It seemed like a heartwarming story: Voters in an Alabama county that is 96 percent white elected a black man to the State House of Representatives, with one voter saying, "I don't even see him as black."
What most see as a positive sign of an emerging colorblind America, reporter Adam Nossiter of the New York Times saw as something much more ominous. "It is a historic first, but the remarks of many white voters reveal an unconscious condescension," he wrote in the print edition of today's front page article titled, "On a Battlefield of Civil Rights, Race Matters Less in Politics."
Even for a newspaper that champions the left's cynical brand of identity politics, this was apparently too much, as the line was edited in the online version to read, "It is a historic first, but the moment is full of awkwardness.
What did the citizens of Alabama's Cullman County do to deserve the charge of ‘condescending' attitudes toward successful black candidate James Fields? It's not clear in the opening comments reported by Nossiter:
"Really, I never realize he's black," said a white woman in a restaurant, smiling.
"He's black?" asked Lou Bradford, a white Cullman police officer, jokingly.
"You know, I don't even see him as black," said another of Mr. Fields's new white constituents, Perry Ray, the mayor of one of the county's villages, Dodge City.
A retired boilermaker later adds, "He's a dadgum good fellow. He's always been one of us." Readers searching for "the remarks of many white voters [that] reveal an unconscious condescension" will be frustrated.
Finally, in the sixteenth paragraph, Nossiter quotes a lone white voter, James Rice, who says, "There's two different races, in that race. You got some that don't want to be nothing, and you got some that want to help. You don't find too many like James Fields."
One voter. That's it. If Nossiter spoke to more white voters exhibiting "unconscious condescension," they could have been featured, rather than forcing editors to alter the heart of the story.
Readers might get the impression that the reporter wasn't sure what kind of story he was supposed to deliver. Obviously, the reason the article even ran was to hitch it, in any way possible, to the larger storyline that is Obama-mania. How do you explain presidential candidate Barack Obama's recent popularity with white and black Democratic voters without undermining the left's fervent belief that America is, still, hopelessly racist? One way is to tack on this qualifier-laden, torturous justification for a front page article that implied one thing and delivered another:
Inevitably, there are questions about what this might mean for Senator Barack Obama's candidacy in the Deep South, and the quick answer, perhaps, is not that much, at least in Cullman County at this moment.
The question most often heard in this election season is, "Is America ready for a black president?" Maybe it's time to start asking, "Is the media read for a colorblind America?"