What with all the Confederate apologism, “confusion” about the Charleston shooter’s motives, and concern-trolling about President Obama’s use of the n-word, you wouldn’t think things could get any stupider in post-Rachel America, but you would be wrong. On Tuesday night, Twitter users incredulously shared a screenshot of a CNN chyron that asked the molten-take question “Should Pres. Obama Apologize For Slavery?”, and wondered if it could possibly be real.
A reasonable person would assume that maybe CNN had booked a guest who had written a hot take with that absurd premise, for the express purpose of destroying it with fire. That person would only be half-right, since anchor Don Lemon instead invited New York Times contributing op-ed writer Timothy Egan onto his show in order to entertain the notion with the straightest of faces. Just to prove it really happened, here’s the full segment, but for the sake of brevity, I’ve only transcribed radio host Joe Madison’s response to Egan’s titular query:
Egan’s reasoning, such as it is, goes something like this: a white opinion writer demanding that the first black president “Apologize For Slavery” will get clicked on by a zillion people. That’s some rock-solid logic, and it makes you wonder why no one ever demanded that President Nelson Mandela apologize for Apartheid.
Then, there’s this gem:
As the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother who died more than a century after slavery ended, Barack Obama has little ancestral baggage on this issue. Yet no man could make a stronger statement about America’s original sin than the first African-American president.
It’s not clear what role a lack of “ancestral baggage” is supposed to play in the awesome healing power of President Obama’s apology for slavery, but as it happens, Egan is literally as wrong as he could possibly be about Obama’s relationship to America’s original sin:
We’ve all heard about President Obama’s Irish roots, and we know his father came from Kenya. But a research team from Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource, has also concluded that the nation’s 44th president is also the 11thgreat-grandson of John Punch, the first documented African enslaved for life in American history.
Don Lemon entertaining this garbage can be chalked up to Don Lemon just Don Lemoning, but given the context of the past week, CNN should have shown better judgment than to amplify this particular racial hot take. Melissa Harris Perry’s week-long humoring of Rachel Dolezal was irritatingly comical before last Wednesday, but this kind of spitballing just isn’t amusing now.
There’s probably never a right time for some white dude to make the fact-free assertion that President Obama has been “long hesitant about doing anything bold on the color divide,” but especially not after he’s just had to talk us through a terrorist mass murder that was rooted in that divide. Now that CNN has put him on TV, the only question is which White House reporter will offer Josh Earnest a chance to apologize for slavery on President Obama’s behalf? Place your bets.