The election of our first black President was supposed to signal a milestone in our nation’s pursuit of a post-racial society. Part of the hope and change millions of voters expected involved racial reconciliation.
Interviewed in the wake of Barack Obama’s victory, Martin Luther King III predicted, “race relations clearly will be advanced…because of President-elect Obama.”
But instead of marking a new beginning in race relations, Obama’s presidency has given new life to the old politics of racial grievance. In fact, ironically, Obama himself has been most responsible for initiating a new era of race-baiting.
One year ago, Cambridge police arrested Obama friend and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates at his home for disorderly conduct. A few days later, Obama claimed that the police had “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates, adding “that there’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”
Obama was careful to preface his remarks by conceding, “I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played.” But Obama’s ignorance didn’t stop him from making his explosive charges, which led to a firestorm of criticism that lasted for months.
The Cambridge incident established a template that the Left has followed for the past year. Liberals have thrust race into the forefront of most of the top political and social controversies. They’ve alleged racism without sufficient knowledge of the facts and sometimes in spite of the clear facts.
At its annual conference, the NAACP adopted a resolution condemning the allegedly “racist elements” of the Tea Party. The organization’s leaders cited the supposedly racist signs at Tea Party rallies and the alleged hurling of racist epithets at black legislators at an event in Washington, D.C. No one has found any evidence such epithets were uttered.
One would think that many NAACP members would be embracing the Tea Party, not condemning it. After all, minorities have been hurt most by President Obama’s economic irresponsibility. At over 15%, unemployment among blacks is nearly twice as high as it is among whites. As Vernon Parker, who is black and a Tea Party member and former mayor, told Politico, “The NAACP should be concerned about bringing jobs to people in depressed areas. Not the Tea Party.”
Re-reading columns I have written about race over the last two years, I am struck by the long list of leftwing politicians and media personalities who have attributed opposition to Obama and his agenda to racism. In fact, I am hard-pressed to name many prominent liberals who have not done so.
During the election, opposition to Obama was often blamed on race with virtually no proof. The McCain campaign was accused of stoking racism even though it went so far out of its way not to be labeled as such that it refused to raise Obama’s racist and anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright as a valid issue. McCain felt highlighting the racism of Obama’s mentor would itself somehow be seen as racist. Sadly, he was probably right.
Since Obama’s election victory, race has been thrust into almost every major political issue. Townhall protests of socialized medicine were said to be fueled by racism, as was the anti-spending Tea Party movement.
When Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, the media suggested tough questioning by Republicans during her confirmation hearing would risk alienating Hispanic voters. The hearing became a love-fest.
Obama Atty. Gen. Eric Holder called America a “nation of cowards” on race. It was an ironic allegation from the man heading a Justice Department that has cowardly allowed race to dictate policy.
Under Holder, DOJ is accused by a former Justice official of systematically ignoring civil rights cases in which blacks are the alleged perpetrators. Exhibit A is its refusal to prosecute an air-tight case of voter intimidation by New Black Panther Party thugs.
It’s not that Holder hasn’t prioritized cases in which race plays a role. He has filed a federal lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law and may file another court challenge on grounds of racial profiling. No matter that the law simply requires police to check the immigration status of persons they suspect have been involved in a crime.
With the Justice Department playing racial politics with the law, racial grievance groups are feeling emboldened. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Janet Murguia of La Raza took to the pages of the Washington Post to call on Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All Star Game from Arizona because of the state’s new immigration law.
They wrote that the game should be moved from Phoenix because “the families, friends and fans” of a third of the players who are non-white “could be treated as second-class citizens because of their skin color or the way they speak.” The authors also absurdly compared Arizona’s immigration law to the racist and segregationist policies under Jim Crow.
There was once a time when the allegation of racism was so toxic that it could end a distinguished career or a promising future in an instant. But the Left has been over-playing its race card. Its race-baiting is becoming increasingly self-defeating, as so many spurious accusations of racism mean real incidents of racism are trivialized.
With each cynical attempt to play racial politics, it becomes clearer that it is the Left that’s acting stupidly on race and in the process is further dividing America.