"You know, I -- Shelby, I don't know if anybody else in the audience -- oh, this is just going to be a blog nightmare over the next few days -- but let me just be honest and play my cards face up on the table.
"I was thinking about this just last week. I don't have a lot of African-American friends, and I think part of it is because I'm afraid that I would be in an open conversation, and I would say something that somebody would take wrong, and then it would be a nightmare."
There are obvious things to say about this comment (starting with the fact that Beck seems utterly oblivious to the possibility that he might learn something from his would-be Black friends offense about race), but I want to bracket them for now. I just want to note that Beck, if pressed, probably would not admit that this is a racist action on his part. He's not not friends with Blacks because they're Black, he's not friends because he doesn't want to hang with people who will make him feel uncomfortable (which just happens to track being Black). Obviously, this is quite transparent to the folks observing at home. But it does show the infinite malleability of "color-blindness" to justify nearly any racial inequity (and it's been serving in that capacity since Jim Crow).
Is Beck's instinct shared by many White Americans, who also seem unreasonably skittish about interacting with Blacks because they're afraid they'll screw up and get tarred with the label, "racist"? Yes, I believe it is, and I believe it is something that needs to be addressed seriously and remedied (rather than simply chided from afar). But that won't happen as long as we delude ourselves into thinking that it is "color-blind" thinking on the part of White Americans. It isn't, and it can't be treated that way.