When I see diversity-casting in commercials—two bland Caucasians waving beer cans at a TV, or at a driving up to a Taco Bell window, accompanied, somehow, by a handsome black guy—the word that pops into my head is “segregation”! I can’t help it. The ruse is so obvious, a counterfactual posing as a home truth. Then I watch the black guy for signs that he shares my disquiet, and sometimes I think I can see it in his eyes, a veiled chagrin at both his company and the bald contrivance that roped him into it. He seems to be asking himself, By what unholy mix of demographic calculation and liberal-wish projection have I ended up wedged in the front seat of a little car between these two pinkish fellows? In their morbidly color-conscious color-blindness, these commercials are like the stereotypical white guy who thinks some slogan has flung him to the magical land beyond race—Peter Riegert in “Animal House,” yelling “Hey Otis, my man!” onto a dance floor packed with the skeptical black people of 1962. By pretending it isn’t so hard, he just reminds you how hard it really is.
— Michael Chabon’s “Telegraph Avenue”: How Oakland Is Presented : The New Yorker. Fantastic little essay by Matt Feeney.