The Browning of America

Tamar Jacoby and Brent Staples

The Browning of America

Tamar Jacoby and Brent Staples

The Browning of America
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Sept. 8 1999 11:01 AM

Tamar Jacoby and Brent Staples

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A gray morning looking north from my office windows over Manhattan. Listening to Miles Davis (the Kind of Blue album, er, excuse me … the Kind of Blue compact disc) with John Coltrane blowing glissando on my favorite composition, the smarty pants "So What," written by Miles. A genius was Mr. Davis, adding depth and beauty even to less-than-stellar music by Cindy Lauper or Michael Jackson (I write to jazz, always have; it smoothes the flow). Miles Davis, as you may recall, maddened critics by playing with his back to the audience. Never pandered. He said, instead, accept what I am—or I will give you nothing

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Yes, the FALN guys (and gals?) have accepted the clemency. Is Hillary caught now? Well maybe yes, maybe no. Remember, Tamar, New York has a lot of cops. Now she can reasonably say to the police unions: That was my husband; I did not do this. Last night's Inside City Hall on New York 1 (the cable channel) had a police union guy pretty much swallowing Hillary's line that it was Bill not her who pardoned these people. Meanwhile, the representative from the Puerto Rican detective's group was saying: "My community'' will make her pay dearly for this, we will make her walk the line—which is a laugh, really—because they have nowhere to go. Think a moment, Tamar: She has foxed them. She can now look clean to the cops and upstate conservatives. The Latino legislators get to rant a while—and look good to their more radical constituents. But in the end, as I said yesterday, Hillary is telling them through that razor smile that they have no choice except to vote for her.

Speaking of clouds. I was waltzing around Seattle earlier this summer when the political candidates swept through The Unity Conference—the big confab of black, Latino, and Asian journalists. George Bush, as you may recall, said no at first—then rushed over to pass through and shake a hand or two. (Wasn't someone fired from his campaign for issuing that initial "no"?) Bush was right to come; in a segmented market like this one, you need every vote you can get. It was healthy for his party, too; which is too white by far. Don't be so hard on the pols for making the rounds in the colored neighborhoods. It's good for business.

Look at the Bush brother Jeb, with that Latina wife and the kids that Daddy Bush called "the little brown ones"; quite an asset on the hustings. How do you think he won Florida? You've got to face it, Tamar, we are a browning nation. A room without some brown folks in it looks awful funny to most people—probably even to you. No?

Tamar Jacoby is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Someone Else's House: America's Unfinished Struggle for Integration (click here to buy it). Brent Staples writes editorials on politics and culture for the New York Times.