April 19, 2012, 10:41 am
President Obama and Justice Sotomayor (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
When Barack Obama first came to national attention with his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he sounded a post-racial theme of national unity:
There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.
His 2008 campaign built on this theme but in a complicated and paradoxical way. An appeal was built on the idea of transcending racial division by embracing a politician who self-consciously styled himself as “black.” The nation poised in dynamic equilibrium between the ideal that race shouldn’t matter and the reality that it mattered very much.
That equilibrium didn’t last long. Even during the campaign, Obama…
January 12, 2011, 11:53 am
The news that Auburn University English professor Alan Gribben is bringing out an edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which the 219 uses of the word “nigger” have been replaced with the word “slave,” has occasioned a torrent of commentary, most of it at Professor Gribben’s expense. Gribben has his defenders, who believe a sanitized Huck Finn will have a better chance of reaching young readers in today’s classrooms, especially young minority readers. But he has been lambasted by many guardians of the public good for his treachery to history and literature. My fellow Innovations blogger, Marybeth Gasman, states the case against the bowdlerized edition of Twain’s masterpiece literary succinctly: “Although I abhor the N-word, sanitizing history does not sit right with me.” She fears it is one more step toward “collective amnesia” about the nation’s shameful…