Few folks on appear hot or bothered over the Supreme Court's recent assault on once untouchable relics of the civil rights movement. When pointing out the SCOTUS decision on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act or the infamous reverse remix known as Ricci v. DeStefano, most folks look at you in a spat of bewildered angst: "Your point is?" And perhaps there's a bit of ignorance pervading the individual outrage. Why fault recession-stressed, self-absorbed, working people for their inability to focus?

But many do find energy to ride the sensationalistic wave of media coverage over Michael Jackson's tragic and untimely passing. And, while we're all still grieving over the spiritual transition of our modern musical genius, it comes at the rather convenient expense of focus on some major public policy challenges.  The always irreverent and fast wit Danielle Belton makes the observation:

Do you remember the week that was? North Korea threatening to blow up HAWAII??? Gov. Mark Sanford admitting to some Argentine "gov luv?" The Iran election protests turning into violence and the images of reformists and bystanders dying in the streets? Did you know these things are still news? I love Michael Jackson's music, but I honestly need the TV news toget back to reporting SOME news.


Belton is definitely on to something. It's mighty [insert your spasm of profane frustration here] convenient that "mainstream" media uses the MJ affair to keep masses distracted from the stuff that actually puts the food on the table.  You could say the timing for Black folks is superbly aligned - enough to make the Rastas, conspiracy theorists and barber shop pundits squirm. At a time when the Supreme Court makes a hastily sharp turn to the right, continuing in that post-Warren Era tradition, African Americans are sidetracked over how many prescription pills were ingested by the late, great King of Pop. We might be more wary of the quick-and-dirty 5-4 decisions rendered against two landmark pillars of civil rights.

There's abundant irony in all of this, especially when it comes to the President's shrewd, if necessary election oriented racial neutrality.  David Broder touches on that in The WASHINGTON POST:

The implicit message, delivered by the Supreme Court majority … is that racial discrimination is no longer as big a problem as we once thought. Neither the voting rights case out of Texas nor the affirmative action hiring case out of New Haven, Conn., said that explicitly. But the link between the two is the assumption or assertion that this society has largely healed itself and does not need the race-conscious remedies that the previous generation of politicians thought necessary.


Presumably, Obama doesn’t buy the "post-racial" nirvana he unintentionally created (but deliberately stirred). But a certain persuasion want that "post-racial" phase in the here and now, buoyed by his election and eager to shed prior guilt.  Not to rain on any parade since anything is possible - but it's also not that easy, especially with unemployment at a 26-year high (according to recently released June numbers) and black male unemployment at astronomical rates.

The point is, we’ll need to step up our collective game. That's a difficult proposition if we don't first get focused.


Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and a contributing editor at The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, a frequent contributor to The Hill, the weekly Washington insider for WDAS-FM in Philadelphia and host of The Ellison Report, a weekly public-affairs magazine broadcast and podcast on WEAA 88.9 FM Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.

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