The Second Vatican Council began in 1962 and officially ended in 1965, and for many Catholics, church history is completely defined by this event, regardless of their political or liturgical orientation. There is the pre-Vatican II era, and everything that came after it. For conservotrads and traditionalists, the pre-Vatican II era was when everything was swell, and then everything went to hell in a handbasket after Vatican II. For progressives, the spirit and promises of Vatican II liberated Catholics from a rigid, oppressive, and narrow-minded obscurantism. However, the pre-Vatican II era, strictly speaking, covered almost 1,900 years of history in a variety of different cultures. When American Catholics in 2015 discuss the pre-Vatican II era, they probably aren’t talking about the devotional practices of ninth century Anglo-Saxons. So what does the phrase “pre-Vatican II church” mean in current Catholic discourse?
One of Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s schticks is his insistence that if nominated and elected, he would be America’s first “real black president.” As opposed to the “fake black” president we have now. This assertion isn’t new, since Herman Cain was saying the same thing during his own failed presidential run, and this meme is being reiterated by white Republicans who are desperate to run a black candidate to make them seem less white and less racist. Whatever one thinks of Obama’s policies, the notion that he is somehow “less black” than Carson or Cain ignores the way in which blackness was and is constructed in the United States.