How Progressive Race-Baiters Destroyed Civil Rights Progress in America

The past weekend and today mark the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy for racial progress in America.

It's been almost 44 years since his death, and almost 48 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Very few people can honestly argue today that we haven't had a revolution in race relations since that time. There's little need to cite a long string of evidence for this point. President Barack Obama stands as the most important testament to the nation's commitment to equal opportunity before the law, for all Americans regardless of race, creed, or color. And it bears repeating and should be shouted from the rooftops, but nearly 9 out of 10 Americans today support marriage between blacks and whites: "Record-High 86% Approve of Black-White Marriages."

This kind of progress on race --- the overwhelming repudiation of Jim Crow racism --- would have been literally unfathomable 50 years ago, before the civil rights revolution of the 1960s. Americans have broken "the color line," in all its forms --- that last barrier to full acceptance and inclusion for all people, discussed in Earl and Merle Black's magisterial work, Politics and Society in the South.

But as real world events constantly remind us, it has taken the election of a black president to reveal where the true threats to racial progress linger in America today --- on the far left-wing of the political spectrum. Just recall, for example, during the 2008 nominating campaign, when former President Bill Clinton attacked candidate Obama with disgusting racist commentary, and when Jesse Jackson himself (who was with MLK on April 4th, 1968) viciously attacked candidate Obama, suggesting he should be lynched by castration. Only on the left would such vicious Ku Klux Klan style racism be giving an abject, absolute pass. Racial bigotry on the left engenders no political recriminations and no political costs. This is the very discourse that today harms our progress on equal rights.

And here's yet another exhibit, the sick racist fantasies of Tulane University professor Melissa Harris-Perry

Professor Harris-Perry claims the GOP presidential campaign has been driven by thinly veiled reactionary race talk that's reminiscent of America in the 1860s. Seriously, the exclusive audience for this kind of phantasmagorical discourse exists only on the hard left --- and apparently there's a huge market for it, given that MSNBC is giving Harris-Perry her own show starting in February.

What's amazing is that despite repeated progressive claims that conservatives are pushing public policy in a pre-civil rights direction, there's simply no evidence for it. When Senate candidate Rand Paul argued in 2010 that perhaps the 1964 Civil Rights Act was legislative overreach, encroaching on the private decision-making liberties of the individual, no one on the mainstream Republican right stood up and went to bat for him in defense. No Republican agreed that we should turn back the clock on race relations and civil rights. Indeed, the political backlash was swift, and Paul made a forceful and unequivocal clarification of his comments, saying that "I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964." There is simply no market for such talk. What Republicans do want is a return to the rule of law as it stands now, on immigration policy, for example, or for states to decide for themselves whether or not to allow homosexuals to marry. Gays have never had such rights, so it's impossible to claim that a federalist solution on gay marriage is setting back the clock on civil rights.

But radical leftists live in their own world where every single alleged off-color statement is tantamount to a town lynching in the Deep South during Jim Crow. Check out Gary Younge's recent essay at The Nation, for example, "The GOP's Blatant Racism." Younge's examples of "blatant racism" among the candidates are highly suspect -- widely repudiated by the candidates and commentators alike -- and are offensive only to those people looking for evidence to tar the GOP as racist. Of course there is no similar outcry when top Democrats engage in truly reprehensible outbursts of racist bigotry. It's the left's classic double standard, the Big Lie on equality in America.

The fact is, all throughout the Obama administration, genuine racist incidents have been virtually the exclusive domain of the left. Time and again the MSM has been forced to invent GOP and tea party racism in a pathetic effort to destroy the political opposition. The larger consequence is that constant far left-wing allegations of racism have destroyed civil rights progress in America. The racial grievance industry is more entrenched in law and bureaucracy than ever before, and the progressives are milking the last perceived shreds of racial bias for all they're worth.

And don't forget that the race-based attacks we're seeing now in the primaries are only a minor preview of the fall campaign. It's sad to say, but we will have people alleging that if you're not voting for Barack Obama you're a racist. And that will be a terrible statement on the deterioration of public discourse four decades after Martin Luther King paid the ultimate sacrifice for equal opportunity in the United States.