MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry tweeted an apology to the family of Mitt Romney today after this clip made the rounds on social media. In the video, Harris-Perry and a gaggle of “progressive” panelists mock Mitt Romney’s family on account of an adopted black baby. Harris-Perry presents a family photo with the new addition held in the former presidential candidate’s lap. She asks for “captions,” which prompts one panelist to sing the Sesame Street song “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.” Another remarks that the photo accurately reflects the diversity of the Republican Party, with a single black person among many whites.
The candid moment reveals what latent racism remains in our political discourse. Such ugliness makes its home on the Left.
As the product of one mixed race union, a partner in another, and the father of two young mixed race boys, I can speak with some authority on the topic of mixed race families. My entire life serves as a case in point. Experience has led me to conclude that the real racists among us are those who see race wherever they look. Most people don’t. Most people look at my boys and see boys, not percentages of this mixed with that. Most people look at that picture of the Romney family and see a family, not a black baby among white people. Most people are not racists.
In her apologetic tweets, Harris-Perry recalls that she grew up “as a black child born into a large white Mormon family,” and merely meant to express familiarity with the Romneys. If we were to take her at her word, she certainly could have come up with a better way to express herself.
The approach Harris-Perry chose to take suggests that there was more motivating her actions than familiarity with the situation. Harris-Perry has built a career upon segregating “black issues” from the rest of humanity’s. Like her MSNBC colleague Al Sharpton, she makes her bread and butter by exacerbating racial division. It therefore makes sense that she would regard the racial integration of a family like the Romneys as a threat to that worldview.
It would seem that there are two ways people tend to react to growing up in mixed race households. You get folks like me, who come to see it as an advantage demonstrating through daily example the primacy of the individual. After all, I cannot draw upon a collective to determine my worth. Or you get folks like Harris-Perry and our current president, who seem to resent being different and run away from their “whiteness” in a quest to legitimize their “blackness” to other blacks.
Perhaps that is what Harris-Perry finds familiar. Perhaps she feels sorry for baby Kieran Romney, anticipating that he will find life as a black child in a white family as conflicting as she did. He will, only if he allows his sense of worth to be defined by collectivism. If he grows to embrace his status as an individual, he will enjoy the comfort and contentment of pursuing his own values free of the expectations of others.