Is the press focusing on black leaders and black controversy? In what may seem to be a conspiracy theory in advance of a historic presidential race which may lead to the first black president in American history, stories about black people in power and their actions and reactions to racial issues are creeping into the headlines at an alarming rate.
In a moment reminiscent of the Human Stain, where Coleman Silk, a black professor passing for white innocently calls two black students he has never seen in his class "spooks" and inadvertently causes his own downfall, a black county commissioner in Dallas took umbrage when a white commissioner used the term "black hole" to describe how traffic tickets seem to get sucked into the county's collections office and never come out. From the reaction, you would think he said they were being processed in CP time.
This controversy came on the heels of a Denver Jazz singer's interpretive reworking of the National Anthem, prompting many reporters to get Barack Obama's response (strangely, I don't remember what John McCain said about it, nor do I see him being turned to whenever an elderly person does something controversial, like Max Mosley's S&M German war fantasy). This was followed by Jesse Jackson's swift apology for his hot mic castration comment on Barack Obama, before it even had the chance to blow up into a full-fledged controversy, and Charles Rangel's recent impromptu sidewalk press conference on his four rent-controlled apartments. These garden-variety (is that a safe term? Please don't misinterpret) scandals wouldn't mean much if there weren't a black Democratic Presidential Candidate with overwhelming support and a promise for true political change running against an aging, forgetful, and frankly, losing candidate on the Republican side.
What worries me is that these talking points, intentional or not, may come back as disassociated doubts in voter's minds come election day in November, thanks to some new studies reported recently in the Times ("Your Brain Lies to You"). This source amnesia occurs when facts, true or not, stored in the hippocampus, are transferred into long-term memory. Even if a lie is qualified as such, it can become true in the few months it takes to be transferred from short-term memory to long-term.
The studies go on to show that in the long run, the old adage is true, people only hear what they want to hear (unless they are encouraged to keep an open mind-- but who does that?). It doesn't help that the focus these days continues to be about race rather than unity.