David Cole writes:
“The powerful image of an infuriated Reagan shouting at blacks was highly unusual for a white politician,” George Mason University’s Jeremy Mayer would later write in the book Deconstructing Reagan. “Highly unusual” then, totally unthinkable now. I mean really, can you imagine any white politician doing that today? Yet the message that Reagan was trying to convey—that black Americans need to stop expecting the federal government to ride in, wave a magic wand, and make their problems disappear—is even more needed and relevant now than it was thirty-six years ago.
Reagan’s outburst was the lead story on every network news show that night, and on the front page of every major newspaper the next day. Incredibly, the shouting match was covered fairly. No accusations that Reagan “laid bare his racism,” or that he tried to “whitesplain” reality to a throng of poor, “historically powerless” blacks. The objective tenor of the coverage would be just as unthinkable today as the outburst that caused it.