The best post-election piece I read today appears as an Op-Ed in the New York Times. In it, writer Colson Whitehead makes no mention of Bob McDonnell‘s win or Jon Corzine‘s defeat but, rather, reminds us of something much more important: It’s been exactly a year since the United States became a postracial society.
And so, 365 days after Barack Obama was elected the country’s first African-American president, Whitehead suggests it’s time for a little oversight in the form of a new government position: secretary of postracial affairs. He selflessly offers to serve his country in that capacity himself.
Call me presumptuous, but I’ve already bought three-by-five cards and jotted down notes. To wit: Sociologists say that racism is a construct, which means that our predicament is what we in the business world call a “branding problem.” Time and time again, attempts to reduce a wildly diverse community to an ineffectual blanket term have yielded diminishing results. “Colored” lasted 82.3 years, “Negro” less than half that. “African-American” was challenged by “People of color” after an even shorter reign. May I suggest “People Whose Bodies Just Happen to Produce More Melanin, and That’s O.K.,” or PWBJHTPMMATOK? It’s factually accurate, non-threatening and quite pithy. The N.A.A.C.P. says it’s on board if we pitch in for changing the letterhead.
Pop culture is the arena for our hopes, our fears and our most cherished dreams. It is our greatest export to the world. That’s why as your secretary of postracial affairs I’ll concentrate on the entertainment industry.
Some changes will be minor. In television, “Diff’rent Strokes” and “What’s Happening!!” will now be known as “Different Strokes” and “What Is Happening?” Other changes will be more drastic. “Sanford and Son” trafficked in demeaning stereotypes. In these more enlightened times, everyone knows that one person’s “junk” is another’s compulsive eBay purchase. A more postracially robust version features Sanford père as the genius behind a community-based auction site, with his son, Lamont, the reluctant Webmaster. Think of the opportunities for fleet-footed banter and sophisticated, pun-based aperçus. Like “Frasier,” but postracial.
Secretary Whitehead, get to work!