A GRATUITOUS REFERENCE TO RACE. AND
A LESSON I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO RELEARN
This is my attempt to put things back on course.
The blog post was headlined:
2020 DEMOCRATS: Exciting as broccoli. But each one is a healthy choice.
The veggie theme grew out of my initial disappointment in the blandness of the winnowing Democratic field, showcased in the Jan. 14 TV debate. I wrote that the panel’s charisma was equivalent to that of broccoli and other veggies, as opposed to the menu that Donald Trump’s cooked up for his “Base.”
I noted the excitement generated by iconic past Democratic presidents:
While Donald Trump has been feeding his supporters red meat for the last three years, we all expected the Democrats would produce a sumptuous candidate – a rare Franklin D. Roosevelt, a well-bred Jack Kennedy, a nicely-browned Barack Obama.
"I’m wondering if it’s a poor choice of words however to call Obama nicely browned. It’s just for the other two presidents you mentioned, there is no racial sounding adjective yet an obvious one for Obama. I just don’t think it’s necessary to the story line and I think it’s best if possible to always avoid any adjective with a racial tinge unless you are tackling the issue directly and critically."
She got that right. I’ve redone the paragraph, hoping to maintain the food references, minus the tasteless attempt to mix humor and race. The changes are highlighted:
While Donald Trump has been feeding his supporters red meat for the last three years, we all expected the Democrats would produce a sumptuous candidate – a rare Franklin D. Roosevelt, a high-protein Jack Kennedy, a refreshing Barack Obama.
Obama is a hero in our house, and part of our fury at Trump is the comparison to the man who preceded him. Obama is an eloquent, principled and charming man, whose every moment in the White House seemed an attempt to unite and advance the country; he failed sometimes, but presidents are imperfect. By contrast, Trump is a barbaric, racist and cruel huckster, out to divide and destroy the country he promised to make “great,” and as a sideline, to obliterate Obama’s every accomplishment.
By including Obama in the pantheon of Democratic greats, I wanted to acknowledge the obvious landmark established when the country not once, but twice, elected a man of color, something that still is astonishing and inspiring.
The “nicely browned” description was meant to be serious and lighthearted simultaneously (itself a danger sign to a writer), by continuing the food references, and, in referring to his color, assigning the word "nicely" to double-duty, since it was a positive that he’d been elected.
Also, I was thinking about the disappointing turn of events, in which the 2020 candidate field is steadily losing diversity, with the most recent debate stage featuring an all-white lineup. I thought mentioning Obama’s color was a subtle dig at that failing .
But my critic is correct in pointing out that nowhere else in the text was race and diversity brought up, and therefore that single reference indeed was gratuitous.
I should have done initially what I’ve tried to do now, relearning the lesson that a writer should avoid trying to be clever with a subject that is so personal and hurtful to so many people, and that continues to be so destructive to our national aspirations.