"What do Fox News polemicist Bill O'Reilly, nappy-headed radio jock Don Imus, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the leading Republican presidential candidates, the National Urban League, the NAACP and much of the national media have in common?
They don't see, or don't want to admit, that "black America" is an increasingly meaningless concept -- nearly as imprecise as just plain "America."
Why is O'Reilly under siege? Because he was shocked to learn that there exists in this country an upscale black-owned restaurant with an affluent African-American clientele. Four or five decades ago, you could reasonably generalize that "black America" was poor. Today, African-Americans control nearly $800 billion in annual purchasing power -- enough to dine occasionally at restaurants that have tablecloths.
Why did Imus get fired by CBS and NBC? Because now there are senior black professionals in both of those companies with the clout to march into top executives' offices and argue that Imus had to go. Also because Al Roker, an African-American who happens to be one of the stars of "Today" -- often described as the most profitable show in all of television -- called publicly for Imus' head, or at least his cowboy hat.
Why does Thomas, in his pugnacious autobiography, insist that he's being persecuted for holding views that are somehow off-limits to black Americans? Apparently, it would destroy his sense of his own exceptionalism to acknowledge the many African-Americans who share his conservative social views and his ethic of personal responsibility and self-help. (He's right, though, that on the subject of affirmative action, most black Americans do think he's nuts.)...
....The problem is that we all say we want an "honest dialogue" about race, but we've been having the same old arguments for years -- affirmative action, inner-city dysfunction, overt and covert racism -- and we seem to be stuck. We need a new language, a new vocabulary and syntax.
Let's start by opening our eyes and recognizing that if there ever was a monolithic "black America" -- absolutely and uniformly deprived and aggrieved, with invariant values and attitudes -- there certainly isn't one now.