Brian Williams: 'Game On' for a National Conversation on Race

Now that America's demonstrated it's not as hopelessly racist as many minorities (and minority journalists) assumed, should we expect more optimism from the media? Not from NBC anchor Brian Williams, who insisted to Tavis Smiley on PBS Monday night that this country suppresses discussions of race and "If Obama wins this election, if these polls hold true, I think the national conversation about race -- game on. It's underway starting Wednesday morning if this happens, and the world is different." Obama only surpassed racism because he was the "perfect candidate."

This is a weird argument, to suddenly declare "game on" for race matters, since the Obama campaign and the media left race relations and issues like racial quotas off the discussion table on most days over this long campaign.

I've always said this about race: Every day, millions of Americans get up and see this elephant in the room, and choose to put it back under the bed, close the door, go to work, come home, it's still there. We see it every day, and we suppress it. We don't talk about it. We talk about the fringe, it flares up every once in a while, but we don't talk about it.

If Obama wins this election, if these polls hold true, I think the national conversation about race - game on. It's underway starting Wednesday morning if this happens, and the world is different. Someone said in a meeting I attended the other day, how, only 150 years after the abolition of slavery, how do you elect an African American president? You need three-quarters of a billion dollars and the perfect campaign and the perfect candidate.

And think of this, Tavis -- you'll hear this again tomorrow night -- in the time of John F. Kennedy, we still had Americans alive with us who were alive during the time when slavery was allowed in the United States. It has been an eyelash in the scope of world history. So that's what we'll be watching for tomorrow night.

Speaking of Wednesday morning, the electoral results probably insure that the media will stop talking about voter fraud, since liberal victories apparently mean the integrity of voting is self-evident. Smiley and Williams had this exchange, and Williams touted "my friend" Rachel Maddow:

SMILEY: You expect that we're going to have a long night tomorrow night, given the long - we've seen these long lines in early voting, to be sure. We expect massive turnout tomorrow. Is that going to impact how long we're on the air tomorrow night, you think?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, it could. You could, Tavis, have some judges saying, "I declare polls are going to be hung open," and we will obviously not release the final count. We will make no judgments until the polls are closed. And something else -- these six and eight-hour lines to vote? My friend Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC last night, "When does this become just a de-facto poll tax?"

Who can afford six or eight hours? Who can afford -- where are these jobs with willing employers? When does this become so arduous and costly -- time is money in this country, increasingly. Can't we use this as a jumping-off point to maybe fix the way we elect our presidents?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis