Santigold’s ‘The Keepers,’ ‘Mad Men’ and Race

This last season of Mad Men heightened the debate about the show’s approach to race and the 1960s, bringing Dawn, a young secretary, into the office as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s first African-American employee. Would these exceedingly exceedingly privileged white people have much contact with black people who weren’t their domestic help or much awareness of the civil rights movement? Did the show tokenize Dawn by bringing her into the office but building no significant storyline around her presence there? I expect all of those debates to continue next season, particularly as we see whether Matthew Weiner has long-term plans for Dawn, or for how his white folks will bend or break under the winds of change.

But in the meantime, Santigold’s new video for her song “The Keepers” may be my favorite critique of the obliviousness of people like the Drapers:

It’s a house where impeccably coifed, white-blonde people eat food that glows with poison. When shooters in a car shred the walls, they momentarily startle, then check their hair and make sure their clothes are in place, and sit back down to dinner. And when their milkman’s caught in the crossfire, they make a spectacle of his death without considering the risk outside. The house build by racism is burning down around them and they don’t even notice.Mad Men did horror stories last season, but to slightly cartoonish effect. Don Draper still had to be the person we rooted for, even as he courted rot in his jaw, even as he was haunted by his dead brother. It seems it takes someone like Santigold to do the job properly, to reveal the obscenity of moving through your swish, stylish life ignorant of the fundamental inequalities you benefit from, and unprepared to adapt to a world without them.