But Young is hardly unreflective. He was addressing a real problem: Too many poor blacks have easy access only to corner stores where merchandise is, in fact, stale, bad and wilted. In the small, all-black New Jersey town of Lawnside where I spent part of my childhood, a few such stores still remained, and I will never forget buying a bag of potato chips with an expiration date of 1978 -- in 1983! The shopkeeper in this case was black, however, and Young mentioned in the interview that black shopkeepers have charged their communities high prices as well.
Albeit it came off as his opportunity to take aim at something "Black" or "Black-owned." We sometimes, really, can not understand what McWhorter wants because there is a lot a contradiction. But, the problem of corner stores in poor or working class African American neighborhoods has long been a serious problem - and not just because of "stale" merchandise. It's a public health and mental health problem, as well: many Black kids don't know any geography beyond the corner store and too many Black families compromise their health on corner store diets.
McWhorter, putting much thought into this, writes on:
Allen's faux pas is but the latest case of people being damned for uttering racial epithets that few people even regard as such. In recent months, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and White House press secretary Tony Snow have used the term "tar baby" to refer to sticky situations, only to be assailed for employing what is presumably a slur against black people. Yet I'd wager that not even one in 1,000 Americans is aware that tar baby has historically been a racially tinged insult.
First: comparing Young's comments to those of Snow, Romney and Allen may be a stretch. Second: Americans should be aware that references like "tar baby" are in poor taste and considered historically racial. It may not have been employed as a slur against Black people, but letting major public officials off the hook for saying it encourages further ignorance. McWhorter typically campaigns to preserve the art of conversation, but then prefers ignorance with the point above. Which one is it?