She's looking at "3 narrative models": 1. the "neo-kumbayan moment" (denial, cynicism, Ward Connerly... "just stop talking about it"), 2. the "neo-biologizing moment, through the discourse of DNA," 3. economic choice ("I want to engage with the Law and Economics movement").
She's talking about the Democratic primary, the toxic identity politics. What can we do?
Pat is very interesting and funny talking about multiracial families: Angelina Jolie and her mixed race brood and a woman who is suing because a medical mix-up led to her giving birth to a partially black child.
What would Barack Obama look like if he were a woman? Would he look like Susan Estrich, Geraldine Ferraro, or Oprah Winfrey? When Oprah endorsed him, "race rushed in."
UPDATE, next morning: I have to apologize for not conveying more of what Pat said last night. It is extremely hard to convey the sense of what she says without giving long quotes, which I can't do in real time, because she also speaks very quickly and continually makes surprising connections. She has a beautiful voice and brings in a lot of detailed stories and images. This is mesmerizing, and I enjoyed listening closely, but I could not bring it to you convincingly. I don't want you to think this was because she wasn't saying anything. She was saying too much. This was not, however, an extemporaneous speech. She was reading. So go read some of her columns. I've linked one.
AND: Scroll down on this page and you'll find capsule descriptions and links to many of Pat's columns, some of which were the basis of the talk she gave last night. There is, for example, this one:
The March 22  New York Post offered a fascinating study in the contradictions of our culture. The top half of the front page was consumed by "a stunning mother-child portrait" of Angelina Jolie with her newest adopted child, or as the Post put it, her "Viet man." The lower half of the page was given over to a more lurid headline ("Baby Bungle: White Folks' Black Child") trumpeting "a Park Avenue fertility clinic's blunder" that "left a family devastated--after a black baby was born to a Hispanic woman and her white husband."That column is old enough that you have to subscribe to The Nation to read the whole thing, but there are many others available in full, and I realize I've been remiss in not reading them and blogging them on a regular basis.
The story about Jolie's magical mothering of her rainbow brood was a fairy tale of happily ever after. The bungled baby story, meanwhile, was considerably less heartwarming: Long Islanders Nancy and Thomas Andrews had trouble conceiving after the birth of their first daughter. They employed in vitro fertilization and baby Jessica was born. Jessica is darker skinned than either of the Andrewses, a condition their obstetrician initially called an "abnormality." She'll "lighten up," said that good doctor. Subsequent paternity tests showed that Nancy's egg was fertilized by sperm other than Tom's. The couple has sued.
Here's her piece on Oprah and Obama. Excerpt:
[T]heir particular form of raced celebrity enshrines the notion of American mobility at a moment when it is--in reality--sorely vexed. ... Obama radiates a kind of hope that crosses the immigrant epic with a romantic desire for rainbow diversity. Similarly, Oprah is the black, female, Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches story of our day. From her humble beginnings as a traumatized little girl, albeit pluckier even than Orphan Annie (we Americans do love "pluck"), Oprah reinvented herself by sheer will and rose against all odds to the very top of the phantasmagorical bubble machine we call the entertainment industry. There's a general fear of, as well as attraction to, that bubble. Is the celebrity a platform or a dog-and-pony show? Is it serious debate or entertainment? How easy the purchase of cynicism.
But if we're lucky, maybe something enduring comes of artfully imagining our ideals.