One year ago today Barack Hussein Obama stepped in the presidential spotlight and extinguished racism forever, amen. One year ago the memory of American slavery was erased, field hollers and spirituals were considered obscene, and white people stepped into the role of the new black—urban, hip and the only authentic interpreter of that old throwback called Pre-Barack Black. Oh, baby, I’m about to have some fun! Today the New York Times published a hilarious essay by novelist Colson Whitehead about his imagined role as Secretary of Postracial Affairs. Here’s a chunk of Colson’s riff that had me choking:
“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.”
If he’d let me, I’d work tirelessly as Colson’s advisor to his Secretary of Postracial Affairs. I would insist all black TV shows prior to Barack’s Postracial America be recast and reshot with white actors. Or, at least, have all the black actors voices dubbed with friendly white ones. Yeah, that’s better. We can continue to see black (because black is often pleasing to the primal palette), but we don’t have to hear black or any of its African-slavery-infused rhythms and cadences. Come on, now you know that’s a damn good idea. I’d also insist, absolutely demand, that Colson reimagine Aunt Esther, from Sanford and Son, as a Buddhist-chanting, yoga-practicing, culinary chef who specializes in foods that lower cholesterol levels. Someone please share this with Colson: I’d be the best advisor a Secretary of Postracial Affairs ever imagined.