Racial Analyses in the Times: Deferring to Elite Whites?

It appears that racial issues are finally getting a little more attention in some parts of the mainstream media. José called my attention to these two recent and interesting New York Times articles. The first is a short book review by Brent Staples, a journalist who notes that

As Randall Kennedy reminds us in his provocative and richly insightful new book, “The Persistence of the Color Line” . . . the Obama forces disseminated several messages intended to soothe the racially freighted fears of the white electorate. On one channel, they reassured voters that he was not an alien, but a normal American patriot. They also made clear that he was a “safe,” conciliatory black man who would never raise his voice in anger . . . .

Then he ads that candidate Obama himself sent out certain messages:

On yet another wavelength, the candidate proffered his bona fides as a black man to ­African-Americans who were initially wary of his unusual upbringing . . . .

It is a bit odd that Staples does not even note other, probably much more critical, books on race, racism, and the Obama campaigns–such as the one that Adia Harvey Wingfield and I did not long ago. Had he done so, Staples could perhaps have made even more sense out of the data on the white-racialized dimensions of both the Obama campaigns and Obama’s presidency.

There is also another interesting article in the Times by Desmond King, American government professor at Oxford University and Rogers Smith, a political science professor at Penn, that discusses the failure of both political parties to openly discuss racial matters seriously, such as the extreme unemployment rates for African Americans:

The economic crisis in the United States is also a racial crisis. White Americans are hurting, but nonwhite Americans are hurting even more. Yet leaders in both political parties — for different reasons — continue to act as though race were anachronistic and irrelevant in a country where an African-American is the president.

They are quite correct on this point, and their brief data on racial inequalities is highly germane to their general argument, but I kept waiting for them to discuss why there is such systemic racial inequality and who the key white decisionmakers mostly are in this regard. Not only are whites (or the dominant white racial frame) not called out as agents of discrimination, but even more seriously the elite white men whose racial and class frames and actions have mostly created the party and societal neglect (and much actual reality) of racism at issue are not specifically called out or critically discussed as elite white male agents (more than just “leaders”) shaping these structures.

As in the Staples review (and perhaps in Randall Kennedy’s book?), this white male elite remains unnoted and unmarked as such, once again. Is it still too dangerous now in this society to call them out and analyze their critical and continuing role in racial discrimination and their dominant white racial framing that shapes both our politics and our society more generally?