The Racism Wrecking Ball
...Shouting “racism” in a crowded media and political theater has become a substitute for thought and debate in America. Liberals hated it in the 1950s when extreme conservatives such as those of the John Birch Society smeared many they disagreed with by labeling them “Communists.” A 1950s media “blacklist” that encouraged the non-hiring of Communist-party members and their allies is considered one of the greatest affronts to civil liberties ever, even though it was basically the kind of “boycott” many on the left are fond of today.
Today, it damages our discourse when a respected figure such as Oprah Winfrey suggests that some critics of President Obama are racist. “There’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African American,” she said while on tour to promote her latest movie. As evidence she cited Joe Wilson’s shout-out during Obama’s 2010 State of the Union message — the GOP representative cried “You lie!” as Obama enumerated some of Obamacare’s intended boons. Of course, Wilson’s outburst was inappropriate and disrespectful. But does Winfrey really want to make the argument today — after PolitiFact labeled “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it” the “lie of the year” for 2013 — that President Obama didn’t lie when promoting Obamacare?
You don’t have to be Oprah Winfrey to have a platform that lets you make unsubstantiated charges of racism. ABC’s Cokie Roberts, normally a calm analyst, dismissed the Supreme Court’s June decision that set some limits on federal interference in local election laws, casting it as a throwback to the days when blacks were blocked from voting in many states. “At the moment, what’s going on about voting rights is downright evil,” she said on ABC. What kind of reactionary laws are states trying to pass? Voter-ID laws that are backed by clear majorities in all key demographic groups, including Hispanics and African Americans. And laws asking people to show they are U.S. citizens, a clear requirement for voting.
The truth is that race does remain a raw wound in the American political psyche, and we need to talk about it. But the emphasis should be on talking rather than scoring cheap political points. If we actually had an honest conversation about race, it would include voices and views that the media now overlook because they don’t fit the storyline.
Take the George Zimmerman–Trayvon Martin case. When basketball legend Charles Barkley appeared on CNBC after Zimmerman’s acquittal, Maria Bartiromo asked him, as an aside, what he thought about the case. “Just looking at the evidence, I agree with the verdict,” he said. Then he laced into the media for damaging race relations with their coverage. “It gave every white person and black person who’s racist a platform to vent their ignorance,” he complained. “Racism is wrong in any shape or form. A lot of black people are racist, too. I think sometimes when people talk about racism, they act like only white people are racist. There are a lot of black people who are racist. . . . I don’t think the media has clean hands.” You won’t be surprised to learn that Barkley’s indictment of the media received scant coverage beyond CNBC. (By the way, Barkley is an Obama supporter who told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in late 2011 that he was thrilled with Obama’s prospects: “As a Democrat who loves the president, I am downright giddy. There ain’t no way we can lose to them idiots.”)...