Could the Super Bowl mark a welcome turning point in our national obsession with black victimization?
For several years, African-Americans have comprised a substantial majority of all players in the nation’s most celebrated sporting event, and this year, for the first time, both head coaches (Tony Dungy of the champion Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the runner-up Chicago Bears) also took pride in their black identity.
A few weeks later, another audience of billions will tune in to another landmark of popular culture. At the Academy Awards ceremony, black actors and actresses will almost certainly dominate: Forest Whitaker is a sure-thing Best Actor winner for “:The Last King of Scotland,” and Jennifer Hudson counts as equally certain to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Dreamgirls.” Meanwhile, Eddie Murphy counts as the heavy favorite for Best Supporting Actor for “Dreamgirls” --- giving African-Americans 75% of the available acting trophies.
These upcoming awards reflect the overall dominance of prodigiously talented black performers in every arena of entertainment. Amazingly enough, the top movie box office draw (Will Smith, whose lovingly-crafted, uplifting film “The Pursuit of Happyness” earned a jaw-dropping $150 million) and the most popular TV personality (the ubiquitous, universally admired Oprah Winfrey) both boast deep roots in the African American community.
In all forms of mass entertainment, black people have achieved disproportionate prominence and success. No other readily identifiable ethnic group or minority community (not Latinos, Asians, Jews, Irish, Italians, gays, you name it) commands anything like the popularity and adulation of black super-stars--- even in previously all-white endeavors like golf and tennis.
Despite the widespread conviction that our country remains incurably racist and hostile in its attitudes toward African-Americans, ordinary people have voted with their available funds: spending countless billions to embrace black music, dance, comedy, talk shows, drama, athletic excellence, and even comic book heroes.
To top off this “black moment” in our history, a charismatic but little known Illinois politician emerged after just two years in the U.S. Senate as one of the genuine Presidential front-runners for 2008 not in spite of his African-American identity, but because of it. Whether or not Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination or the White House, his unprecedented, dazzlingly rapid rise provides one more bit of evidence that ancient biases and limitations and hatreds have begun to break down and even disappear.