The Decade in Race: WTF Was That?

This has been a decade in racial progress—and setbacks. From the curb, it may be hard to tell the difference. The Root breaks it all down, so you don’t have to.

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This has been a decade of racial progress and setbacks. From the curb, it may be hard to tell the difference. So as a public service, I give you....

2000-2010: A Race Odyssey:

• After the tragedy of 9/11, Arab American stereotypes morph from harmless convenient store owner to new American nigger. The Simpsons' Apuh is suddenly nowhere near as funny.

Apologies for slavery come from every corner. White guilt fades, institutional racism intensifies. The world keeps spinning.

• Black power rap group Public Enemy's William "Flavor Flav" Drayton hosts dating show "Flavor of Love," scuttles any political relevancy and becomes a new millennial Sambo with a twist of psychotic Mandingo.

• Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey asks a closed high-end retail store in Paris, Hermes, to open its doors for her and is subsequently rebuffed. This becomes her moment of clarity and, as she comers to grip with the reality of her race, radicalizes Winfrey... for about 10 minutes. Hermes offers her an apology and all is forgiven.

• Underground rap sensation Three Six Mafia wins Oscar for their contribution to the movie Hustle and Flow as white America sings along about the hard life of inner-city pimps. Much of black America cringes.

Crash, a movie about the intersection of race, class and politics remarkably similar in theme to The Incident, reminds us that nobody really likes anybody that much.

• After attempting a “shake’n’dash,” maneuver, two black female strippers falsely accuse Duke University Lacrosse players of rape. After forensics find several different sperm splotches on the woman's panties -- none of them matching any of the team members -- the boys are vindicated. Reputations ruined, they launch a blitzkrieg of lawsuits on the prosecutor and Duke University. Crystal Magnum, the primary accuser, pens a book insisting that she was assaulted.

• Professional radio bigot Don Imus declares that the Rutgers Women’s basketball team look like a bunch of “nappy-headed hos.” Despite the fact that it is his job to be provocative, the debate whether the young women are in fact nappy-headed or hos goes prime-time as black punditry hits a fever pitch. Commentator Roland Martin explains nappy-headed ho-dom to Paula Zahn and parlays his skill as Negro Tour Guide into a gig as CNN contributor. In the midst of the dust-up, Imus apologizes, is fired and is back on the air within a year.

• Hurricane Katrina. President Bush fiddles while New Orleans drowns. Rapper Kanye West makes perhaps one of the most poignant observations in the history of live television.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM