So, one of those things you notice when you go from a mostly black public school to a mostly white northeastern college is that there are a lot of white people who think black people are cool. Automatically. Because they're black. For some of these kids, it's a real ego boost, because no one actually thought they were cool at home. The problem is that the unrestrained admiration directed at the newly anointed cool black kid is contingent on reminding his new white friends that he's black, and therefore cool. For his new "friends," this validates the pressing need to be able to say "I have black friends," just in case they try to touch someone's dreadlocks without asking or something. So the newly anointed cool black kid employs a lot of black cultural idiosyncrasies he wouldn't actually use at home, just to make sure everyone still thinks he's still "black enough" to be considered cool. Michael Steele's recent comments about "bling bling" in the stimulus reminded me of this phenomenon.

I'm guessing most people reacted to Steele's comments with either confusion or laughter, which is actually a sign of progress in race relations. As for Steele, he happens to be the chairman of a political party that is really  desperate for a few black friends, so to them his reference to "bling bling" must have seemed terribly "hip". 

Naturally, Maureen Dowd was really impressed.

It wasn’t only that Americans’ already threadbare trust has been ripped by Hank Paulson’s mumbo-jumbo and the Democrats’ bad judgment in accessorizing the stimulus bill with Grammy-level “bling, bling,” as the R.N.C. chairman, Michael Steele, called it.

The fact that Dowd thought Steele's use of the term "bling bling," a term that became archaic the moment television anchors started using it, was so cool that she had to quote it says more about her than it does about the stimulus bill, about which it says less than nothing.

-- A. Serwer

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