In a column for Advertising Age entitled "Why Even Hardened Racists Will Vote for Barack Obama," NPR personality Bob Garfield explains his view of race in America:
1) Even hardened racists feel the impulse to believe they are no such thing.So, according to Mr. Garfield, anyone who finds Tupac Shakur "unacceptable" is a "hardened racist." Mr. Shakur (1971-1996) had been convicted of multiple violent crimes including sexual assault and wrongful death before his own death in a gang-related drive-by shooting.
2) Hence, they are always in the market for someone "acceptably black."
Yes, the market. And, yes, acceptably black. We used that term the other day on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" to talk about Sen. Barack Obama and watched the interviewer visibly flinch. "I'm gonna take some of the edge off of what you just said," he said.
What edge? Acceptably black means being nonthreatening to white people inclined to feeling threatened by black people. It means standard English, clean-cut appearance (or, as Joe Biden fumbled, "clean") and the most Caucasian features possible. These obviously are not objective measures of character or worth; just as obviously, they are measures of what sells to the vast, white audience. Halle Berry and Denzel Washington are acceptably black. Your local news anchors are acceptably black. Tupac was not.