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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• 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.

• Barack Obama swats his wife on the butt and gives her a pound in front of a live audience and in an unwitting moment of dog-whistle politicking, affirms his blackness, locks in the black vote and is subsequently swept into office.

• Not to be outdone by Blackface Jesus, actor Robert Downey Jr. remixes an offensive dramatic device to play a “dude playing a dude disguised as another dude” in the brilliant comedy Tropic Thunder. A boycott precedes the movie, followed by indifference and finally, raucous laughter.

• A nation wonders “What’chu talkin’ bout, Willis?” as Black leader and cultural icon Gary Coleman’s marriage and tragic marital problems prove that, indeed, the world doesn’t move by the beat of just one drum.

• Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is arrested while trying to enter his own home, prompting a discussion on race and class in this country.

• Michael Jackson dodges child molestation charges, mounts a comeback and dies, leaving all to wonder who the man in mirror really was.

• In the tradition of unforgivably black boxer Jack Johnson, multi-ethnic supergolfer Tiger Woods brought down by his philandering with 14 different white women. Everyone decides he’s black.


Jimi Izrael is a regular contributor to The Root.