The topic of race, in jazz as elsewhere, has often been framed as a binary: literally a matter of black and white. We saw this in many of our intraweb debates last year, though of course the issue goes farther back than any of us can recall. The implicit dualism is understandable, and there's obviously still much work to be done along that divide. I stand with both Nicholas Payton and Ethan Iverson, among others, in the conviction that we can gain something vital by talking about it.
In that spirit, I've been thinking a lot this week about what doesn't fit into the binary, and how we might enrich our jazz-and-race conversation by acknowledging it. Before we proceed, two quick homework assignments. First, watch the clip above -- one of the smarter, subtler pieces of sketch writing we've seen from Saturday Night Live in ages. And while I'm assuming that you need no briefing on the subject of Jeremy Lin, "Linsanity," or sports-media Foot in Mouth Syndrome, I'm also going to insist that you spent a few moments with this excellent essay by Jay Caspian Kang.
OK, done? Now bear with me; this will get a little personal.