jamelle Bouie posited that Chait’s essay omitted the realities of racism and discrimination throughout America, treating race ”as an intellectual exercise—a low-stakes cocktail party argument between white liberals and white conservatives over their respective racial innocence.” More negative reviews came from Salon, where writers offered that it was “poorly argued” and that it embodies everything that’s wrong with view from nowhere-styled journalism.”

Host Melissa Harris-Perry detailed some criticisms of her own prior to introducing Chait on Sunday’s show. The host, a political science professor, said:
“To describe American racial politics as an ‘endless war of mutual victimization’ suggests that there are no actual victims of continuing racial policies, only that there are discursive points to be scored by equally matched sides.”
Chait, who attracted attention recently for an online debate about race and poverty with The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, began Sunday’s conversation with a sarcastic remark. 

“Thanks for introducing your audience with such an open mind,” he said. “I’ve never really seen a television show with a host who berates and rebuts the person they’re having on the show for several minutes before they’re invited on.”